Sunday, June 1, 2014

Dialog (3 of 3) - The Master Class

And here it is: Part three and final part of dialog trilogy - The Master Class

1. Trialog
Well, trialog is actually an invented word. I could also have called it multilog as it is about discussions with more than two people. Why is that an issue? Try one and you will see it. You will tend to use much more dialog tags especially as conversations with multiple parties to tend longer. Also with the length of the conversation, I gets more and more difficult to identify who is talking.

In my current novel I'm writing a scene, where two people try to convince a third person to do something. As additional difficulty, the two people are brother and sister with very similar voices just with a more masculine and feminine touch as a difference.

In order to not tap into the dialog tag-trap, I try the following:

  • Have a clear view on each participants role, goal and voice. Every time this person talks I try to hear his voice in my head and write it as distinct as possible. Additionally, during review I read all the dialog parts of one person together and see if some pieces jump out.
  • Use blocking in order to clarify from time to time. Have one person move or leave the room for a moment. It clarifies who is talking for one or two sentences.
  • Last but not least, yes, there will be more dialog tags. However, I usually leave them away while writing and add them at the very end, where absolutely necessary.

2. The Art of Talking by not Saying
Good dialog says what needs to be said in the shortest, most entertaining possible way. Great dialog hides and lets us guess the true meaning.

Take the following dialog from Casablanca as an example:
Laszlo: "Ilsa - I..."
Ilsa: "Yes?"
Laszlo: "When I was in the concentration camp, were you lonely in Paris?"
Ilsa: "Yes, Victor, I was."
Laszlo: "I know how it is to be lonely. Is there anything you wish to tell me?"
Ilsa: "No Victor, there isn't."
Laszlo: "I love you very much, my dear."
Ilsa: "Yes, yes I know. Victor, whatever I do, will you believe that I, that..."
Laszlo: "You don't even have to say it, I will believe..."

Laszlo doesn't really ask for Ilsa's feelings in Paris. He indirectly asks whether she was faithful or not and it is not really clear if he understands that she wasn't. In his answer, however, it is clear that he forgives her. She, on the other side, implies that she might be unfaithful just now for their cause and he approves even that.

Now, look at the same dialog, written in a way things are spelled out clearly:
"Were you faithful in Paris when I was in the concentration camp?"
"Yes, I was."
"I don't know. But I'm fine with it anyway. I love you very much."

For me, I like the first dialog much better. 

Happy writing great dialog

Your writer in a foreign land

1 comment:

  1. Great example! "I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." Here's looking at you...