Yesterday was not what I’d planned. I meant to write about the dialogue of Coupling. Watching Star Wars: Episode II last night reminded me. It turns out that no matter how much glamor you throw up on the screen to dazzle the audience, you can still fail big because you can’t get the right words into an actor’s mouth. Hell, in some case back out. In some cases those three movies were like a high school musical with a sixty million dollar budget.
Coupling’s conversations remind me of a writing trope: an essay should be like a skirt; long enough to cover the subject, short enough to maintain interest. In the case of this program I’d say they were cutting the hemline to something more like a thong and a pair of pasties. Or maybe more accurately in the style of Benny Hill simply having a naked person walk through a scene and be strategically and timely covered up with fitting props. However one might try to imagine the dialogue it’s good.
I hear many writers complain that they can’t write speech well. Maybe they agonize over making men sound like men and women like women. Or maybe they miss the mark when it comes to teen slang. Or maybe all their Elizabethans sound like Valley Girls–or worse Victorians. It’s a common sticking place for many writers.
Any book about writing creatively contains a chapter on dialogue. Listen to speech in the wild. Record and transcribe a conversation. Go to the mall or the park. Read good dialogue. Don’t clutter your speech with stage direction or clumsy backstory, but still propel the story forward.
I’ve never thought much about my dialogue. I suspect I should. It stands to reason that not having written it much, I don’t know how to it well.
A brief exchange on a recent episode of New Amsterdam on Fox made me realize how much you could put into a scene with just the spoken word. An exchange in the servants’ quarters between the master and the coachman quickly uncovers a history of rape and a hint of coming justice. It wasn’t the first scene in the series of flashbacks, but it could have stood alone with very little more added.
Next time I will be employing the Five Times technique to some dialogue to explore what I can come up with.
Word count: 932