Dialogue Crash Course

July 10, 2017

Here are cinematic examples of everything I know about dialogue, basic to advanced. Listen…

Basic:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The intersection of your normal world and your story world. Immerse yourself in your character’s point of view… and just tell the truth:

 

Gilmore Girls. Adversarial dialogue. Watch for the set-up… and the payoff:

Intermediate:

Firefly. There’s jargon… and then there’s language. Do you have the guts to try this?

The Avengers. Adversarial, metaphorical, agrammatical, great use of beats:

Bonus Avengers, for the art of the POV monologue, and the importance of character names for each other:

Advanced:

Heist. Now that you get Joss Whedon, you are ready for David Mamet. Once you have the skills to make your dialogue sound totally natural, you can dare to make it sound unnatural:

Brick. Dialogue so good, they printed it in the trailer. If you can write this, there’s nothing more anyone can teach you:

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Vonnegut teaches plot

May 29, 2017

Here is Kurt Vonnegut having some fun explaining curves of emotional energy in stories. This is worth four minutes:

I found this referenced in The Bestseller Code, by Archer & Jockers, a book about algorithmic text-mining of bestselling books. Can a computer spot patterns in the text of the novels on the NYT bestsellers list? I’m sure I’ll post about it when I finish it.


Book Promotion Shouldn’t Make Your Head Explode

March 21, 2011

Look, I’m a huge fan of new technologies and the power they grant to artists like us. I’ve even gushed about my favorite fiction-writing innovators.

But this stuff can make you crazy. I’ll admit that as fast as anybody. I think my friend Lindsay Buroker captures the feeling nicely:


Weird is Better

November 14, 2010

Duh.

Here’s the “eccentricity” chunk of my “Writing Great Characters” talk at Write on the Sound 2010. As before, the audio’s a little shaky, so turn it up.

Sol Stein said it:

“Eccentricity is at the heart of strong characterization. The most effective characters have profound roots in human behavior. Their richest feelings may be similar to those held by many others. However, as characters their eccentricities dominate the reader’s first vision of them.

If you were to examine the surviving novels of the twentieth century, you would find that a majority of the most memorable characters in fiction are to some degree eccentric.”

(Watch that ‘thank you’ sign behind me. It’s the real star of this show.)


Do Readers Envy Your Characters?

October 8, 2010

Fiction can provide us with an intense vicarious experience. Readers identify with characters that they envy on a gut level, said Dwight Swain (author of Techniques of the Selling Writer).

I made just that point in my “Writing Great Characters” talk at the 2010 Write On The Sound Conference here in Washington State.

The trickiest thing about video is the audio, so you might have to turn it up.


The Most Forgotten Marketing Tool

April 23, 2010

Here’s a way to nudge your odds of getting published up a bit. And you don’t have to rewrite your query letter to do it. Even better, once you’re published, this trick can improve your sales.

Put some thought into your title.

I caught some footage of Bob Mayer as a guest instructor for the Whidbey Island Writers MFA Program. Here’s a bit from his bio:

Bob is the best-selling author of over 40 books. He is a West Point graduate, served in the Infantry and Special Forces (Green Berets)… He also served in Special Operations Western Command on a variety of classified assignments.

He is the Co-Creator of Who Dares Wins Publishing, a Flex Publishing house dedicated to military fiction and the non-fiction of Excellence.

He brings a unique blend of practical Special Operations Strategies and Tactics mixed with the vision of an artist.

And here’s 90 seconds of don’t do what I did:

(It looks pretty rustic for a classroom, doesn’t it? It’s actually a century-old inn on Whidbey Island, a ferry ride from Seattle. You can hear floorboards squeaking as people walk around upstairs.)

— Steve


8 Tips in 4 Minutes

February 24, 2010

Writers are not so special that the rules for success do not apply to them. Here are eight reminders to keep you focused, by Richard St. John, who interviewed 500 successful people and spotted the patterns.

There, that’s better. Okay, back to work.