Dialogue

Problems:

  1. Narration—Often the student playwright will make use of a narrator that speaks to theaudience as characters do. This should be avoided. The story is best told through the revelation of information by dialogue and action: what the characters say and do. Show, don’t tell.
  2. Too little/Too much information—The whole story is not shared with the audience or thereare details not important to the story presented (this can be hard to judge).
  3. Recycled lines—dialogue consists of recycled lines from movies, etc.
  4. Too little dialogue—Try having students create a scene with no action; where we must learn about a character only through what he or the other characters say.

Questions for the Playwright to ask:

  • How might the characters’ true feelings be communicated to the audience through dialogue?
  • What dialogue could be cut without damaging the story?
  • What narrative clues have been left out?
  • What is your favorite piece of dialogue? Why?
  • Can you think of a way to say this that is truer to the character?
  • How does each character feel about the other characters?
  • Do we know this by something he or she says?
  • Can you imagine something he or she might say or do, feeling the way she or he does?

Exercises for sharpening dialogue skills:

  • “The Other End”

Have you ever heard someone talking on the telephone and tried to
imagine what the other half of the conversation was like? Observe a phone conversation
taking place and then try writing down both sides of the conversation—the side you over-hear and
the side you imagine.

  • “TV Writer”

Turn on a television program, especially one unfamiliar to you, and watch
for 5–10 minutes with the sound muted. While watching, write down what you
think the characters are saying to each other. Practice first without writing. While
you are making up the dialogue, questions you should think about are:

  • Who are these people?
  • What do they want from each other (if anything)?
  • What are their relationships to one another?
  • Do they have a conflict?
  • What interesting things will happen to them?
  • How will it all end?
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