Okay, I've tried answering this email a number of times and I honestly don't know where to begin. So I'm pushing it off on you guys.
i hate to ask this question as i'm sure i'm revealing my freshman status as a screenwriter, but i have to ask... i am having serious problems with dialogue and character development and i have no idea why. i realize that sounds elementary and more experienced writers will scoff, but please keep the eye-rolling to a minimum and bear with me. i have always been a "scene" person - i think and conceptualize based on a single scene my brain conjures up based on a real life scenario or incident or music... and whether that scene is something pivotal, an action scene, or something seemingly simple and understated, i have that scene and try to create a story or plot to make that scene a reality. most of my scenes come from a vibe or feeling a piece of music creates (rock, opera, jazz, whatever) and i think "wow that would be a killer/cute/poignant scene in a movie." i'm essentially basing a movie off of what my idea of a great soundtrack would be. sound looney toon yet? i promise i'm not shallow.
it's come to a point in my life where i finally want to write this stuff down and see if i can knock out some screenplays based on those little scenes. needless to say, all those little scenes are sitting, lonely, in their own files on my desktop in hopes i eventually circle back and love on them. these little scenes have no real character development or dialogue, so i've yet to practice this or give anything or anyone a voice within these little scenes.
now that i've given the craft more study and thought, i'm trying a different approach. i found a logline and a 'call' to write a screenplay based off that logline. at first i brushed it off, but i had to go back because some exciting ideas unexpectedly came from it. so now i've just had two days in a row where i literally just threw up a multi-page story and rough plotline, breaking it up (as an outline) into scenes and acts with little pertinent bits of dialogue along the way (nothing really substantial, however). i understand writing as a craft with archs and subtext and whatnot, and i've been able to break these ideas down, but now that i have to put a voice and words to these characters' mouths... i'm blank. i'm holding myself to such lyrical gangsta levels of those i admire (Coen Bros, Wes Anderson, Tarantino) that i doubt myself completely in doing this.
i've read many of your blog posts and interviews and roundtables (i only just discovered your blog last night and have been obsessed for the last 24 hours) and i've been able to fully connect with what they're describing in their own ways of screenplay development, but i can't, for the life of me, find anything to grab onto regarding dialogue. should character development be one of the first things you do before going into the story? am i just ignorantly lacking the intellect to create good characters? why don't i have the capacity to give my characters dialogue? honest to goodness meaningful dialogue? should i go ahead and jump off of the screenwriting ledge?
i swear i'm not a dull creature... this just vexes me so. if you have any archived posts i've yet to discover or know of any good resources i'd be much obliged for the direction.
apologies for the long-windedness of this.
Dialogue is hard, and for me it's been the most-strongly self-taught aspect of the craft. I feel like you need to just write, then say it out loud, then keep rewriting. You're probably going to write a lot of bad dialogue before you write good dialogue. Really it's something that comes with trial and error. I'm not bad at identifying bad dialogue, and sometimes I can even offer suggestions on how to improve a scene.
But straight-up telling you how to write good dialogue? It's a more elusive lesson. It's not that I haven't touched on dialogue before, but the full context of your question reads like you're really looking for the theory of writing good dialogue, and I confess I don't know if I have the capacity to give that broad of an answer.
What I will say is that you can't let this paralyze you. Don't feel like your first-draft dialogue has to be brilliant. Just get it on the page and give yourself something to work with.
What do you guys think?
2 weeks ago