Nailing dialogue

I patiently waited hours to talk to a producer who I had sent my first script to, every now and then a Skype message would pop up ‘be another 10 minutes’ – well the 10 minutes turned into bloody ages.   My fake smile turned into a grimace and a yawn as we were heading into late evening in the UK, while he languished in daylight over the pond.

Nerves were building and getting the better of me and my co-writing buddy, I kept applying make-up to distract me from the butterflies on acid in my stomach and ended up looking like a drag act.  My buddy endlessly munching on crisps.   We had paid a lot of wonga for this guy’s advice, so we were going to sit tight hunched over the light of the laptop endlessly looking at the Skype home-screen – hoping the cleaners wouldn’t upstage our moment.

After what seemed like a lifetime (and a lot of lipstick) he appears – no apology – laying on a sofa with his head on a plastic bag. What? Was this a move to confuse us?

So for his payment he told us our dialogue was crap and for us to completely re-write the lot, plus British people ‘do not talk that way’.  This left us speechless, we speak like that all the time, mate!  After 6 months of slogging away at it this a real slap round the chops. Our spirits went down the drain as quickly as our bank account for those golden nuggets of wisdom.   Be careful where you send your scripts too for feedback folks.

But one thing I did take from this was to look more at how people spoke.  Even after watching countless movies and reading scripts itself, when it came to writing the first episode of this series, dialogue was going to be one thing I was going to concentrate more on, how to nail it.  Make it sound NATURAL.

The best way I have been told (and read in countless screenwriting books) is to listen to people speak, just sit there with a coffee and listen.  It will not be the way you write it for sure, they’ll be pauses, interjections, sentences half spoken… As for my character Bertie, I had to think how he would speak, would he interrupt (most likely not as he is a gentleman), but he is calculating and manipulative, his conversations with his target in Episode 1 twist and turn, his intention quite hidden. Being intellectually superior he needs to get his message over in a way she understands.  The little devil.

I dare say I have nailed it really,  it’s not perfect by any means.  BUT, I have progressed in this area and will keep practicing till its nailed, nailed to the wall and may be it will be my time to lie on a sofa with my head on a plastic bag giving advice to poor souls.

How do you approach dialogue in script?




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3 thoughts on “Nailing dialogue

  1. What a horrible man. So rude to keep you waiting like that. I sympathise with your struggles on dialogue. I’m currently working on a project to create short performances about people in one of the largest UK cemeteries. Making these voices sound real is very tough work.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. Your project sounds very interesting!

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