what i most love about writing

May 22, 2011

the dialogue. i LOVE this stuff. i love how you can pack a whole boatload of comedy or drama in a handful of lines. i love how if it's crafted well and delivered well it can create such an impact that it makes a story memorable for a lifetime. i love that it can provide a great deal of insight into a character's psyche and situation in a matter of seconds.

pretty much every scene i've ever written originated as dialogue. it's so much easier to write that than describing every blasted detail. so much more enjoyable, too.

take these lines from playing by heart, a film that tells the stories of four couples by showing snippets of conversations. as the film progresses, the amount of time the camera stays on one couple is lengthened and the way one couple's tale entwines with another's becomes more and more evident. two of the couples are fairly newly formed -- one couple is in their twenties, and the other in their late thirties/early forties (if i remember correctly. it's been a while since i've seen it). one couple has been married for fifteen years. and one is preparing to celebrate their fortieth wedding anniversary.

there's the tale of joan and keenan, played by angelina jolie (i know) and ryan phillippe.

keenan: you're terrific -- sensational, really -- but i'm not right for you.

joan: wow. you should write these kiss-offs down. they'd be perfect for a chapter called piercing the heart in exactly ten words. that was ten words, wasn't it? you're terrific -- sensational, really -- but i'm not right for you. yep.

and ... much later ...

keenan: when we're together, whether or not i show it, i just can't wait to hear the next words out of your mouth. but right now i need to ask you to do something for me.

joan: anything.

shut up. just for a moment. i've been-- i've been thinking about what you said last night. i have no idea why you're so relentless, particularly, given the arsenal of defense i've thrown at you. but, no matter how hard i've tried to block out everything that you've said, the message has been received.

then there is gracie, played by madeleine stowe:

on the first date my husband asked me: gracie? do you dream? and i said, yes. from the time i get up in the morning until i go to bed at night. you know how they say the first time is never any good? well, with us, it was wonderful. i never felt so awake. i had to reassure him that crying was just my standard reaction to tremendous pleasure. he held me, and he said that he wanted to make me cry for the rest of our lives. flash forward fifteen years. and somehow the two of us became one ... and one. and now i find myself living with a roommate instead of a husband. and i have dogs instead of children because i can have dogs, but i can't have children. and-- oh, i've forgotten who blames who for that. and i haven't cried in a very long time.

and then paul and hannah, played by sean connery and gena rowlands. god, i love these two in this. they are amazing.

paul: what are we making?

hannah: some hemlock.

oh, please, don't deprive the kids of their mother.

oh, i'm not making it for me.

ah, that's the hannah that i know.

well, you seem to know me a lot better than i know you.

you know that's not true. do you remember what you told the kids about falling in love?


well, i do. you said that the wonderful thing about falling in love is that you learn everything about that person and so quickly. and if it's true love then you start to see yourself through their eyes, and it brings out the best in you, and it's almost as if you're falling in love with yourself.


  1. You have to give it to the crafted writer, for dialogue is what make or break a story for me.

    I don't pay attention to dialogue as much in movie, but in book, it seems to bring character to life.

  2. Dialogue is always the hardest thing to write. I've been using Kurt Franzens technique and reading dialogue out loud and it seems to help me some. Your's seems to be perfect as it is, though.