Have you ever sat through a show or a movie where the premise was a great idea, the actors were top notch, the special effects were ahead of their time, but the dialogue was garbage? Unfortunately, with the advances in CGI (something we’ll discuss later – CGI for your business), the writing can suffer, but the action or visual effects make up for it. Maybe that’s because we have a generation of movie makers that are more concerned about box office returns than focusing on what the story is actually saying. Along with that generation are movie watchers who don’t know what good dialogue sounds like.
But you get it. You know what it is. Typically, we find that the dialogue is better when the special effects are less involved.
How do you create compelling dialogue? Easy. You need a good writer. Check out this famous example from the movie A Few Good Men. Another good example is the JAWS scene from last week's post on CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.
Building Toward a Goal
In this scene, there is one objective: get Col. Jessup (Nicholson) to confess to ordering the Code Red. Everything is centered on this idea, although you can’t just have Lt. Kaffee (Cruise) get the answer outright. You have to have a buildup and a path to the answer. That’s called not cheating your audience.
Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter, did a fabulous job of putting this entire story together (first the play and then the movie). Leading from the death of Santiago to weaving all the way to the culprit Col. Jessup.
What makes the dialogue so great in this scene is that it starts off relatively slow, asking a relatively self-answerable question. Of course orders are followed. They must be followed, because if they aren’t, to quote Col. Jessup, “People die.” But this seemingly harmless question begins the process of creating the noose. You can sense that Col. Jessup is feeling the noose getting tighter, so he goes on a rampage of what he means to the security of the nation. Sorkin utilizes the passion and energy of Col. Jessup as a path to trap him. Sorkin writes for Lt. Kaffee to match Col. Jessup’s energy-level, the two go at it, and in a momentary lapse in judgment, due to the passionate dialogue, Col. Jessup slips up.
Writing in Stages
One of the hardest things for a writer to do is to not cheat the audience. Why? Because it requires you to come up with a better idea than the other 12 or 100 you came up with before. The last thing a writer wants to do is deflate the climax. The climax is the moment the readers or viewers have been waiting for. Maneuvering through the maze of action and dialogue can sometimes be so complex that reaching a conclusion that makes sense and is satisfying can be really difficult.
This is why having a professional writer on your team is paramount. Writers who can see the future of the story before it begins is something that comes with time and experience. I’ve been writing professionally for nearly 20 years, ranging from plays to books to articles to commercials. When it comes to your story, BassTrapp Media will be sure that you never cheat your audience, and more importantly, you never cheat yourself.
We love recreating the story you’ve created.