So I decided to take a script writing course this semester. It is only once a week for three hours. Three weeks into the semester hasn’t produced a lot of hard copy work to fill my folder but I have already started to learn quite a bit in ways of improving my novel writing. (I’m also taking the course because it fills a minor requirement and I kind of want to do Script Frenzy this April!)
What I have learned in a short amount of time
One piece of advice was repeated over and over throughout my many classes and ventures in creative writing: “Dialogue moves the story along; dialogue is everything!”
I knew this and thought, for the longest time, that I was doing a grand job at implementing this into my stories. I even remember repeating the advise to other people! The problem is that no matter how many times I told this to myself I never truly understood what it meant that dialogue pushes the story forward.
The very first exercise assigned to us in Script Writing (that’s the course’s actual name, peeps) was to write a scene between two characters using only dialogue. The goal–which isn’t too important to my point but I’m telling you anyway–was to have something happen that would change their relationship forever. I chose two characters I already know.
Simon and Audrey are from this November’s novel. I chose a scene I have not written yet (to be fair to the exercise) and went ahead writing the moment Simon finds out that his unborn child is not truly his; Audrey had cheated. (By the way, this is probably the most I’ve ever revealed in this blog of anything I’ve ever written, and yes this is hard for me.) I thought this exercise would be so simple. I have history with these characters and I’ve envisioned the scene in my head many times as it’s a huge turning point. But I was limited to just dialogue. I couldn’t add the internal emotions unless it was through character speech. I couldn’t write out how Audrey hesitated and played with her hair as a distraction. This was difficult! Every line of dialogue I wrote had me thinking: “Is this something this character would say? If he says this, then am I portraying his character the way I intend to?” No matter the conversation, everything a character says is imperative to the story line. I knew it was only an exercise but I could already see the impact that finding the right dialogue can have on a story, script or novel.
You blab too much, get to your point!
Yes I do blab! 😀 I blab in my writing quite a lot!
In my editing so far the biggest issue I find in myself as a writer is that I depend too heavily on exposition! I love exposition. It brings me away from the fact that I should write something that actually has substance to the story. I feel like I’m being productive without actually doing any real work. While it is true that what I do write that isn’t dialogue can be interesting and relative to the plot and characters, sometimes it’s just not necessary. A lot of times I’m filling in what one character thinks of another, or how a character feels about a particular situation. These bits can have so much more “meat” to them if I rewrite the flowery words into dialogue!
A reader would much rather (I assume) read the scene where Simon discovers Audrey’s infidelity and speaks his mind of it all! I know I would keep reading to see if Audrey’s replies back her into a corner or turn her into a defensive monster. No one wants the high point in the argument to be interrupted because the author decided to climb into the main character’s head to have a silent muse about it. No, that’s not dynamic dammit! We wants spoken words flying all around the room! We want expletives to be shouted and then tears to fall through choked up apologies.
Why am I scared of dialogue?
Aside from doing “work” without doing work, part of me still feels a bit silly writing dialogue. I feel as though I should adapt to the character speaking (“get into character” if you will). Some dialogue is hard to write because maybe I don’t agree with what my character is saying, so I’m fighting against them. Or the topic of conversation is overall uncomfortable. Maybe someone is being tortured–yeah, yeah, that happens in some of my novels, it happens in a lot of novels and if you’re surprised of this about me please get over it. Writing harrowing scenes is uncomfortable enough but throw in dialogue that’s disturbing and skin-crawling and I turn into the exposition queen! Get me out of that character’s mind please and thank you very much.
This has hindered my writing lately because it’s kind of crippled my ability to create vivid characters with personalities that differ from the others. A friend of mine read over some of my NaNoNovel so I can get some feedback. For the sake of privacy and the fact that she doesn’t know I’m referring to her in my blog, here I’ll call her L. She noticed that a couple of my characters sounded the same, the dialogue was present but nothing in their language made them different people. I definitely noticed this myself when looking it over again and that’s when I realized it was the point where I started to get bored with my story too. And another thing, it’s also where I was supposed to end the novel but I couldn’t for the longest time because the characters that sounded the same were all together in the remaining words of the novel. I told L recently that, that bit of advice helped out so much and not only was a huge moment of realization for me, it gave me a lot to think about. I know my biggest weakness in writing, and now that it’s out in the open I can actually begin fixing it!
Back to script writing
I’ve never written a script in my life but I’m already excited to keep going to this class! I hope I actually have more to post about in the coming weeks as I gain knew skills in tightening up my writing. Script writing is all about making sure every single line (dialogue or action) does something to contribute to the story. Every single line moves the plot forward and moves the characters toward something. I think I picked the right time to take this class.
Hopefully I’ll be joining you Screnzy people in April!
(Maybe some of these posts will contain actual stuff I’ve written! OooooOoooOOoooh! We’ll see! Haha.)