Thursday, 24 November 2011

Spread The Word 2

For the second session Sarah Woods had asked us to bring along a couple of pages of overheard dialogue to share. This is a brilliant exercise and something that every writer should try to do regularly. It shouldn’t really be a surprise that if you want a lesson in writing real conversation then listen to real conversation.

Listen to the pattern and rhythms in the way people speak, listen to how accents inflect the sentences, listen for the words that are specific to an accent, listen to how real conversation undercuts, repeats, erupts and explodes.

The world around us is full of incredible characters with magical stories and all we had to do was listen. Well listen and frantically scribble into a notebook.

Studying real conversation the depth of a character leaps out within a few words . Sarah Woods told us, and I love this expression, -Characters are like a cat that’s been dragged through a hedge, it comes through with bits of history and situation attached to it. It’s what we all should be aiming to do, drag characters through a hedge.

We looked closely at how often real speech is littered with repetitions. Repetition can be used for humour and for fear. The rule for repetition is repeating something 3times builds an idea but if we repeat something 5 times it’s a sign of madness.
Real conversation though can be confusing, creating dialogue is about finding the balance between creating real dialogue that immediately brings a character to life and clarifying the situation.

It was also clear to see that people don’t just speak, in real conversation we are motivated to speak for a reason. We should find the reason for a character to speak and not just force them, in the same way we shouldn’t force words into their mouth for the sake of exposition. How often do you think, that character wouldn’t say that?

We played a character creation game. We created a character by answering the following
What age are they?
What sex?
What ethnicity?
What is their name?
What distinguishing feature do they have?
What are they wearing?
What secret do they have?
What is their favourite food?
What memory do they have?
What is their dream?
What is their worse nightmare?
Where are they at this moment?
What are they saying?

Sarah then introduced us to the above chart, a way to explore characters in further depth.

If we look at the character objectives. What is the overall objective? What are the smaller objectives that drive a character at an individual level. I like this chart, it feels like a great way to get more energy and depth into a play.

If we develop from this into our story and plot, the characters will have motivations in the background that drive the actions and build the energy of the play. We can develop moments like a secret revealed in anger and build of that impacts on the audience. Paying attention to this depth behind it all creates multi-layered characters. If we take all these elements we can draw it into a timeline which would have eruptions stemming from the revelations.

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