Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Dialogue, it'll make or break your book.
Good dialogue is a pleasure. Bad dialogue can make you cringe.
I have the Prince Bride poster because some of the best dialogue in a movie came from this film. Here's a site with the memorable dialogue.
In the movie business, if the dialogue is bad they say it is 'on the nose'. For a look at dialogue in computer games for secondary characters,see this post. Chris Breault is talking about NPCs (non-player-characters). They jump out, take aim and scream -- 'Die, you capitalist pig!' -- or something similar, before you shoot them.
'The persona's behavior is generic, so their character must also be generic. That's why these lines usually suck.'
And that's what the problem is with poor dialogue in any medium. If you don't know the character, you fall back on generic archetypes and this shows in bland dialogue.
I find on my first draft of the book there will be patches where the dialogue feels weak. But I know, by the time I get to the end of the book, I'll have grown familiar with the characters (their quirks and blind spots) and the dialogue will come to life. They'll simply refuse to say something, if it isn't true to them.
Here's a snippet of Princess Bride dialogue for you.
Buttercup: You can die too for all I care.
[she pushes him down a high hill]
Man in Black: AS... YOU... WISH.
Buttercup: Oh my sweet Westley what have I done?
When I ask him to do something my husband will sometimes say, 'As you wish'.
So, dialogue. Do you struggle with it? Do you find characters saying things you don't expect?