Location matters. If it doesn’t make sense for the characters to be in this place, the scene isn’t going to make sense.
In the current Dialogue class I’m teaching, we came up with a terrific idea: A Death Match between two screenwriters noted for their dialogue: Aaron Sorkin vs. Quentin Tarantino.
Here’s how we can do this. Go to IMDB, look up your favorite Sorkin and Tarantino movies, scroll down to Quotes, click on it, then look for your favorite dialogue sides or exchanges. Copy and paste them in comments. For example:
Colonel Jessep [A Few Good Men, written by Aaron Sorkin]: “Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”
Jules [Pulp Fiction, written by Quentin Tarantino]: “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy My brothers. And you will know My name is the Lord when I lay My vengeance upon thee.”
Let the Dialogue Death Match begin! And while we’re at it, how about we do some analysis why their dialogue is so damn good.
Several readers emailed me about aggregating the entire series of posts we have been running in association with the Go On Your Own Quest initiative.
Here is Week 11: Prep.
I can not emphasize enough the importance of prep-writing. It’s the one area to which most aspiring screenwriters devote insufficient time. You have to know your characters, know your story universe. Whether you work out a complete scene-by-scene outline or rough out the story, then jam through a vomit draft, the goal is to engage you with your story fully. Anything short of that will almost assuredly result in an average to poor script.
The Quest devotes 6 weeks to Prep: The first two weeks exploring the story, starting with the Protagonist then brainstorming; the next two weeks shaping Plotline and Themeline; the last two weeks building the structure of the narrative into an outline. It’s one approach to prep-writing. There are countless others. But again, the point is to immerse yourself in your story, so the characters come alive and the narrative structure reveals itself to you.
For more information on the Prep 6-week workshop, go here.
For more information on The Quest, an individualized 24-week screenwriting workshop, go here.