I love dialogue. Great dialogue can make your heart sing, from the Crispin’s Day speech in Henry V to President Bartlet’s rant against God in Two Cathedrals. And I’ve always fancied I’m not half-bad at it.
There are fundamental differences between novels, plays and screenplays that I’m not going to delve into here, but the thing that grabbed me tonight is dialogue.
I’ve started attending Kites and Violence in Waterloo, a writers group run by the funny and devastatingly handsome Sandy Nicholson. This evening’s readings were from a feature film and a play. Both were very enjoyable, actually (though I had to duck out early because of trains) but wow, they sound so different!
I’ve turned my hand to novels and the thing I hate about them is all the damn describing you have to do. There is a basic expectation of description that is actively avoided in screenplays. I personally feel this can go too far – JRR Tolkien may have been a genius but no one needs eleven pages to describe a mountain range.
Screenplays are light of description and high on talking, relative to novels. But then you have plays.
Stage plays are all-talking, all the time. There is a glut of talking! Non-stop freakin’ talking. And you know what? It’s too much for me.
I recently completed a horror play and my main struggle was with the length. The story I wanted to tell was a thirty-minute story. It didn’t want to be a full-length play, but part of that is because the dialogue/description ratio in the work is much closer to a screenplay than a stage play.
So, basically, this post is a very long-winded way of saying: I like dialogue but the dialogue/description ratio that suits my style best is found in screenplays.
(And I could’ve said that in one Tweet and saved you all reading this…)