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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Character & Dialogue part 3 - read thru and improv

Read through and Improvisation

These are two powerful techniques. But they used mainly by directors. But writers should use them more than they currently do.

Both techniques are seeking to prevent the danger of 'head down' writing. This is a bigger danger than most writers realise. A head-down approach leads to characters that aren't fully alive, that perhaps don't speak realistically, that just act rather than react. Its so easy for this to happen because the written word is NOT the spoken word. As writers we are trying to capture the flow and energy of real conversations and interactions - on a page. So is staring at typed up words the best way to do it? It seems crazy the more you think about it.

If you fancy another way to write then try these ideas.

Improvise it. Working with others kick around some scenes. Film it maybe. But do some of the key scenes in your story: What would I say, what would they say, would I walk off, would I come back, would I try and talk about something else? Know the characters, know the scene, know their agendas - and then go for it. Afterwards, pick it about and take out some of the good stuff (not all of it obviously). This idea is similar to writing with a writing partner (like Sam and Jim or the WordPlayer guys) but even better.

Read it through. Further down the line read the script out. Not just read it. Read it out. Best of all is to get other people to read it out. Once you hear it you realise there is a massive difference between what you thought the scene would work like and how it really works. Your following draft will be amazingly better. Its a guarantee.

Once you explore those ideas you'll wonder how you ever thought you could write a dynamic, realistic, flowing, natural, exciting scene by sitting at your desk on your own. Most of all you'll wonder why we start with the written word when we need the spoken word.

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The Scriptwriter's Life diagram is by Tim Clague from a joint venture by Projector Films, South West Screen & MartonHouse.
The diagram can be used by anyone and is under a Creative Commons License.
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peted said...

Hi Tim,

Love what you're doing - and love the 'map' - just to add to this element - don't just read it record it - and preferably with other people reading so you (the writer) have to listen (and cringe) like I did last week when two dear friends read my first play. then you can have a few days to celebrate or bemoan the wasted weeks or just chill and get your head back in to positive space and start work. The best thing is you hear bits are great that you were sure didn't work - but there'll be plenty that need attention. Micro cassette recorders are ridiculously cheap - but I blagged an mp3 recorder and now have it on my laptop to play whenever I have the mood on me.

Tim Clague said...

All great ideas Pete D. I should also mention things like the TAPS scheme that go a bit further and actually present the script (or parts of it) as a play.