Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Using Dialog to Develop Character: Scripting as Process

One of the more popular trends in story-crafting today involves the use of a plot outline that is strictly dialog, along with notations like a script. There are various ways of accomplishing this, but it can have a two-fold benefit. It can be a fun and different way to develop your characters, and even help create plot. In reverse, you can turn your bestseller into a screenplay and sell it to Hollywood for thousands of dollars. Well, at least you can dream about it...

Let's focus on the idea of using dialog to develop our characters.
Plot Brainstorm: Movie star hero meets reporter heroine, and the inital interview runs hot.

Heroine-Are the rumors of your relationship with Stella Starlet true. Mr Studmufin?
Hero-What kind of man would kiss and tell, Miss Bizybody?
Heroine-Then you're denying there is a relationship?
ro-She was the co-star of my last picture. We're just friends.
Heroine-Do you expect us to believe that?
Hero-Am I supposed to care what you believe?
Heroine-You might care what my readers believe.
Hero-To tell the truth, I don't care much what that two bit rag you call a magazine prints about me anymore. I just laugh. Will my story come before or after the 80-year-old woman giving birth to alien twins?
Heroine-You're asking for it, aren't you?
Hero-Not from you I'm not. I don't find red-headed, long-legged, smart-mouthed female reporters attractive.
Heroine-And I don't find sensual, dark-haired, blue-eyed, James Bond wannabees sexy.
Hero-So you wouldn't respond if I took you into my arms and kissed your bloody brains out?
Heroine-Not even if you ran your hands over my body and whispered hot little nasties into my ear till I, er, you couldn't stand it anymore. Macho, arrogant, men who think all women want them are so not my type. What do you think about that?
Heroine-I think I'm going to find out if you're lying.

What does the above tell us about the hero?:
He is extremely confident of his good looks and popularity.
He isn't afraid to speak his mind.
He has an offbeat sense of humor. (the alien twins line)
He likes red hair, long legs, and a smart mouth.
We have some facts about what he looks like
Strong women who stir his feelings are a turn on.
There is a chance he's British. (bloody brains line)

As for the heroine:
She is an aggressive kind of reporter.
She likes goading this particular star.
She's willing to fight back when cornered verbally
We have some facts about her looks.
She finds sensual, dark-haired, blue-eyed men, James Bond wannabees sexy.
She is ready to take as good as he can give.

This short exercise gives us some solid information on which to build our character's personalities. We are also able to layer in actions, setting, and eventually a complete story format. This is just an alternative process for crafting, but it might work for you when your plot gets stuck, or it's tough to come up with that brilliant new idea. And maybe, just maybe, you'll see your title lit up on an a movie marquee.


  1. I love the dialog. That type of heroine is my favorite to write. What a great exercise and great post!


  2. Great idea for when you get stuck! And I'm very fond of sharp-tongued, assertive heroines myself:-) Dialogue is so important, and it's one of the things I really look for when picking up a new book to read. I have to be able to "hear" the h/h in order to enjoy the story.

  3. I've never tried scripting an outline. I have written dialogue that ends up needing a lot of fleshing out, though :).

    Jody W.

  4. Great he said/she said post . . . and I do this already, I just never equated it with scriptwriting. I always start with dialogue and action, then go back and fill in the description and narrative later. Think I've got potential as a screenwriter? Oh, Mr. Spielberg . . .

  5. I like this idea of scripting an outline. It's something I'd like to try. Thanks.