Alex Epstein Interview, Part TroisComplications Ensue
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Saturday, June 09, 2007

More of my novel class guest lecture:
CL: In your book, you talk about finding the outward signs of the inward experience. Can you say more about this? Is this the same as show don't tell in a novel?
AE: Even more so in a script. In a novel, you can tell us what a character is thinking. In a film, you are really only supposed to show us what an actor can act. "He's puzzled." You can't say, "He was puzzled, because that directly contradicted what she'd told him on Saturday."
AE: Ideally you write a line of dialog so it can only be read one way. But un-ideally, you can't. For example, if someone is being dryly sarcastic.
AE: Most of the time a line of dialog is happy, it's obvious.
AE: The only time you should be writing (happily) is when it's not obvious.
AE: (Happily) She's dead!
AE: (sadly) I just won a million bucks.
JM: LOL:
AE: I have a section in my first book, CRAFTY SCREENWRITING, about how and WHEN to give stage directions.
CL: I've been nagging at the class to clip their dialogue to make it sound more realistic. Can you give some words of wisdom about dialogue?
AE: Say it out loud, of course. There is nothing like your ear for telling when you've written bad dialog. Tell ya a trick though: have people speak ungrammatically. Real people don't form their sentences before they speak. The words come tumbling out ... and halfway through a sentence it become the end of a different sentence.
CL: But you don't want to have ums in there, right?
AE: Um. Well. I don't write ums unless they're sarcastic.
AE: "That car is, um ... lovely."
CL: Yes, but sometimes dialogue for a play sounds good for a play but rotten for a novel. How can you train your ear to tell the difference..
AE: Play dialog has nothing to do with movie dialog. Plays are rituals. They're not realistic. Not meant to be. Plays are autre chose.

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