While trolling the internet for interesting articles to share via Anxiety’s Facebook and Twitter, I came across this gem: How to Write Arguments with Maximum Punch.
While I feel like step 1 was a given, and I love the idea of step 2, step 3 is the one I want to discuss. Hollingsworth’s tip to script your argument and remove all the extraneous parts, like tags, body language, and description is an ideal way to see the core of your argument. Really, the core of any major dialogue scene.
The funny thing is, I already have a tendency to do this when I’m drafting dialogue. If I’m in the middle of an important scene, nothing else is allowed to intrude on what the characters are saying to one another, I need to see the conversation in its purest form in order to make sure it’s doing what it needs to when I come back and edit. I don’t usually add any major detail until my third edit when I’m happy the dialogue is working –at that point I shouldn’t have to add much to these scenes because dialogue is always supposed to do more.
This is when having a drama background comes in really handy. I don’t have one, by the way, but lucky for me script writing was part of the trifecta taught in my first university creative writing course. And I still have the textbook, Three Genres, by Minot; a book I highly recommend although it is rather pricey.
No, I’m not an expert after maybe a month of learning script writing and writing one play. However, English isn’t all about reading short stories and novels. I’ve read many plays. From Shakespeare, to Dryden, to Behn, to Hamilton, and I could go on, but I’ll stop. And the beauty of reading Shakespeare, and I’ve read a helluva lot of Shakespeare, is that he provides barely any stage directions. You have to read his dialogue carefully to follow the movement of the play.
Learning to do dialogue well is hard. You have to read a ton, especially outside your comfort zone, and you have to write (and rewrite) a lot of it. Thankfully it pays off in the end.
So I recommend scripting most if not all of your dialogue the first time around, especially the most important scenes, like arguments between characters. I’ve never gotten complaints about my dialogue and that’s what I’ve always done.
What do you think?