The Key to Dialogue

June 26, 2009

I have always imagined dialogue in my head. Writing it is a completely different thing, and not as much fun. Until I learned about subtext. Now, I’m addicted to it, and I can’t stop writing dialogue, and it’s usually without purpose. There are three levels of subtext:

1. Say what you mean

2. Hint at what you mean

3. Say something completely unrelated

You can witness this in movies and television. 1 is the worst, and three is the best. For example, take the line, “I’m going to kill you.” When a character comes out and just says it, it’s bad and unmemorable dialogue. But follow the pattern:

1. “I’m going to kill you.”

2. “I’m looking to try out this new gun I bought today.”

3. “I’m going to go play some tennis.”

Don’t believe me? Watch Pulp Fiction.


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