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Writing Compelling Dialogue for Film and TV
The Art & Craft of Raising Your Voice on Screen
By Loren-Paul Caplin
Writing Compelling Dialogue for Film and TV is a practical guide that provides screenwriters with a clear set of exercises, tools, and methods to raise your ability to hear and discern conversation at a more complex level, in turn allowing you to create better, more nuanced, complex and compelling dialogue.
The process of understanding dialogue writing begins with increasing writers’ awareness of what they hear. This book provides writers with an assortment of dialogue and language tools, techniques, and exercises and teaches them how to perceive and understand the function, intent and thematic/psychological elements that dialogue can convey about character, tone, and story. Text, subtext, voice, conflict, exposition, rhythm and style are among the many aspects covered. This book reminds us of the sheer joy of great dialogue and will change and enhance the way writers hear, listen to, and write dialogue, and along the way aide the writers’ confidence in their own voice allowing them to become more proficient writers of dialogue.
Written by veteran screenwriter, playwright, and screenwriting professor Loren-Paul Caplin, Writing Compelling Dialogue is an invaluable writing tool for any aspiring screenwriter who wants to improve their ability to write dialogue for film and television, as well as students, professionals, and educators.
Table of Contents
Fade In: Introduction
PART ONE: On Dialogue
Chapter One: Understanding Dialogue
Intro: Understanding Dialogue
Function & Purpose
Defining Better Dialogue
Text & Subtext
Chapter Two: Illuminating Character Through Dialogue
Introduction: Understanding Character
Outer and Inner Goals
Wants, needs, drives, passions
Externalizing the Internal
Putting It All Together
Chapter Three: Types of Dialogue
Introduction: Types of Dialogue
Asides & Soliloquies
Heightened & Stylised Dialogue
Chapter Four: Voice-Overs & Narrations
Introduction: Voice-Overs and Narrations
So, what is it?
Asides & Soliloquies
The Three Basic Types of Voice-Over:
The Voice of God V.O.
Looking Back V.O.
Part of the Narrative V.O.
When is it appropriate to use voice-overs?
Chapter Five: Platforms
Film Dialogue vs. TV Dialogue
PART TWO: Tool Kits for Improving Your Dialogue
Chapter Six: Tool Kit - Writing Dialogue
Introduction: Writing Dialogue
Starting - What do you do?
Intention - What do you want?
Structure, Shape and Pace
The Do’s, Don’ts and Exceptions
Chapter Seven: Tool Kit - Specificity
Technical, Authentic Word,
Colloquial Language and Vernacular
Chapter Eight: Tool Kit - Writing Singular Characters
Introduction: Writing Singular Characters
Quirks and Unique Logic
Energy: Passion & Pop Content
Chapter Nine: Tool Kit - Naturalistic Dialogue, Themes & Exposition Problems
Introduction: Naturalistic Dialogue, Themes & Exposition Problems
PART THREE: Exercises: Better Hearing & Voicing Your Characters
Chapter Ten: Accessing Character & Application
Introduction: Accessing Character & Application
Character Bios for Dialogue
Application: What to do
Chapter Eleven: Better Hearing
Introduction: Better Hearing
Nine Aspects of Dialogue
Chapter Twelve: Voice Exercises
Introduction: Voice Exercises
Character Channeling - Mimicking
Character Channeling - Other Voices
Listening to & Improving Your Own Voice
Fade Out: Conclusion
Loren-Paul Caplin has written feature films & TV scripts for studios & independents, including Paramount, Universal, Sony, and Fox Searchlight. He teaches and has taught screenwriting at Columbia University, NYU/Tisch Department of Dramatic Writing, The New School (where he co-authored Screenwriting Certificate Curriculum) and Hofstra University. He also wrote/directed feature, The Lucky Ones (Tribeca Film Festival, 2003), short film The History of the World in 8 Minutes, (New Directors/New Films Festival, MoMA) as well as several plays, and has done commentary for Criterion Collection and is a screenwriting consultant.
'Caplin's extensive screenwriting and teaching experience nourishes this exceedingly useful guide. Whether screenwriters are just starting out or looking to perfect their skills, his tool kit is filled with elements that sharpen what he rightly calls ear tuning. This book illuminates not only text, but context and subtext.'
Annette Insdorf, Film Professor, Columbia University
'Dialogue is the key to unlocking character. Loren-Paul Caplin’s book is a key to unlocking dialogue. Nothing is worse than listening to bad dialogue. It makes your skin crawl, your hair burst into flames, and your ears fall off. Caplin’s book will help you save your audience a lot of pain and suffering.'
Jim Kouf, Writer (Grimm, National Treasure, Rush Hour, Money Monster)
‘Perhaps the toughest part of writing a compelling screenplay is creating dialogue that sings. In this excellent introduction, Loren-Paul Caplin provides aspiring screenwriters with a powerful set of tools to take on their journey to effective storytelling.’
Jonathan Wacks, Founding Director and Professor at the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, Brooklyn College and former Chair of the Visual and Media Arts Department, Emerson College. (Credits include: Powwow Highway, Repo Man, 21 Jump St.)
‘Among the sea of how-to books for screenwriters, Loren-Paul Caplin’s stands out for finally giving dialogue its due. Systematic and succinct, Writing Compelling Dialogue provides the kind of toolkit that puts inspiration within reach. The entertaining examples and exercises will make your fingers itch to start writing.’
Rob King, Professor of Film and Media Studies, Columbia University
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