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Thread: TPG: Week 29- Michael Gerberding

  1. StevenForbes Guest

    Dialogue is something that is VERY difficult to "learn." I honestly don't think it can be learned--it can be corrected when it's "wrong," but I don't think it can be "learned." Filtering your own voice through a fictional character is a tough trick, and believe me when I tell you that it's a knack that has to be developed. Some people can do it naturally, with little honing; some can't.

    Remember: whenever you have to explain, you've failed. EVERYTHING should be on the page, and if it isn't, it's your fault.

    My questions were somewhat rhetorical. Somewhat. Your phrasing for him was completely off--so off that no one who's commented yet has said that they understood it. Not good. You never want to be awkward when you're first starting out (P1), unless you're doing it for a specific purpose. And even then, you have to make sure that you're bringing the audience with you. Honestly, I think you left most of us up in the apartment/room with the chick, watching the guy jump off the balcony. It was the "peaceful" thing that told us we were going to be in for a long, unfun ride.

    If he's wearing a sleeveless leather jacket, why not say that? How difficult is it to say that? When I hear "cutoff", I'm thinking shorts, or a shirt that shows the midriff. I'm not thinking "sleeveless." When I saw "cutoff at the shoulders," I'm thinking that the jacket had no back. I was thinking chaps, but for the arms and chest, leaving the back exposed. It also left me scratching my head.

    If you want to be a writer...no. Let me rephrase. If you want to write things for others (not your brother) to draw, in order to possibly sell your stories, I suggest you do your research on the subject. The internet is a wonderful thing, able to take you just about anywhere, and able to give you all kinds of leads for information. I've already pointed you out to one resource right here on this website. That resource will lead you to many more. (This is the answer to your question about establishing shots.)

    Character designs are generally done separately, between you and the artist, before the artist ever starts drawing the page. This way, they can just plug the character into the page, and keep on trucking. I don't suggest doing it in the script, but if you're going to do it there...DESCRIBE the person. How is the artist going to know what the character looks like if you don't describe him somewhere? Is he tall, short, fat, muscular, old, slim, balding, glasses, pock-marked, sloppy, blonde, ginger, young, barrel chested, deformed, handsome--

    You're talking on the phone to a girl. You met on one of those party lines they advertise on late night television. She wants to know what you look like. How are you going to describe yourself? Same thing here.

    But like I said, the biggest thing is going to be the dialogue. Damn near everything else can be learned. I suggest smaller stories, with characters who have a more regular mindset. Get used to those, before you start trying to get across a damaged/intense mindset.

    Anyone else?



  2. drgerb Guest

    Gah.. I'm still totally out there in left field when it comes to dialogue. I'm not basing this off of Mike's script but just for reference..

    When you say good dialogue, you mean good as in realistic right? Believable? But still fun and interesting to read? There's a line in between being so ordinary / believable that it's also boring, but being so out there and unbelievable that it's still interesting.. So as writers, when it comes to dialogue, we kinda gotta straddle that line? The one side, believable, realistic, but might be edging boring, mundane, the other side unbelievable but more interesting / fun to read? Or am I TOTALLY off with that guess?

    If you say 'good dialogue,' does that just say 'dialogue that is believable for each character's own particular voice?' Or by good dialogue, do you mean something else?

    Are there any famous writers who jump to mind who absolutely NAIL dialogue every attempt? Dialogue being their biggest asset, their game, their strong point? So I can go read some comics to try to learn rather than trying to understand what makes "good dialogue?" Are there any famous writers who struggle with it and it's noticeable in the final pages? Or any famous comic books / series out there that are good, but you found yourself thinking the dialogue is lacking? I guess if I could see good dialogue and crappy dialogue next to it, I might understand a bit more.

    And as hard as I'm trying to understand your point on dialogue, Steven (I did reread that Bolts / Nuts article btw), I still just feel like I don't understand. They're all words. A script is just a big mangled mess of words. How are some better than others? I know that's totally dumbing myself down but seriously... Hypothetically, if you look at a script and the dialogue is crap, what are the reasons? It's unrealistic, clunky, too wordy? And if you look at a script and the dialogue is great, what are the reasons? It flows, is smooth, easy to say, and believable? Is that all there is to it? If that IS all there is to it, then why is it soo hard?! Argh. Pointers, suggestions, anything, anyone?

    PS: Ohh, I'm pumped to see a script BY Steven edited by someone OTHER than Steven. That has me intrigued. And Steven, go through and throw in some spelling errors so it's not TOTALLY perfect and we do have soomething we can call you names about.


    Okay, one last thing regarding dialogue. Let's say I have a line somewhere, 'Kill the wrong girl in the wrong part of town and you'll be dead by morning.' Would 'Kill the wrong girl 'n the wrong part a town an you'll be dead by mornin' ' be better? Do those little nuances count? Is that kinda what you're talking about? Or am I still totally off?

    Okay one last Q. Is it the words a character says that makes the dialogue good or bad? Or is it the way a character says it and his or her choice of words / voice? Like can you go into some bad dialogue, switch in some other words, pull out some bad ones, and tada: You've got good dialogue instead of bad? Or in order to fix really bad dialogue is there a lot of rewriting / reworking of the character's actual voice to make it better? Okay. I'm done.



  3. StevenForbes Guest

    Lots of questions, Dayv, and really, they say one thing:

    You're not a writer.

    Dialogue has to do two things, hopefully simultaneously: move the story forward and reveal character. Not only that, it has to do this in interesting ways, without being too obtuse or too acute.

    "Good" dialogue depends on the story, and the characters involved. Want to read good dialogue? Go read Bendis on Ultimate Spidey, or Ellis or Moore on damned near anything. They understand about character, nuance, and how to move a story along using dialogue.

    Dialogue has to sound natural and believable--to someone else. As the writer, you need to say it out loud, and you have to make sure it would sound not only the way your character would speak, but that another person would believe it. Yes, this is absolutely much harder than it looks, because your natural inclination as the writer/creator is to say "This is how my character speaks, so get used to it!" The bulk of the time, this inclination is wrong.

    Bendis has a style realistic style that he uses to great effect, but doesn't fit every character in the Marvel Universe. However, he is an absolute master. He puts in hesitations, tangents, and some rambles, but still using an economy of words. Go read Jinx. It's a good buy and a great read.

    I cannot think of a writer who has a hard time with dialogue. Most working writers have to maintain an editorial standard, so their writing generally isn't painful to read. There are writers whose storytelling I don't enjoy, but that doesn't make their writing dialogue bad.

    Saying that they're "just words," Dayv, tells me that you don't understand their power or how to use them.

    Good and bad dialogue is very subjective, but your hypothetical situations/reasons are on track. Why is it so hard? Great question! I don't have a great answer. Look at your brother's script, and think about his reasonings for his choice of words. No, don't ask him. I want you to think about the why of his choices. I want you to wonder if you'd have made the same choices.

    In order to call yourself a writer, you have to read. You have to write. You have to study and think about the stories you want to tell and how you want to tell them. If you don't read, if you don't write, then you're not a writer, and it will show. Your editor will more than likely rework your script so much that they might as well have written it themselves.

    Read, study, write. That's the best advice I can give to anyone.

    If you think they're just a mess of words and don't understand their power, usage, intricacies, choice and placement, then you've already lost.



  4. Dungbeetle Guest

    I know most hardcore comic heads will hate the suggestion, but study how dialogue is done in films. Of course, with balloons and panels you have restrictions on how much you can fit it (and how much you can write without boring the reader) but still, it's (to my mind) a lot easier to study dialogue in a film because when you're observing it you're involved less and more passive. Whereas, as someone who's only started writing recently, I find I can only really deconstruct a comic from a critical point on my second or even third read. I need to go through it once and just enjoy it before I can do the critical stuff that will help me learn how it's done.

    Watch Cohen Brothers movies... Big Lebowski, Fargo etc. They're often looked at as the dons of movie dialogue. The characters are loveable and believable because the scripting isn't always 100% about function. They repeat themselves. They mimic eachother without realizing, as people often do. Again, this isn't something you're going to do 100% of the time when writing for comics, but it's still something worth paying attention to.

    I'm not entirely sure hard-boiled street level badasses are going to make reference to "role-playing games". Something like "time to end your little game of dress-up" or mentioning role playing but in a way that alludes more to sexual deviation would be more fitting. Do you really know how these sorts of people talk? The narration doesn't do a lot for me. I've been wrestling with this alot really; to narrate or not to narrate. The only things I've read where it really did it for me were Swamp Thing and Hellblazer, both of which are horror comics. There, the prose helps to really build tension and gives at least half of the horror of the piece (even if Moore went way over the top with it, it's enjoyable, and scary). It's a convention of noir to have an introverted protagonist who talks to themself, too. Just ask yourself if it's really doing anything for your story... are you putting into captions what could be exposed more entertainingly in dialogue between characters, which, in addition, tells you about those characters desires, traits etc.

    End ramble.



  5. CalvinCamp Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenForbes View Post
    I cannot think of a writer who has a hard time with dialogue. Most working writers have to maintain an editorial standard, so their writing generally isn't painful to read. There are writers whose storytelling I don't enjoy, but that doesn't make their writing dialogue bad.
    They don't work in comics (that I'm aware of), but James Patterson and Dennis McKiernan spring immediately to mind. Both have decent stories to tell, but the dialogue is so bad I have difficulty reading their work. (In Patterson's case I won't, because it's not just his dialogue that's painful. McKiernan I can read, if I'm in the mood for his general over-verbose style, but I find myself wincing at the dialogue when I do)

    It's kind of interesting that their problems are almost polar opposites too. In Patterson's case, his dialogue is primarily just godawful clunky and no character has a distinctive voice (and it's not just his dialogue - his characters and his descriptive prose all sound like the same person speaking). In McKiernan's case, he tries so hard to give his characters a distinctive voice that he often crosses the line into silliness.

    The thing is, that's an entirely subjective judgement, as both of them are best-selling authors, so someone must think their dialogue is good. And I doubt either one thinks they have a hard time with dialogue. But, personally, I'm convinced they both need to get out and listen to some people other than themselves.

    I will admit that I can't recall ever running into a published author that I couldn't at least understand what the character was trying to say though, even if I thought the way the character said it was completely unrealistic.



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