As we traveled to and from our football playoff game this weekend, I unwittingly participated in a wonderful writing exercise. With two and half hours of highway driving each way, the kids in my car wanted a movie to pass time. Of course they could all SEE the movie from the back seats. I was relegated to LISTENING to the movie.
Have you ever listened to a movie? It’s quite an interesting exercise, especially for a writer. Of course, I had seen both of these movies before, so it wasn’t hard to picture the pictures, but there is something about not having the images flickering in front of you that really brings out the words that are spoken and emphasizes the way the story is told.
Now both of these movies had excellent acting, which helps tremendously. After all, the words written by the screenwriter must be spoken with the unique inflection of the character. But even the best actors have a hard time making flat dialogue come alive.
These movies didn’t have that problem. The dialogue was witty and real and sarcastic and even silly sometimes, but it worked. It didn’t give information dumps. It didn’t tell too much. It didn’t bypass emotional moments. It felt like how I want the dialogue in my books to sound in my readers’ heads.
Try it sometime, even if you aren’t a writer. Close your eyes and hear the movie instead of watching it. It’s amazing the things you can discover about the characters just through the words they say—or the things they don’t say!