EXT. A fenced meadow. Three sheep are grazing. More are in deep background. The WRITER approaches. The sheep raise their heads.
SHEEP #1: Stay there.
WRITER: Here? Outside the fence?
SHEEP #3: Yes.
SHEEP #2: Respect our boundaries.
SHEEP #1: We need to talk.
SHEEP #2: To be clear, she means we need to talk to you; not that we need to talk.
SHEEP #3: We can talk anytime we wish.
SHEEP #1: Which we do.
SHEEP #2: Often.
SHEEP #3: Sometimes about you.
SHEEP #1: Concerned?
WRITER: Not particularly. Why do you need to talk to me?
SHEEP #2: Why?
SHEEP #3: Because it’s in our nature, I suppose.
SHEEP #1: We are very helpful.
SHEEP #2: We are, aren’t we?
SHEEP #3: Very.
SHEEP #1: There should be statues of us across the country.
SHEEP #2: The world.
WRITER: I suppose I meant ‘what’. What do you want to talk to me about?
SHEEP #3: Do we want to talk to her?
SHEEP #1: Not really. It’s more an obligation than a need, if I’m honest.
SHEEP #2: Which you are.
SHEEP #1: Thank you. I do try.
WRITER: (exasperated) Honestly!
SHEEP #1: Yes. Honestly. Are you doubting my word?
WRITER: It was an expression of exasperation.
SHEEP #2: Oh. That wasn’t clear.
SHEEP #3: Perhaps because of your delivery.
WRITER: My delivery?
SHEEP #3: Of the line.
WRITER: I wasn’t saying a line. I was talking.
SHEEP #2: But that’s what conversation is.
SHEEP #1: Good dialogue is indistinguishable from normal conversation.
SHEEP #2: Except all the boring bits are cut out.
SHEEP #1: Yes. I cut that bit out.
SHEEP #3: Because it was boring?
SHEEP #1: No, because I assumed she knew that. Written dialogue doesn’t need all the bits and pieces life dialogue does.
WRITER: Life dialogue?
SHEEP #1: Yes. For example, when you’re meeting someone you both say hello and inquire after each other’s health. There could be a small chat about the weather - either praising it or complaining about it.
SHEEP #2: In Britain, that dialogue could go on for some time.
WRITER: In Canada, too.
SHEEP #3: Yes. It’s your way.
SHEEP #1: But no reader needs to read all those “Hi”, “Hello”, “It’s been a bit cold lately”. Boring. Get to the meat. In a vegetarian way, of course.
SHEEP #2: Always keep in mind why each character says what they do.
SHEEP #3: And what they’re wanting the other character…
SHEEP #2: Or characters…
SHEEP #3: Yes, of course…to say in return.
SHEEP #1: Remember what’s at stake.
SHEEP #2: Something always has to be at stake.
WRITER: What if there isn’t?
SHEEP #1: Then the dialogue serves no purpose.
WRITER: That’s brutal.
SHEEP #2: And honest.
SHEEP #3: So remember: Stakes, purpose, clarity.
SHEEP #1: Now go away so we can talk about you.
|Elspeth Futcher is a bestselling author of murder mystery games and playwright. She has been the top selling author at host-party.com since 2011. Her British games are published by Red Herring Games in the UK. Her latest game is "Which Guide Lied?" Elspeth's 'writing sheep' are a continuing feature in the European writers' magazine Elias and also appear on this blog from time to time. Connect with her on Twitter at @elspethwrites or on Facebook at Elspeth Futcher, Author.|