Good Dialogue Equals A Good Ear.


an-earNo, no don’t turn away from this post.  I know the ear can be a weird thing to look at, even frightening sometimes, but there is a reason I posted a picture about the ear.  You see I believe that comedians that do impressions(Dana Carvey, who is by far the best impressionist since John Byrom, sorry not a Rich Little fan.)and writers have one tool in common.  It’s the ear.  Impressionists need that ear to pick up the nuances of the real life person they are portraying and Writers need a good ear to find good dialogue.  It doesn’t even have to be good dialogue it can be a story you heard that you retained in your memory.  I wrote a movie, about Soccer which I have mentioned more than once on this blog and in the sequel to the first movie, I had this female character that was as tough as nails.  At one point she thinks the Protagonist has cheated on her, she’s on a train and she finally breaks down, not something this character does a lot of in the movie, but her feelings have been hurt.  In the train, this compassionate man keeps staring at her.  She starts to get ticked and finally to get him to stop staring at her, she screams, “Staring?  Want your eyes poked out.”  I have had that line in my head since I have been in eighth grade.  Thank you Torri Crowell, you are the one that uttered it more than once, not to me, but to others.  Another example where I used my ear was a reference to a very funny story.  My friend David Whiting was a whiz in school.  He took all the best math courses and managed to win our class the Rubiks cube contest for Winter Carnival.  Dave told this story about this kid who was in his Physics class with him.  A guy by the name of Ken Krauss.  I never knew Ken, but he had a disability.  A glass eye.  I am not sure what happened to the poor guy, but rather than take his disability and feel sorry about it, the guy had a sense of humor. Ken  would take this glass eye out in the middle of class and roll it on the table.  The image had me in hysterics.  I have had that story in my head since high school and even now I am chuckling talking about it.  And yes because my ear retained the story, I used it in a play I wrote about a wacky high school reunion.  I had a character tell the story.  My mother used to tell this story about this college student(She called him Free Wheeling Frank.) who would come into her bookstore and ask for the book Free Wheeling Frank.  He was of course referring to the book, “Free Wheeling Frank And The Guide to Motorcycle Maintenance.”  Now I haven’t found the right opportunity to use this, but when the moment is right, I will.
Now I am not the type of guy that jots notes in a notepad, but what I do is tune my ear in at the most unlikely places.     It doesn’t matter whether I am in a laundromat, or whether I am people watching on Church Street in Burlington Vermont.  I take that opportunity to listen to people’s conversations.  I know it sounds kind of creepy, but in those moments, I always manage to find some interesting dialogue to play around with.  We writers often seem like big brother.
So the next time you hear some teenage kid(I know I have criticized this in the past), say something like “I am so over this”, don’t throw that away, use it as an opportunity to understand today kids and how they talk, it will definitely enhance your dialogue.

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