By Penny Penniston
“Dialogue puts conversation in motion. Great dialogue moves like a great athlete; it is nimble, precise, and powerful. It commands the attention, yet feels effortless in its execution. However, if we want our dialogue to move like an athlete, then we must train like an athlete.”
…and what she has produced here is nothing less than a complete training regime for honing your dialogue skills to perfection.
Each lesson approaches a particular aspect of dialogue such as status, voice, focus and so on and then explains that aspect of the craft with a short lesson and a few examples until we move quickly on to the exercises. These take four different forms, script analysis (their are suggestions at the back of the book for if you lean towards playwriting or screenwriting), beginner exercises, intermediate/advanced exercises and solo exercises. As Penniston says ‘writers learn by writing’ and this book is definitely designed to get you putting words on the page as soon as possible, pushing you to try different approaches to dialogue which you can then take into your own projects.
It’s a quick and easy read, the writing style is easy going and familiar and the chapters and lessons flow effortlessly one to the other with the exercises, which are mostly very good indeed, taking precedent rather than pages crammed with a lot of examples and filler. Interestingly there are suggested workshop schedules at the back of the book and each lesson includes a set of discussion points for a class so if you felt like taking this book into your own writing group then it wouldn’t take much to apply the lessons.
Great dialogue is one those things that marks a professional from an amateur. Done right it can attract the best actors and directors and in the right hands will fill pubs and clubs the world over with quotable one-liners. Talk the Talk: A Dialogue Workshop for Scriptwriters gives screenwriters a training manual that, if used properly, will improve their dialogue writing skills enormously, helping their characters leap off the page and raising the quality of their screenplays above the morass and on to the ‘recommend’ pile.
You can read a sample of Talk The Talk for free over at Scribd!