What Did They Say?

Thursday, February 16, 2012
Happy (belated) Valentine's Day!
Photo credit | Elizabeth K Humphrey
On February 14, I took my 10-year-old to see The Importance of Being Earnest at the local university. The performance, by the New York-based Aquila Theatre Company, moved the classic to modern day by adding a couple fun elements, such as inserting cellphones and contemporary music (where appropriate).

But, having seen the play before, it seemed to have remained true to the script.

If you're not familiar with the Oscar Wilde play, it premiered February 14, 1895, and turns on many social conventions of the day and two characters inventing fictitious people to avoid social events.

Initially I was concerned that because it was written so long ago, I would spend my time explaining the plot to my daughter. Or worse, answering, "What did they say?" in the crowded and darkened theatre. But not only did she laugh at most of the appropriate times, she seemed to get the story through the characters' dialogues.

Since the play, I have marveled at Wilde's ability to make his dialogues seem so timeless. In the same week, I have heard an interview with local actors about another performance (a David Mamet play) and read Vanity Fair's article about the movie Diner. (Note, however, that not every line was scripted in Diner.)

Dialogue reverberates through all the pieces and are essential to their successes.

In our own writing, dialogue is often the most difficult to capture, make so effortless, and stand the test of time.

Is there a movie or a play you admire for its dialogue? Then pick up a copy and pick it apart. Plays and screenplays can introduce you to many different types of dialogues and each line counts.

Important lessons when applying them to your own fiction.

What plays/movies/TV shows have you seen that capture strong dialogue and character interaction? What about a book? What books have the best dialogue in your opinion?

Elizabeth King Humphrey, a writer and editor, wishes everyone a  belated Happy Valentine's Day with hopes your holiday festivities produced as much chocolate as you desired. Have a writing or editing question--"tweet" me your question @Eliz_Humphrey and I'll do my best to answer it next time.


allena said...

I love to take my kids to see Broadway musicals. I always give them the plot or make them watch the movie ahead of time. Les Miserables in April.

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

I was just talking about "The Importance of Being Earnest" this morning, as a matter of fact. Our local high school is performing it in March, and I cannot wait to go. It's a great play. You are right about the dialogue--it's witty and hilarious.

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