Clear character action/reaction and dialogue make up 99% of a good script; a character’s musings are nearly impossible to convey on the big screen. A novelist, on the other hand, can linger in character thought for pages—even chapters—on end. Bottom line: The screenwriter works on a girdled canvas. One book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Screenwriting points out an exception: books about mental patients often make compelling movies, because the characters’ thoughts can be shown in all their dishabille through a telling blend of mercurial action and overzealous speech (e.g. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, written by Ken Kesey and translated into a fabulous flick that earned five Academy Awards).
A successful screenplay works for many reasons, and one of them is that the writer is forced to show (not tell) almost everything. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to pull some dialogue from some of Hollywood’s championed children. Let’s see what we can learn from them. [Read more…]