Thursday, May 14, 2009

SCRIPTWRITING 101: DIALOGUE

Recently, a commentary from two “high brow” observers of komiks and comics, annoyed a lot of komiks talents when these two bozos (who badly need to take Philosophy 101 - Logic) argued and argued nonstop with reasoning only ignorant people like them would understand. One of these guys accused me of using HIGH FALUTING (sic) dialogues in a short komiks story which he claimed was forgettable, yet he remembered who wrote it, and remembered the story, and remembered the dialogues. Yet, he said it was a forgettable story. Forgettable, but he remembered everything about it, including the so-called “High Falutin” dialogues.

My understanding of his “high faluting” description, is its current use here in north America. I thought he meant my dialogues were “Showing off, ostentatious, pretending to be above one's station in life, putting on airs.” This is the context now of this word here in north America. But, it turned out that the guy using this word, must have meant : “bombastic speech,” a context which was the status quo in the 1950s. Today, in north America, if you tell someone “high falutin”, it will always be interpreted as “Showing off”. Example, if there is an exclusive, pricey restaurant where only the people who have extra money would go, chances are people in the south or Midwest would say: “Them rich guys will all go to that high falutin restaurant called TURO-TURO.” Nowadays, if your dialogue or speech is bombastic, it will be labelled: STILTED, not “high falutin.” If you call a dialogue high falutin, it will be the same as saying GAY because you’re HAPPY. But of course, that was in the 1950s. If you say the word GAY these days, it would only mean one thing: HOMOSEXUAL.

Well, since we’re discussing this topic, this is the best time to discuss DIALOGUES in scriptwriting. In the old komiks industry, even in our old tagalog movies, TV and radio dramas, dialogues were never utilized to ADVANCE THE ACTION OF THE STORY, or to suggest an incident in the past to make the scenes interesting. This does not encompass all the writers, but many were guilty of this shortcoming.

What exactly is the main purpose of dialogues?

• Dialogues must sound convincing and natural, but should also be entertaining
• Dialogues should be in keeping with a character, even emphasizing his/her traits and disposition
• Dialogues must build & advance the action of the story. It should give foreshadowing, state facts and other information that can’t be shown in the action
• Dialogues must intensify, reveal – the emotions of the characters
• Dialogues should be fragmentary just like in real life, simple, but witty. If you can keep them short and crisp, the better

and the most important of all, avoid:

• Tired, worn-out phrases! If you have heard it too many times before on tv, movie, or even in real life – don’t use it as is! Re-invent it. You don’t want to write clichés:

“The devil made me do it”
“I’ve got a bone to pick”
“Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

Think about the image a phrase can convey, and reword it:

“Jeffrey Dahmer’s soul made me do it!”
“I’ve got a fish to scale”
“Don’t twist the hand that holds your paycheck!”

When I was writing for TV in RP, I have always opened my dialogues “after the scene has already begun”. This way, I could inform the audience of what has happened before, the characters would discuss it, ponder it over here and there, maybe worry about the past action, and wonder what might happen because of it.

So, instead of:

“Magandang umaga, Kiko.”
“Magandang umaga naman, Kikay. Kumusta?”

This sort of exchange of words is lifeless. Empty. Static.

“Magandang umaga, Kiko. Akala mo di na titigil yung ulan, ano?”
“Oo nga, e. Mabuti nga’t nakauwi ng walang problema si Lagring”.

By putting an incident in the dialogues, the audience will pick-up the past action.

For smoothness, use connective words whenever possible.

“Tumakbo yung aso patungo roon sa tambakan ng basura!”
“Ano’ng klaseng aso?”
“German Shepphered.”

“Sigurado ka ba?”
“Oo, sigurado ako.”

• In TV and movie scriptwriting, SHOW, rather then TELL as much as possible. Use dialogues only to explain and to build interest and suspense – use only when necessary. Make the dialogues speed up the plot. Stress the visual. Use pictorial story-telling all the time.
• Avoid too much dialect. Suggest his nationality by using one or two foreign words, but don’t overdo it, unless subtitles will be used in the actual film. If the format is TAGLISH, finish all the english and don't insert the Tagalog in between. It will be too confusing to the readers or to the audience. So, if taglish is what the characters speak, spare us the agony. Please finish the sentence in full tagalog, then begin another sentence in English and finish the whole sentence in English. It will be wishy-washy to mix the tagalog and english together in one sentence. Avoid this as much as possible.

What leads to a better dialogue?

• Well-developed characters and contrasting characters will reveal their uniqueness. As a writer, you don’t even have to force the words. They will come out naturally.
• Listen how people talk in real life. Use the idea, but make sure that their conversation is arranged with splendor of order. Real life dialogues are meandering at times. This characteristic must not be included in your dialogue. Make the dialogues sound like in real life, but arranged artistically, and must move the plot forward, not hinder.

If you watch tagalog movies and/or tv shows, you will notice one very big problem. Almost always, if, say, there are two characters having a conversation, they would talk about something that they already both know from the past, and yet they are now talking about it because the writer’s intention is to inform the audience (expound) about this past. This strategy is a no-no. It’s purely schlock writing.

“Grabe ang tiniis natin sa buhay noon, di ba, Mystica?
Lasenggo si itay, labandera si inay. Tuwing uuwing
lasing si itay, laging sinasaktan
si inay.”

“At lagi tayong umiiyak, ate Auring, kadalasan ay
nakakatulog tayong walang laman ang sikmura at
may mga luha sa mga mata.”



This kind of dialogue is always used by many RP writers. Both the characters talking to each other knew all the facts from way back when, yet they are saying these facts to each other! What for? To inform the audience of the past. Isn’t this awful?

“Sino ang mag-aakalang makaka-ahon rin tayo
sa dati nating buhay? Hanggang ngayon ay hindi ko
pa rin maintindihan kung bakit naging lasenggo si itay.
At ewan kung paano hinayaan ni inay na saktan siya
ni itay nang paulit-ulit?”

“Kung hindi naging lasenggo si itay, hindi sana tayo
nagdanas ng katakut-takot na hirap sa buhay.
Naalala mo pa ba, kung paano tayo natutulog nang
walang laman ang ating mga sikmura?

This second alternative is more logical. The characters are reminiscing the past without the OBVIOUS unabashed spoon-feeding dialogues of the first example. Also, you'll notice how the two characters never addressed each other with their names. There is no need for that. When we talk to someone, WE DON’T SAY HIS/HER NAME each time we begin to say something like in the first example. As a writer, take note of this.

BTW, Madam Auring and Madam Mystica are both pop icons in RP. He-he-he. May ASIM pa silang dalawa. Damang-dama ko ang kanilang mga alindog. Sana, kayo rin.

18 Comments:

Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

May 14, 2009 at 11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haaaa-ha-ha.

Si Madam Auring at Mystica.
Grabe ka talaga, JM. Nabigla ako sa mukha nitong dalawa.

Tama ang mga sinabi mo. Ganito nga ang mga masasamang diyalogo sa Pilipinas. Pero kung hindi mo ito pinuna, hindi ko rin mahahalata ito. Salamat sa iyo, pards. May natutuhan ako sa mensahe mo. Hanip talaga. LOL.

- Leo Caliboso (Cabanatuan City)

May 14, 2009 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Leo Caliboso:

Nagkita na ba tayo? Parang familiar sa akin ang pangalan mo. Email me so we can communicate. Parang may naaalala akong kapangalan mo.

Sagana sa entertainment value itong sina Madam Auring at Mystica kaya dapat lang na sila ang ilagay sa mga melodramatic na dialogues. He-he.

May 14, 2009 at 11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahee-he-heee.
Ganda ni Madam Auring at Mystica. Mwa!

Pambihira ka, JM. Lakas mong mang-inis. Lol! High Falutin. We-he-he. Grade 5 siguro ako noong itinuro sa amin ito ng aming teacher. Taong 1945. Hu-hu. Talagang gurang na ako. Siguro, mga gurang na iyong dalawang nang-aasar sa mga nagkokomiks dito sa atin. Sa tooo lang, wala na ngang gumagamit niyang katagang iyan. Kumbaga, obsolete na siguro.

Na-meet na nga pala kita. Nag-extra ako noon sa sinulat mong Pelikula sa Regal, yung Bedspacers. Ipinalabas sa TV dito iyon kamakailan lang. Naalala mo pa ba ako? Naroon ako sa bar scene noong naghubad si Alma Moreno at tinakpan ni Al Tantay ng mantel ng mesa. Ganda ng pagkasulat mo sa pelikulang iyon. Noong magpapirma sa iyo ng kanilang notebook yung mga taga MLQ, akala ko artista ka rin. Writer pala. Kung hindi mo pa rin ako maalala, ako yung lumapit sa inyo ni Deborah Sun nung pinariringgan si Deborah ng mga babaing esrudaynt at tinutuya dahil kung ilang take na ay hindi pa nakukuha ang eksena. Ako yun.

Leo

May 15, 2009 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Ah... oo. Naalala na kita. Ikaw yata ang pinaka-pogi doon sa bar scene. Di ba't nagustuhan ka pa nga yata ng isang bading na ekstra doon? HHHHHHHH.

Umuwi ka na pala sa Probinsiya ninyo? Nakatapos ka ba ng Engineering mo sa MLQ? Teka, paano mo nalamang may blog akong ganito? Wow. Isa ka sa mga pinakamabait na kasama doon sa pelikula. Alam mo, kung hindi ka lumapit sa amin ni GIGI (Deborah Sun) noong araw na iyon, tiyak na nagpang-abot ang mga chicks doon. He-he. Di ba, ganito ang tawag nila sa mga babae noon? Chicks. Ang nakatatawa, binulungan muna ako ni Gigi bago hinarap yung mga hinayupaks na mga babaing estudyantes.

"Ano ba, sasabunutan ko na kaya?" Gabito ang sinabi sa akin ni Gigi.
Sabi ko naman: "Huwag muna. Kakausapin ko muna."

Pero, mukhang palaban yung dalawa sa grupo, at paglapit mo, medyo kinabahan at umurong. Ikaw actually ang naka-awat sa gulo nang araw na iyon.

Leo, minsan nga, uuwi ako ng Pinas para magkita uli tayo. Parang KUYA ang papel mo sa akin. Mag-tour tayo sa buong Pilipinas, isama natin ang misis mo.

Unbelieveable. Hindi ko akalaing magkaroon uli tayo ng komunikasyon.
Email mo na lang ako sa tauruswarrior@shaw.ca

JM

May 15, 2009 at 9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JM,

Kung yung mga nang-iinsulto sa mga taga komiks sa Pilipinas ay hindi naman mga artists o writers, puro lang p-epek ang mga pinagsasabi nila. Nagbasa ako doon sa blog ni Randy at talagang nakakakunsumi ang mga pinagsasabi. Wala namang sense. Kundi ba naman mga sira, kinukuwestiyon ang popularity ni Caparas, as in, hindi ito fact na dapat pang pagtalunan? At ang side nila, puro kababalaghan :)

Palagay ko, galing lang sa kangkungan ang dalawang iyon, o baka diyan lang sa tabi-tabing iskwaters.

Tao nga naman sa mundo ng kababalaghan.

Johann Gonzales
72 Bell Street
Filinvest Homes II
Quezon City, Philippines

May 16, 2009 at 8:04 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Johann:

Tinamaan mo. On the other hand, siguro naman, sa mga sagot na nakuha nila galing sa mga komikeros ay baka nahimasmasan na rin sila sa kanilang mga bangungot. He-he.

Ang palagay ko'y mga bata pa itong dalawa at kitang-kita ang kanilang naivetté at kawalang experience sa buhay. Akala nila, ang outlook nila ang siyang pinakamagaling sa mundo. Puro naman sweeping ang mga statements at extremely fallacious. Mukhang hindi pa yata updated sa mga pagbabagong nagaganap sa mundo. Ang mga expression na ginagamit, akala mo 1950s pa. Saan kaya nagsipag-aral ang mga ito. Very poor ang nakuha nilang edukasyon. Akala nila, komiks lang ang talagang ultimate sa daigdig na ito. Tinutulugan nga raw nila yung mga obra ni Shakespeare at kung magbasa man ng mga gawa ng ibang authors, ay puro comics version lang. Eh, kung ganyan ang klase ng pag-aaral na gagawin nila, baka wala pa sa 1/10th ng tunay na content ng libro ang mapulot nila. Akala nung isa, yung Metamorphosis ni Kafka ay yung illustrated book version na ang ultimate reading material. Eh, yun ang pinaka-least common denominator ng nasabing libro. Wala pa sa kalingkingan ng tunay na libro ang laman nung komiks.

Poor souls, the product of my sinful earth...

May 16, 2009 at 8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool:

Hambalusin mo na nga ng dos por dos ang dalawang pesteng iyan.

HHHHHHHHH.

May 16, 2009 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Sino ito, Supremong Kapre?
HHHHHHHH.

Balak ko nga, 2X10 na ang ipanghambalos, eh!
HHHHHHH.

May 16, 2009 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Ron Mendoza said...

Ang cute talaga ni Madam Auring. Ano'n panama ng tarsier? Si Mystica, pop icon pero si Madam Auring, national treasure na 'yan. He he.

May 17, 2009 at 8:18 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Ron,

Ha-ha, tama ka. National treasure na nga. Tarsier. Oo nga pala. mukha na nga silang kambal-tuko nitong hayop na ito.

Hindi nga lang puwedeng manghula yung tarsier :)

May 17, 2009 at 10:14 AM  
Blogger kc cordero said...

JM,
masarap sanang makipagbalitaktakan doon sa isyu kay caparas kasi maganda namang topic. kaso hindi nagiging healthy ang talakayan dahil namemersonal 'yung iba at ayaw magpakilala, tapos ang mga details mali-mali pa. paano natin paniniwalaan ang kanilang point of view kung sa detalye pa lang mali na?
anyway salamat sa mga writing tips mo, marami kaming napupulot. :)

May 21, 2009 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Dikong KC:

Nalimutan ng dlawang high class, na ang ang komiks noon ay isang industriya. Paranmg pelikula rin. Kunf=g sino ang producer o poblisher, ay sila ang may sey sa kung anong palaman dapat magkaroon ang komiks nila. Dahil may mga guidelines and requirements galking sa producer o publisher (na laging nakatanghold), ano ba ang magagawa ng karamihan kundi ang magsulat ayon sa guidelines. Akala nung dalawa, FREE FOR ALL ang komiks noong bata pa si Sabel.

Hindi muna nagsipag-research bago nagtatalak doon sa blog ni Randy.

May 21, 2009 at 8:02 PM  
Blogger Everlito (ever) Villacruz said...

musta na pards..langya! magkamukha pala si auring at mystika.

June 13, 2009 at 2:10 AM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Oo nga, parehong may asim pa :)

June 13, 2009 at 6:04 AM  
Blogger cpsanti said...

these tips are amazing ;-) they really made me think.

heehee. at yes, apparently may asim pa si madam A ;-) hahaha!

June 21, 2009 at 7:15 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

Hi CP:

May asim pa nga. He-he. Pero, oras na naman yata para magpa-facelift uli si Madam para lalong tumindi ang asim.

LOL.

June 21, 2009 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger TheCoolCanadian said...

"again, these are really amazing tips ;-) i'm trying to crank out a novel myself and these are some tips that i can also reasily apply. thanks for sharing your experience with us! ;-)"

- cpsanti

Hi CP:

I will be posting more about writing and just drop by from time to time. You might be able to pick up some things you can use in your novel. I am also writing a novel, by the way, but I've been distracted by so many things right now. However, You inspire me to continue my novel after putting it aside after Chapter 12.

JM

June 21, 2009 at 7:54 PM  

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