This book contains a lot of helpful information on how to write dialogue. It''s dense with dialogue analysis and insights, tough to take in by just reading it through once. But it is helpful. McKee covers the three dialogue tiers (said, unsaid, unsayable) as well...
This book contains a lot of helpful information on how to write dialogue. It''s dense with dialogue analysis and insights, tough to take in by just reading it through once. But it is helpful.
McKee covers the three dialogue tiers (said, unsaid, unsayable) as well as how dialogue ties into story turning points and scene conflict type. I still have lots of practice ahead of me to figure out how best to do this in my story. I will definitely use his advice as a guide. He understands dialogue at a much deeper level than I do.
However, many of McKee''s dialogue examples did not speak to me. While I liked reading the dialogue examples for Breaking Bad, 30 Rock, The Sopranos, Frasier, A Raisin in the Sun, and The Great Gatsby, and agreed they were good, I disliked the dialogue from Shakespeare, Elmore Leonard, Sideways, Fraulein Else, and Lost in Translation. McKee says fine dialogue turns the reader/audience into a mind reader; I guess I''m not interested in movies which expect me to be as much of a mind reader as those latter examples did. I totally missed the subtext of the dialogue in those until he explained it to me as an aside. And that''s after I already saw most of those movies!
If I have to guess what every character means with every line, that''s too much work and too little entertainment for me. Maybe mystery lovers liked the dialogue in "Lost in Translation"; I''m not a mystery lover. McKee quoted one novelist as saying that the crux of good writing is to, "Make em laugh, make em cry, make em wait." Lost In Translation and its dialogue did none of that for me. The subtext was so confusing and subtle that I lost interest in the movie. I can''t even remember what it was about anymore, only that it won some award and I had no clue why.
McKee says that with rare exceptions, a scene should never be outwardly and entirely about what it seems to be about. Dialogue should imply, not explain, its subtext. An ever-present subtext is the guiding principle of realism.
Nonrealism, on the other hand, employs on-the-nose dialogue in all its genres and subgenres: myth and fairytale, science fiction and time travel, animation, the musical, the supernatural, Theatre of the Absurd, action/adventure, farce, horror, allegory, magical realism, postmodernism, dieselpunk retrofuturism, and the like. It''s a bit unclear how, if at all, anyone writing in any of these "nonreal" genres should take his dialogue advice. It seems to me that even sci fi scenes need some good dialogue with subtext to be engaging.
With McKee, all the accolades go to what is implied and unsaid over what is said. I agree that subtext matters, but for me, he''s out of proportion with how much it matters to most people and how hard audiences are willing to work to discover the intended subtext. Also, memorable spoken character lines can elevate movie themes and characterization like nothing else.
In the end, I think this book is geared more toward writers who want other advanced writers as their audience rather than the average reader or movie watcher. And McKee admits it is definitely not geared toward sci fi, fairytales/myths, action/adventure, horror or allegory. It''s almost as if he''s saying those genres can''t have excellent dialogue. I disagree.
But it was still a helpful book to read, and one I will be thinking about and trying to more fully understand for a long time. McKee understands how character''s subconscious drives can deepen what they say or avoid saying, and how dialogue interacts with many other aspects of a story to make it all work together.