In discussing films, there might be spoilers. Sorry!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Talking With People Who Like Talking to People Who Like to Talk by Guest blogger H.E. Curtis

One of the classic complaints I hear about movies based upon books is the movie doesn’t follow the book, and dialog is no exception. Thinking of one of my favorite books and movies, The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade in the book is a far cry from Mr. Bogart although both are delightful to listen to even though the visual picture of one is much different from the other though essentially they say the same lines, at least the ones which matter. Dialog is perhaps one of the hardest tasks an author has to develop, because he/she has to provide the visual and auditory both whereas film can fudge a bit. This has advantages for the author because imagination can at times be more forgiving with the written word than in film. If a nuance of dialog is missed in a book, the reader may be more easily held accountable as opposed to dialog in film placed upon the actor or director, where the mistake is heard and seen by all.

However, written dialog has drawbacks as well. The character Joel Cairo in the book is harder to identify as effeminate, or as “The Fairy” which Sam Spade calls him. In fact we are told in the book Mr. Cairo is indeed gay, whereas in the film the verbal dialog accompanied by visual cues tells us right away. The enjoyment in the book though comes in the reader making this discovery themselves, listening to the dialog and then matching the behaviors with conversations and descriptions which produce their own humor and tragic effects. But then there is the unique character of Mr. Gutman whose conversation pretty well matches the conversation and style both in the book and in the film, although the visual picture in the book is not the same one I see on the film, but that is not because of dialog but rather the book adds more detail that give nuances and history to the conversations and character himself.

Creating dialog is not as easy as it may seem, for in doing so the author has to know their character inside and out. Each character has a culture to them, and just like real life, dialog reflects culture and often times gives us unconscious clues about the person we are listening to, or in this case whose conversation we are reading. The written dialog must sharpen the instincts of the reader, something which film (because of its visual nature) tends to be more lazy about because it visually shows. A side note for a moment. When we watch movies or Television, we engage a different part of our brain then we would if listening to radio or reading a book. The first is more akin to an inactive state of our brain, while books and radio actually activate more of our brain. In creating dialog, the culture of our characters shines through, and if we wish it to or not doesn’t really matter for it will happen anyway. So in essence, our job as an Author is to make the dialog give life to our character. Unlike film, our characters can not get by on their good looks or their celebrity status to compensate for a lousy film. A lousy dialog will starve an author no matter how good the character is.

So remember Mr. Gutman’s words of wisdom. “Talking’s something you can’t do judiciously unless you keep in practice, and I’ll tell you right out that I’m a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk.”


H.E. Curtis resides in the Sierra Nevada Foothills where he spends most of his time barefoot among the wildflowers, oaks and pines. He dreams of returning to Scotland and Ireland with his manacle-wielding wife, three invisible children (Not me, I don't Know and Nobody), three visual children and a twisted sense of humor and imagination.

He writes mostly Fantasy, Poetry and dabbles in Science Fiction, but will attempt almost anything once, twice if it isn't illegal. He has been published in Non-Fiction, Poetry, and Romantic Fantasy. Tribunal of the Rose is his latest release.


1 comment:

  1. Excellent piece, Mr. Curtis. I couldn't have said it better myself!! Because hearing the characters voices ... then getting them onto the page ... or harder yet, getting an actor to capture that voice ... you said it!! Not easy!!