Getting characters to sound like real people…

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So much of learning writing dialogue, even between just two characters in plays, is really looking intrinsically, at least for me into who your character really is without
assumption–meaning, for me, it’s studying different types of dialogue as diverse yet familiar to help shape the rhythm of the language I want working in my plays. By intrinsic, I mean what sounds internally close to the nature of the real thing, something obviously inherent; and as always learning and studying from some of the great writers–some of which I’ve read and I’m currently reading Donald Margulies’s Dinner with Friends, Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite, Sam Shepard’s Seven Plays inclusive “Buried Child,” that I saw this month at the local theater. It was a very good production–and timeless, which I think is so important with writing in that a story whether, play or novel, can stand up to its time and even 30+ years later.

August Wilson’s King Hedley II is a really good play for vernacular, location, and time; and William Inge’s Picnic and forthcoming Bus Stop for my playwriting class lets me look at timelessness and how good his approach to comedy is. In reading Inge’s work, one can see the balance of serious issues with characters obviously flawed and what the central issue is within the play to also see characters not so flawed; and again, picking up a play and reading it for the first time, cold turkey, and the effect of balance and character dimension shows work as timelessness retrospective of the 1950s…a time before my time. And, as always, reading Tennessee Williams’s work and “The Glass Menagerie” for the first time, or forty-first time, is timelessness in craft, universal issues, reality, and great writing. The whole idea for me with dialogue is having the play sound and be as realistic as possible; it takes a skill to avoid stilted language and to foster a connection with an audience/reader, to have dialogue sound authentic and not forced.

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