Writing for Humans – An Epiphany

getting into the dialog

by Hank Isaac

My daughter just had me listen to a portion of Oryx and Crake by Margaret Attwood on audio books.  While I liked the part she wanted me to hear, I suddenly realized why I can’t listen to webinars, why I always had problems in school lectures, and why audio books are hard for me to listen to.

When the reader (Campbell Scott) read dialogue, everything was cool.  But when he read descriptions, exposition, and thoughts, everything ground to a halt with me.

Why?

The reading of dialogue generally takes place more or less in real time.  But everything else – by necessity – takes far longer.  If something we’re supposed to see is described, the description of it takes far longer than it would actually take for us to see it.

So I tune out.

It’s probably why I fall asleep during action scenes in films or TV series – I’ve seen cars flying through the air, people leaping, guns blazing…, etc.  I get it.  Right away.  Very few surprises.  Yawn!  Wake me when there’s something at stake.

Why am I posting this here?  Because in writing a screenplay or teleplay, I suspect we should keep all this in mind.  Think about how a reader will get to see or understand the image or action a line or paragraph of description is trying to create in his mind.

Then ask:  Have I forced the reader into repetitive wait states because he needs to experience the world or moment faster than I’m actually delivering it to him?

And then, to make your writing the best it can be, think, really bear down, about the answer.