CS Pacat on how to rock the Aaron Sorkin approach to dialogue

I was going to show up here and write a long post about dialogue this evening, given that I’m rewriting a story where I’m trying to do things I don’t ordinarily do with dialogue, and that’s seeping into the new story I’m trying to draft.

Then I remembered that CS Pacat already has one of the most kick-ass posts about dialogue structures that I’ve seen on the web, so I’m just going to link to her post about manipulating topic patterns instead. Or, as it should be titled, a quick primer on how Aaron Sorkin does all those Aaron Sorkin things in dialogue.

Go forth and read, peeps. I’m going back to my story.

  2 comments for “CS Pacat on how to rock the Aaron Sorkin approach to dialogue

  1. 28/02/2017 at 8:31 PM

    That’s very interesting. Thanks for posting it. The examples work really well for Sorkin, but I do wonder if the screenplay is a slightly different beast. I followed the West Wing examples (I think) because the dialogue lines are short and of course I’ve seen all those scenes before. I had to read the novel excerpt three times to begin to follow the information past the first two lines of the conversation. There must be a real balance in using this topic shifting without making the covered information confusing as fuck. This is just a theory (very rudimentary) but in tv/film the visual cues of actor body language probably helps cue when someone is being ignored (such as in the Donna saying it’s five to seven example), so the mucking with the usual cause/effect of dialogue is contextualised. I’m not sure that the same topic shifting always works in novel dialogue without that context (which I guess could be provided by beats) especially when the lines are longer (and perhaps there’s fantasy names that I can’t pronounce in my head …). Even Sorkin often cues the watcher that someone who’s off topic is doing it intentionally (usually by the frustrated character repeatedly saying the off-topic character’s name – I can think of him doing that many times). Anyway. To be sure I’m going to be thinking about this a lot. Thanks again.

    • 28/02/2017 at 8:59 PM

      I’ve been re-reading Hemingway’s short fiction, which is why I started thinking about the approach. Hills Like White Elephants is full of these kinds of conversation, albeit in a really tight frame.

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