Game of Thrones’ Endgame

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Watching Avengers: Endgame, I noticed the movie spent the first hour showing the characters reacting/processing what had happened in Infinity War. This makes sense. They just lost their biggest battle against their biggest foe and saw the biggest genocide take place in the universe.

Spoilers!

Compare this to Game of Thrones season 8 episode 4. In episode 3, the North were facing the biggest, baddest army of the dead. Every character lamented their looming deaths. Then the long night came. And went with the North victorious. Yay! Episode 4 begins and they spend the first five minutes burning their fallen heroes in massive funeral pyres. Great. Now let’s party it up and drink like it’s 1999. That’s actually what happened. They drank and drank, people fornicated, and a big blonde woman lost her virginity. Uh...

In storytelling, scenes should have consequences, good or bad. Otherwise, why show them? Then there needs to be an equal reaction to the weight of that scene. For example, if a guy get’s the date with the girl of his dreams, that’s great. However, the fact that he’s taking the girl of his dreams out on a date begins to weigh down on him. He might stress over how to dress, feel incompetent, or wonder if he can keep the conversation going. Worst yet, does he go for the kiss? If he doesn’t, he might look like a wimp. If he does, then he might be moving too fast.

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GoT episode 4 spends almost no time processing that win. No one talks about the health of their armed forces, takes account of their resources, or wonders if they are capable of beating their next foe. Taking the time to surmise the state of things can up the tension for the viewers and present problems that the characters have to tackle. They can still party and have sex, but save it for later though. Much later. At least let the smoke from the funeral pyres clear.

I was listening to a podcast about GoT’s recent episodes and how they sucked. Most of what they said could be argued either way. But a commenter made an important point: Good stories show “this happened because that happened”. Instead, the recent episodes showed that this happened, then this happened, then this happened, etc. In writing, there’s a structure in storytelling called MRU’s, motivation reaction units. The motivation can be summed up as a goal. Whether that goal is reached or not will result in how the character will react. Here the character spends time thinking about what happened and discovers the next goal, which leads to further action until that new goal is either met or not met. Another reaction ensues. And on and on. Using MRUs makes it easy to structure your scenes and helps the viewer and reader understand what’s going on. Because this is how we live life. We all have goals. We all celebrate our wins or lick our wounds. And then we move on. Hopefully.

Listen to Me!

A pet peeve of mine is people not listening to each other when they talk.  It's one thing if passersby just greet each other.  But it's another thing when I talk to a friend, and the next time I talk to them I have to repeat what I told them last time.  Weren't you listening to me?  And if you weren't interested, then why do you ask what I've been up to.  In listening to other people, I can tell who's listening and who is only hearing. Want to be more charismatic with people?  Listen.  It's one of the biggest complaints women have of men.  But when I talk to women, a lot of them don't listen.  And they wonder why guys don't listen to them.

A couple of days ago I was in the lunch room.  Three ladies were sitting at a table.  A feast spread in front.  I was listening to them talk.  I do this a lot.  As a former student of acting, and now an author, I listen to people speak, toreadthem.  It's a great way to learn what natural dialogue sounds like.  I've heard industry professionals theorize endlessly about natural dialogue, but just listening to others is the best way.  The best way to learn a new language is to submerge yourself in it.

But here's another pet peeve of mine:

Lady #1:  Your son. He worked on Sunday?

Lady #2:  Well, you know, he, uh, you know, like, he works on Sundays, you know.

Lady #1:  Why?

Lady #2:  You know, he, you know, like, gets paid more, you know, um, Sundays. He even like, uh, worked on Mother's day. You know? (laughs)

I can't stand filler words.  I use them.  But not like that.  It was like watching the adult channel through all the fuzz because I wasn't subscribed to it.  And this lady was in her fifties.  The above is exactly how she spoke.

One thing that authors have to keep in mind as we write dialogue is where the person comes from.  When researching for a character, there are several things that will affect their speech:  occupation, gender, age, culture, education, quirks, passions.  The list could go on and on, which can make writers go crazy trying to figure out speech patterns.  Lucky for us that 90% or more of speech is the same for everyone.

Dude #1:  Hey, wassup?  What you been up to?

Dude #2:  Man! Long time. Uh, not much. Just pluggin' away, hangin' out, terrorizing chics.

Dude #1:  Aw dude. I got this one chic...

The dialogue is fairly normal until the dudes rudely call women chics (wink), but a lot of guys do that.  But scenes aren't made up of these normal everyday things.  Scenes usually get heated with conflict, tension, suspension.  So if we look at two guys who're betting against each other, ten thousand dollars on the line on a basketball game, they'll not only use lingo that pertains to basketball.  Their speech will get excited as the teams battle back and forth.

Heed the endless babbling of industry professionals as they theorize about dialogue.  But it's way better and much more fun listening to others.  Read them.  Create mini stories as you listen.  I do this every day.

If you want to learn specific techniques about dialogue, check outBeyond Structure.