main
side
curve
  1. Welcome to the new boards! Details here!

SW Dialogue: To maintain the traditional stilted hackneyism, or to impose an organic revision?

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Mr_Black, Jun 6, 2004.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Mr_Black

    Mr_Black Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    May 31, 2004
    If you're ever looking for a good laugh, you could do worse than write out Star Wars lines. "wretched hive of scum and villainy" is a classic, along with the more recent "perhaps if by merely your presence, the mystery surrounding this threat will be revealed...now if you will excuse me, I will retire."

    SW dialogue is an anomaly in that, it sounds as naturally conversational as a technical manual, but then it is in keeping with the tone of the old "swashbuckling adventures" (--Mr. Samuel L. Jackson), which Lucas has always intended to emulate and pay homage to.

    In the films, there's more room for forgiveness as you don't have the offending statement staring you in the face, but all that we have as fanfic writers are words. Words are obviously our lifeblood, and we are wholly dependent on them. Frankly, the ludicrousness of Star Wars dialogue really takes away from a story. It shouldn't, I guess, because the writer is retaining an essential component of the source material...but it does.

    Maybe I'm on my own with this, but nothing ruins a potentially good story for me quicker than bad dialogue, and SW is rife with it. This raises the question; should the atrocious dialogue remain--because it's a SW tradition--or should writers put a more natural, believable flair to their conversations in order to make them seem credible, and not subtract from the flow of the piece?

    I'm all for revisions to phrasing, pace, and diction, to a reasonable extent of course. I'm not going to Tarantinoize the SW universe. I'd be very interested in seeing the community weigh in on this, so feel free to come out swinging.

    -Mr Black


    Please refrain from using swear words that have been specifically forbidden on the boards. Please see the [link=http://boards.theforce.net/tos.asp]TOS[/link] and the Fanfic FAQ. Thank you.
     
  2. spiritgurl

    spiritgurl Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2003
    While I certainly see your point, that writing-wise, it might not always be the best way to go. I think that if you want your canon characters to sound like canon characters, then a certain amount of sticking to the way the dialogue is in the films is necessary.

    sg
     
  3. JadeSolo

    JadeSolo Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 20, 2002
    I just love what the actors think of GL's dialogue: "George, you can write this ****, but we can't say it." To me, that just sums up SW dialogue. [face_laugh]

    EDIT: I think the dialogue in the OT works much better than what's in the PT. Ben speaks the way he does because he's from a different, more cultured background. Luke sounds like a farmboy, Leia sounds like a tough princess, and Han sounds like a sarcastic, cynical smuggler. And Chewie sounds like, well, a Wookiee. :p In the OT, I thought the dialogue was much more natural, much better suited to characters interacting with each other.

    In the PT, it's as though the language sometimes goes overboard. Yes, the Jedi are highly educated individuals, but I find it hard to believe that Anakin, after spending the first 10 years of his life on Tatooine and the next 10 getting into a lot of trouble in Coruscant's underworld, would say something like, "You are in my very soul, tormenting me." It's beautiful dialogue when placed in another context. It just doesn't work for Anakin or for SW.

    If you want to stay absolutely right on the mark of canon, then whatever you write will mostly sound like what's in the movies. But I think to give it more depth, the story should have dialogue that's not so stilted. We know Qui-Gon speaks a certain way, but we also know from certain scenes that he has a sense of humor and is a bit of a rogue - why shouldn't his dialogue in a story reflect that?
     
  4. Reihla

    Reihla Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    May 17, 2002
    I'm not sure I understand the point of your question. I guess I'm trying to figure out if you're approaching this problem as a reader, a writer, a beta or just a fanfic critic.

    Without insight into the mind of a particular writer, how does one tell which ones intentionally use stilted dialogue and the ones who just don't know any better? I guess the best thing would be to ask the author (tactfully) what they intend, but probably only if they've requested your input to make their stories better.

    When I write I want to create the best possible story, and thus make an enjoyable experience for those who choose to read. I think the majority of writers here have that goal.

    Personally, my intent is never to emulate the films in form or content. I just write stories and try to keep the characters as consistent with canon as possible. I can't imagine a writer setting out to create stilted dialogue, but I suppose there might be some who would. As long as it makes their readers happy, more power to 'em.




     
  5. DCWiz00

    DCWiz00 Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    Mar 29, 2004
    I mainly write Beyond the Saga stories so my dialogue tends to go more with the books then the movies. However, I think it has more to do with the characters themselves than a type of language used. If a character is known for using cryptic dialogue that would not normally be spoken in casual conversation, then that character should speak that way. (cheesy as it may be) I tend to use real life examples, or characters from other movies, books, etc. to help round out the way I feel a person in the story will relate verbally to other people. As lone as it stays within the character outlined by Lucas and the authors I'm happy with it, and hopefully my readers are too. I will occasionally throw in a cheesy comment that would have been in a Lucas script just for fun, or as a joke.
     
  6. RogueSticks

    RogueSticks Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    Feb 15, 2003
    The dialogue of Star Wars is stilted and un-natural, which is part of the appeal of it. It's intended to be a wince-inducing assault on all those who've bothered with anything beyond high school english.

    But there's a big difference between the film medium which has audio and the written medium which relies primarily on the imagination of the reader to conjure up voices and whatnot.

    If you go back and read the Star Wars novelizations (the originals as I've only read the prequel novelizations once and pawned the copies immediately after), you'll find that a lot of the dialogue HAS been altered slightly. It's never quite verbatim. There is enough retention of the original dialogue for it to maintain that feeling of a galaxy far, far away but it still has been altered to make it possible to get through the book without wanting to go bitter english teacher crazy on the page with a red marker.

    That's all I have on this for now. It's an interesting topic and one that I had to sit down and think about before I had made up my mind.


    [hl=black]RogueTerrorist **||** Protecting H/L from fanfic authors everywhere[/hl]
     
  7. Mr_Black

    Mr_Black Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    May 31, 2004
    [blockquote] I'm not sure I understand the point of your question. I guess I'm trying to figure out if you're approaching this problem as a reader, a writer, a beta or just a fanfic critic. [/blockquote]

    Primarily the first two. As both a reader and a writer, those are the realms where this question is most engaging and poignant. As an audience member to a story, do I really want to agonize my way through antiquated soliloquies, sanctimonious proverbs, and aggressive misappropriations of vocabulary? Both the long and the short answers to that are: no. Neither do I want to annoy my readers by trying to maintain a loyalty to the conventions of the original creator. My opinion is that SW dialogue, in its undiluted, laughable form, doesn't belong outside of the movie theater.

    To those authors out there that intentionally write horrible dialogue out of a slightly unhealthy/maniacal loyalty to the original creative parameters set for a galaxy far, far away...I offer you a mildly piteous tribute: To those who are about to molest our ears and assault our conversational sensibilities, I salute you (but I won't be reading your stories anytime soon :p). Rock on.

    -Mr Black

    PS: Reihla; I think you are amazing storyteller, and a shrewd, stern writer. You can sense while reading your work that an immense amount of thought went into each character & plot decision. I appreciate an artist who is serious about her craft. And frankly, I'm quite bummed that you either missed or ignored my Beta thread :(. Never fear, I'll recover ;). I'll make a deal with you; you keep on being a fantastic writer, and I'll see what I can do about mustering up a tickertake parade in your honor (or keep reading your stories, whichever you prefer) :D.
     
  8. poor yorick

    poor yorick Ex-Mod star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Jun 25, 2002
    There's actually a continuum of quality in SW dialogue, from the unimaginably awful to the pretty darn snappy. Individuals' mileage will vary, but my personal low and high marks are:

    "I am a Jedi, like my father before me." (Not a very good line, and warped beyond the pain threshhold by Mark Hamill's really strange delivery.)

    and:

    "Would it help if I got out and pushed?"

    "It might!" (This is hilarious even without Harrison Ford's really *good* delivery.)

    As a fanfic author, I try to keep my dialogue skewed toward the good end of the SW continuum. If I need to write dialogue for characters who never seem to get *any* good lines, I try to ground the characterization in canon by cribbing the actors' mannerisms. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of one decent line Anakin Skywalker has ever had, but Hayden Christensen gives the character a kind of dark, restless energy interspersed with moments of sweetness, and I try to focus on that. Signature taglines can help too, if you use them sparingly. One guess as to who says the following words and phrases: ;)

    "my young Padawan"

    "goldenrod"

    "It just isn't fair!"

    Finally, I tend to keep my characters' lines short. Half of what is wrong with the prequel dialogue (IMO) is that people make these unnaturally long, ponderous speeches. With Anakin and Padmé, we get that very strange fireplace exchange in which Anakin says, "The closer I get to you, the worse it gets" (how romantic). With Han and Leia, we get: "I love you." "I know."

    I'm not quite sure when "faster and more intense" became "slower and as flat as possible," but never mind. Star Wars characters are generally people of action rather than words, and keeping their dialogue short seems to work for them. It can also help conceal the fact that you've wandered a bit far from Uncle George's script. ;)
     
  9. spiritgurl

    spiritgurl Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2003
    To those authors out there that intentionally write horrible dialogue out of a slightly unhealthy/maniacal loyalty to the original creative parameters set for a galaxy far, far away...I offer you a mildly piteous tribute: To those who are about to molest our ears and assault our conversational sensibilities, I salute you (but I won't be reading your stories anytime soon ). Rock on.

    Hm... first off, I never thought that all of the dialogue was "horrible". It's the whole Star Wars style that makes it so different, and dare I say special :p , compared to other movies that have been produced. And honestly, I like some of the dialogue, bad or not, so do others. Secondly, I see nothing "unhealthy" or "maniacal" about wanting to write a Star Wars fan fic that keeps the feel of the movies, both with the characters and the dialogue. Can it be overdone? Sure. But it can also be a lot of fun both for the reader and writer who appreciate Star Wars for being Star Wars and don't necessarily want to change anything about it. Isn't that why we write fan fic? To have fun? I do.

    And honestly, I'm just a bit offended by your statement which seems to indicate that you think anyone trying to write a Star Warsesque Star Wars fan fic by keeping in tune with all of the elements, including the dialogue style, is slightly unhealthy/maniacal. :mad: Probably because I have tried to do just that with my fic and I've had some nice responses from fellow Star Wars fans as a result. No one's complained anyway, and most if not all seem to enjoy the dialogue so far. As for you reading my fic... oh, well... *shrugs* I didn't ask you to.

    sg
     
  10. Dantana Skywalker

    Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Apr 7, 2002
    Okay, guys, cool it. let's not let this get ugly.

    Mr_Black, please refrain from calling anyone "maniacal". Also, please note that bringing up a debate about a writing style and then insulting said writing style after people respond in support of it can be construed as baiting. Please keep to the subject of the thread.


    Dana
     
  11. spiritgurl

    spiritgurl Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2003
    Sorry Dantana. :( I'll behave.

    sg
     
  12. kayladie97

    kayladie97 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 6, 2003
    I've never had a problem with any of the dialogue in SW movies, either. I sometimes wonder if some of these critics are just jumping on the bandwagon to find something critical to say about GL's work, because as we all know, critics can't stand to see someone become too successful.

    And I just have to disagree with you, Ophelia about the "I am a Jedi, like my father before me" line. To me, that is one of the most powerful moments of the entire trilogy. I thought Mark's performance in that sequence was superb, although he had just been 'fighting' a very intense duel, so maybe that accounts for the delivery of the line.

    That's the moment that Luke truly becomes a Jedi, in my mind. He is rejecting what Palpatine is offering and at the same time, honoring what his father was and what Luke hopes that he can be again.

    Course, I am a Luke-fanatic, so I may be a bit biased. :p
     
  13. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 31, 1999
    I've never had a problem with any of the dialogue in SW movies, either. I sometimes wonder if some of these critics are just jumping on the bandwagon


    I definitely think it's a case of bandwagon jumping, at least as far as the OT goes. It seems that the claims about atrocious dialogue have just become accepted as fact.


    Is this sci-fi or Shakespeare?
     
  14. Reihla

    Reihla Jedi Master star 3

    Registered:
    May 17, 2002
    > Is this sci-fi or Shakespeare?

    Uh....sci-fi? :D Did I get it? :D

    I studied Shakespeare once. Lucas didn't corner the market on the occasional flat line. It helps that Shakespeare intersperses the slower dialogue in his plays with flashes of brilliance (just my opinion, not to start a debate).

    Primarily the first two. As both a reader and a writer, those are the realms where this question is most engaging and poignant.

    I agree, but the only realm we can really control is the latter, yes? As you said, all we can do if a writer?s style drives us insane is choose not to read.

    My problem is that I like to read. I often find myself clicking on stories by newer authors. It isn't always a painless experience, but I find lots of real gems too and end up sticking around for the rest of the story. I enjoy encouraging the newer authors because it can be fun to watch them grow as writers. I think learning and improving is why most of us are here.

    I'm quite bummed that you either missed or ignored my Beta thread

    I didn?t ignore it, but I already have several wonderful betas so I didn?t need to enlist your services. I didn?t think you?d lack for reading material though. People post beta requests all the time and you seem extremely well spoken (uh, written). I expected you?d be snapped up in no time - and right I was, too.

    Please, no parades. I?m really very shy despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. ;) I?m happy to have you as a reader, though, if you find you enjoy my stories. I look forward to checking out yours as well. :D
     
  15. Mr_Black

    Mr_Black Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    May 31, 2004
    *Heads back in, fresh from his first trip down to the BBS equivalent of the principal's office.*

    Wow! I didn't expect such a quick festival of responses (let alone for them to be so insightful). This is awesome.

    First off, I owe an apology to spiritgurl. That whole business about unhealthy mania was meant to be taken in jest. Of course, that's difficult to convey with a keyboard, so I can see why you'd get all :mad:. I in no way intended to attack anyone, certainly not the first to encourage my topic, and I'm sorry if that's what it seemed like I was doing, or if I upset you.

    With that unpleasantness behind us forever, I have a few comments for Herman. This may just be a matter of personal perspective, but I view the tone of SW dialogue (chiefly of the prequel era, but the classics don't escape unscathed) as being too Shakespearean and not sci-fi enough. Good dialogue sounds and feels like two characters having a conversation. In contrast--at least, from a certain point of view ;)--the characters in SW sound like their reciting lines from cue cards, or reading them off the forehead of the character they're speaking to when the camera is doing one of those Over the Shoulder POV's. You may disagree, and I'd absolutely be willing to discuss this with you (along with anyone else who may disagree with me).

    *braces for impact...or, if his bad luck streak continues unabated, another Mod edit*
     
  16. solojones

    solojones Winner, JCC Two Truths & A Lie star 10 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Sep 27, 2000
    Is this sci-fi or Shakespeare?

    Neither, it's Space Opera.

    I win! ;)

    Personally, when I write dialogue I try my best to keep the spirit of what the character sounds like (Obi-Wan's diction is much different than Han's) while trying to make it believable as well. I don't have a big problem with the film dialogue because I understand what Lucas was going for. I admit to thinking some characters' dialogue seems more natural, especially Han's because he doesn't come from a stiff-collared background. This isn't to say, however, that the unnaturallness of some dialgoue is out of place. I don't think a kid who's been raised a Jedi for 10 years and been obsessed with this woman is going to be too smooth at hitting on her.

    Of course, some of this is simply due to the 40s romanticism of the piece. I like to equate the Anakin/Padmé love story to that of Rick and Ilsa in Cassablanca- occuring under the pressures of war, people who have been separated a long time, destined to be but doomed to fail. The dialogue in both isn't something that normal people are likely to utter to a loved one. Examples:

    Rick: We'll always have Paris. We didn't have, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.
    Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.
    Rick: And you never will. But I've got a job to do, too. Where I'm going, you can't follow. What I've got to do, you can't be any part of. Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Now, now... Here's looking at you kid.


    AND

    Padmé: I'm not afraid to die. I've been dying a little bit each day since you came back into my life.
    Anakin: What are you talking about?
    Padmé: I love you.
    Anakin: You love me? I thought we had decided not to fall in love, that we'd be forced to live a lie and that it would destroy our lives.
    Padmé: I think our lives are about to be destroyed anyway. I truly... deeply... love you and before we die I want you to know.



    So which is 'worse'? I say, neither. Both stay true to the characters and style they have established. In writing fanfic, it is important to stay true to character, but not to style, because every author has a different style. Anakin should still sound like a young, rebellious Jedi, not like an American teenager or a middle-aged man. Your interpretation of how 'real' that dialogue should be is up to you, but the most important thing is to be consistent with it. Personally, I have a tendancy to write more 'natural' dialogue than the SW films, but I try to make the characters still sound like the same people they are in the films, if that makes sense.

    [hl=darkgreen]-sj loves kevin spacey[/hl]




     
  17. spiritgurl

    spiritgurl Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2003
    Apology accepted Mr. Black

    and per her usual, solojones has hit the nail on the head. ;) It is a "Space Opera" and therefore sounds like one for the most part. Some writers may pull it off or just enjoy writing in that style better than others. Some may simply choose to go another way. That is their prerogative. *cue Bobby Brown music :p * I may prefer to write and read canon characters who sound like canon characters but I've enjoyed fics where they have not as well.

    sg
     
  18. Mr_Black

    Mr_Black Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    May 31, 2004
    That's really the whole point of my thread SJ. Whether to keep the traditional fluency of the filmic SW dialogue, or to revise it for fanfic. in order to make it read better.

    Especially since the characters already have a persona already hammered out for them, it's important to stay true to that (unless you're doing an AU story; then I would argue that it's important to act contrary to that. Why do an Alternate Universe if it's just going to end up being the same old far away Galaxy?)

    I say that the characterizations can be retained if they no longer sound like they're talking in a romanticized heroic war fable of yesteryear. Personality is personality, after all. You seem to be taking the same road with regards to dialogue, and that's a plus considering that we're working together ;).

    Some authors disagree, which is great. If everyone agreed with me, I'd go nuts 8-} =P~.
     
  19. solojones

    solojones Winner, JCC Two Truths & A Lie star 10 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Sep 27, 2000
    Well, personally I try to write my characters as close to what I get from them in the films as possible unless it's humour or AU, however I wouldn't know how to judge if my own dialogue style is that of romanticism or realism, to be honest.

    [hl=darkgreen]-sj loves kevin spacey[/hl]

     
  20. Happy_Hobbit_Padawan

    Happy_Hobbit_Padawan Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 3, 2003
    What does "Space Opera" mean? I hear that a lot in reference to Star Wars but I don't understand it.
     
  21. spiritgurl

    spiritgurl Jedi Padawan star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 6, 2003
    I think of it as a sort of soap opera in space. Which it is, I mean, think about it... The hero's father, long thought dead, winds up being the villian. The girl he likes winds up being the twin sister he never knew about. *cue Days of our Lives music* :p

    Do I love it anyway? Sure I do. :)

    sg
     
  22. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 31, 1999
    This may just be a matter of personal perspective, but I view the tone of SW dialogue (chiefly of the prequel era, but the classics don't escape unscathed) as being too Shakespearean and not sci-fi enough.


    Well I'm far from an expert on Shakespeare, having read nothing more than what was required to get me through high school. [face_mischief]


    Over the years I've heard a lot of complaints about Queen Amidala's flat, emotionless tone, yet it seems like some don't consider that it is intentional. It's been a while since I've watched the TPM dvd, but I found there to be a considerable difference between Queen Amidala and Handmaiden Padme, though in fact they're the same person.


    Also, it seems that in TPM, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon almost speak in a form of shorthand, which makes sense considering how long they've been together. It stands to reason that when two people have been together every day for years and years, they think enough alike that they no longer need say everything to be understood. AOTC shows a very similar interaction between Obi-Wan and Anakin, though not quite as deeply developed.
     
  23. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Jedi Grand Master star 9

    Registered:
    Mar 26, 2001
    I think there's too much of a rap against the PT dialogue. It's true that some lines are archaic, others painfully bad, and others entirely effected ("YOu are in my very soul, tormenting me," thank you, days of our lives), but my main beef is this:

    Leia and Padme's arcane language--formality of politicians. Any inconsistencies are in terms of their situation (would you talk the same to the Emperor as you would to Han Solo?) or character.

    Han's gruff language--too busy flying up a Star Destroyer's tale to notice grammar. 'Nuff said.

    Luke--he's not as dumb as he looks, despite being a hick.

    These are the guidelines I try to use for my dialogue and understanding the movies' dialogue. A lot of it is based on Isaac Asimov's "On Dialogue." He's the one who said you wouldn't find a four-year-old saying "Refute these calumnies" or a Victorian character saying "Say it ain't so, nick!"
     
  24. Mjsullivan

    Mjsullivan Jedi Youngling star 3

    Registered:
    Dec 8, 2003
    Mr Black
    I say that the characterizations can be retained if they no longer sound like they're talking in a romanticized heroic war fable of yesteryear. Personality is personality, after all.

    I think this a good and important point. Dialogue doesnt make the character - the character makes the dialogue. If an author chooses to make that dialogue more fluent and natural than the films (which really isn't that hard - it's actually very difficult to top "you are in my very soul, tormenting me" for corniness), then it shouldn't pose a problem as long as the dialogue is in-character.

    I think it's important to understand that "Dialogue" does not simply mean "Words". It's an umbrella term to describe the relationship between emotion and words. For dialogue to be believable, that realationship needs to be kept intact. The delivery of dialogue is quite important. For example, when Darth Vader gets cranky, his voice often becomes more threatening without rising in volume (think "That name no longer has any meaning for me", or "You have failed me for the last time, Admiral"). If in a fic Vader is mildly angry and begins shouting at people, no matter how accurate the dialogue may be, it is still out of character.

    And not to forget, dialogue is only one part of characterisation. Action, Reaction and Emotional Process are all equally important in establishing and working with a character. There has to be a harmonious balance between all the elements. If somebody's version of Anakin thinks, acts and reacts as the canon Anakin does, then as long as the dialogue isn't completely unbelievable, surely the character retains it's integrity.

    And so when all is said and done, the actual words dont mean much. Yes, the words need to be believable (I'm not suggesting that people change anakin's "in my very soul" line to "Hey baby, lets get it oonnnn"). There has to be some semblance of credibility to the lines. But all in all, words play a small part.
     
  25. solojones

    solojones Winner, JCC Two Truths & A Lie star 10 VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Sep 27, 2000
    Yes, dialogue is much more than just words and I like that you point that out. However, I wanted to ask you about the 'Vader doesn't yell' thing... what about "Bring me the passengers, I want them ALIVE!" He doesn't yell often, but he defnitely does there ;)


    [hl=darkgreen]-sj loves kevin spacey[/hl]
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.