Tag Archives: flyingstories

Your dialogue is alive!

Scene and dialogue

We have an idea of our characters and set the scene for them; now, they speak and know them through the subtext. Here are some other clues on how to write the dialogue before we go to practice:

  1. Write the scene’s subtext, so the reader understands what the characters are really saying.
  2. Create the proper dialogue for that particular scene (is it staged in a church, a park, or a prison?).
  3. Express your character’s inner thoughts, but don’t overuse this trick. Everything, from how the character speaks to how strong its mimic is, is vital to deliver a message, a subtext.

Well, now let’s take some dialogues from some stories. The first one is an extract from The city, a short story I published some time ago. We are in a newspaper’s office, under the ground and two characters are confronting themselves. On one side is a curious journalist, a woman who wants to uncover the truth behind some mysterious killings. In contrast, on the other side, an old journalist reacts unusually.

She finally arrived in the basement and found Benito seated as always under his large lamp, his dirty hair over his face.

<<Hi, Benito!>>

The former tax attorney raised his eyes, nodded subtly to Anita and returned to his paper, moving his head like a big, old turtle.

Anita cleared her throat to attract attention, at the same time adjusting her jacket. Anita never noticed how cold that basement was.

<< I’m so sorry, Benito, I need only some information. It happened to you to find an ad… how to say it? Peculiar?>>

This time the eyes of the old tax attorney lit up with a strange, unusual light. He answered without raising his face.

<<No, not at all. Nothing strange.>>

He said, pursing the thin wrinkle at the side of his mouth. It was similar to a smile, for whom had a chance to learn how to read his emotions.

<<But…still…all right, don’t worry. I will check tomorrow, have a good night.>>

Murmured Anita, going up the stairs again without receiving any answer. She couldn’t guess how many volumes are written about hate, how many cathedrals build over the repressed resentment.

Dialogue, by Daniele Frau

Benito first is like a silent, harmless old turtle, but the reader can see a change in a couple of lines. When the right chord is played, his expressions change, he produces a sort of smile, a dark wrinkle. Anita is sure about herself, but suddenly she starts doubting her intuitions. We can understand it from how she speaks; her thoughts aren’t straight, and she doesn’t want to say something out loud. She can sense something isn’t right, but she doesn’t have proof. In the last scene, her intuitions will prove correct.

The extract I showed you is from a short story, and it’s crucial here to be precise; we need to be fast, we cannot indulge too much. Think about the scene you’re writing. Keep in mind the settings, the subtext and who your characters are, then give some life to it with mimics, sounds, and colors.






For an actor, the script would be a simple text, simple words on a piece of paper, without reason. Without a cause, a sense to use a specific term instead of another, the actor would lose what is more important to make the difference in his job: the emotions.

Therefore, the actor needs to dig deep into his character’s motivations and what brings character X to say that exact word in that particular scene. In this way, the actor will express his emotions enough, moving the audience as well.

This is even more true when speaking about a writer since we must consider thinking about subtext and context when writing any dialogue. Imagine this scene:

“Luke, do you love me?”

“Yes, I do love you.”

(cinematic kiss)

This is a flat scene, but if the context is appropriate, even a flat scene can be pretty valuable. Imagine if the story is about two young boys living in a country where homosexuality is still considered a crime; forced to get married by their respective families, they finally find a way to reveal that they love each other.

We didn’t know, we just suspected for the whole movie, and now they are telling each other and kissing for the first time. Without subtext (friendship, bad marriages, latent homosexuality) and context (conservative, retrograde country), the scene above will show 0 pathos.

Without nuances, if the characters were just robots declaring their lines mechanically, there would be no dramatic tension. That’s what Brandlyin Collins calls WYSIWYG, or What you see is what you get (the longest acronym ever, I suppose).

A conversation with subtext occurs when a character starts a conversation without revealing the real objectives and it works as follows:

  1. The subtext is natural. We use it in many situations, not just when we’re tense or don’t want to open up to others.
  2. The subtext isn’t something to use with strangers. We also use it every day with friends and family members.
  3. The subtext can sometimes be an entire conversation. Imagine you start speaking about war with a close friend of yours, who’s getting increasingly arrogant daily. Both of you know after a while that you’re talking about war, the conversation is about war. Still, the communication between the two of you, the message, is about something else, more personal.
Subtext of a story, how to create a dialogue.

It’s crucial to balance text and subtext to make a realistic dialogue, creating the proper context to push the reader to read between the lines and understand the subtext. For instance, at the very beginning, when there’s no context to help the reader. Clearly, WYSIWYG can be a good solution in this specific moment of our story when we need to be plain and straightforward.

When you need to use subtext in a conversation, it must be helpful for the sake of your character, so you should ask yourself:

  1. What is the purpose of my character in this conversation?
  2. The first character wanted to say something straightforwardly, but the second used subtext. Why?
  3. Do the characters involved in this conversation know why this subtext is present?
  4. Does this conversation present a conflict, or is it a changing moment?

If the scene is about an ongoing conflict, the best choice is to go for a subtext dialogue. In contrast, if we’re about to reveal a changing moment through our conversation, it’s better to avoid it and go straight to the point.

The subtext is a good choice when the reader knows the conflict well and the dialogue must come from the character’s motivation, not yours as a writer. We often start speaking through one of our characters, which is fine, but we always have to remember that we’re not it; our character is something else

Even if it comes from our fantasy, a character lives a different life inside the pages of a book and we need to take a big breath and let it live and die. If in doubt, go back to read your character description card, remember what is that it needs, remember its voice, and go on with it.

And next, let’s write some dialogues!

D for Devastation

Your character is there, surrounded only by enemies; they’re ready to destroy him physically or metaphorically (sometimes both). Sometimes the hero will survive; some other times, it’s his defeat that makes him great. Think about the end of 300, with the Spartans ready to die for their freedom, 300 against thousands of soldiers.

Their glorious death makes them heroes, as well as Sir William Wallace, in braveheart (if you didn’t watch the movie, please do so). I remember that when I was reading The shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, I was in a sort of panic, thinking about what would happen to the characters.

He mastered character creation so well that you feel what the characters feel and you won’t let anyone leave the scene. I read that book many times, in English, Italian and Spanish, and I thought I was reading it for the first time.

So, this last D is the one that lets you think about the worst. Your character is on one side of the battleground, and the opponent is laughing at him and ready to finish him; there isn’t no chance. A miracle? Maybe, but has to be a believable one.


If an angel comes from the sky and saves him, that’s when you say, “oh, come on, really?”. How comes it was never a single scene with an angel and now this creature arrives just in time? Why it didn’t come before, then? Why waiting the last scene to intervene if it was such a great and powerful creature?

Now, you have the four Ds in your hands, you know how to make the distance between the character and the primary desire, you know how to make it impossible and even beat your character so severely that everyone will think it’s the end (and a bad one).

Not all stories have to conclude with a good ending, so play it well; sometimes, it’s a good ending when your character dies as a real hero; other times, it’s a good ending when he triumphs in the last scene.

Not just that, use the 4 Ds when you’re writing the single scenes. Ask yourself:

  1. What is the objective of the character in this scene, the main desire?
  2. How to make this objective difficult?
  3. How to make this desire impossible?
  4. The desire seems gone, out of reach, but then… is it, really?

Let’s take Forrest Gump. He’s in love with Jenny Curran, from schooldays until the movie’s end. At the end of the film, there’s a perfect example of the 4 Ds; Forrest is rich and bored in his big mansion and hopes of seeing Jenny again. Sometimes he’s sure she’s coming, walking through his garden, but then it’s just an illusion, a ghost, a mirage. One day, he’s gardening when he sees Jenny coming again toward him. He thinks she’s again a ghost, but this time she’s real and she came for him.

  1. He loves Jenny so much that he only wants to see her again.
  2. He is in pain and he starts being delusional.
  3. We see jenny again walking through his garden, but we think it’s just a vision. He’s irremediably crazy.
  4. We were wrong, she’s there, coming back for him, finally reunited with Forrest and he’s finally happy.

All of these actions happened in no more than 2 minutes, but it’s one of the movie’s best scenes because of its pathos.

We finished with the 4 Ds! We’ll focus more on desires and objectives next time. Ready? Keep reading!

D for denial

What is that new D?

We had to deal with two Ds before, one for desire and one for distance. The desire lets us know the character’s wishes and what lies underneath. A desire is something bigger than a simple “oh, I wish to arrive on time.” For instance, the small Neil wants to go to the Moon; he’s always watching that piece of rock fluctuating in the sky and promises himself to do it. He needs to enter a prestigious university to study hard; his wishes are many, but his desire is something else. Ultimately, he will succeed in being Neil Armstrong and having his feet walking on the Moon itself. As we saw, many things happened, but he was driven by a long-shot desire.

Denial, the third D.

Now, the Moon is far, far away from us and it seems impossible to reach, so we don’t only add small steps but some (as my wife would say) pepper to it. Yes, as when you’re cooking, and you decide that following the recipe, your meal would end up bland, so you choose to add some spices. As a good chef, you must understand how to modify the old-fashioned recipes of writing stories to make one unique and immortal for your readers. Neil wants to go to university, but he loses his father the day before. He’s stopped by a dilemma: stay and help mom and the other brothers and sisters, or leave and have a chance to go to the Moon one day? Well, it’s beginning to be an exciting story, right?

Now, welcome to the third D, which stands for denial. We decided that Neil wanted to go to the Moon and we spiced up and planted small traps along his path, so now we need to take another step in this direction. He won’t go to the Moon, or at least that’s what your reader would have to believe and you need to let them. 

I remember the first time I read about the Milgram experiment, which took place in 1960. It’s a famous experiment where ordinary people were paid to inflict pain on others, to the extent that they would kill the unlucky ones. Only a very believable staff would let people think that, at Yale University, people would ever be allowed to inflict pain on other human beings and maybe even kill them for an experiment. But that’s precisely what happened. I mean, not killing people, but cheating them, letting them think that was possible. And that’s precisely what we need to do with our readers. They need to believe that Neil lost his father, so he won’t be an engineer and go to the Moon (come on, really? The Moon?). Later he should have to decide if he has to stay with his young wife, who is pregnant now, or go to explore the universe. The readers have to think he won’t, that Neil is the kind of man who decides to stay with her no matter what, especially at that moment. 

This D is the final decision, the most decisive, where Neil has to prove himself worthy of us reading his 230 pages story. He won’t go to the Moon but wait for a second. He’s already there. I went a moment to the toilet and bam! He’s there, closing his eyes for the countdown! So he did it in the end, that son of a preacher! What happened right there? Something like his wife coming to him, telling him that she will survive alone, but not thinking that she took this life dream from him. Their son needs to have a happy father, while a frustrated man would be worst than a dead one.

This was the third D. Next will come the last one of these beautiful fatty letters, D for Devastation. Keep always reading!

D for Distance

Create a chain of events

First comes the study of your characters. They start existing, walking, speaking, lighting a cigarette, or chewing a pack of gum. You started talking to them and now they answer you back, so you’re ready to write their story. You must have a plot already in your head, but without a good study of your character, your story will result in something flat.

So now you need to adjust the idea you have with the characters you created. Let’s imagine you wrote a book about Alan, a drug addict that wants his family back but doesn’t want to stop using drugs. He must have a mum, dad, brothers, or sisters, right? His family, what they look like, what they want from him? Why he’s so obsessed with their love and cannot leave them behind? Maybe he’s using drugs because of them, because of something that happened?

Create a chain of events.

Many questions can come when you think about your characters’ purposes and desires. However, if it was a simple desire- response, we would probably be speaking about Pavlov and his experiments with poor dogs. In a story, we’re talking about a chain; the longer this chain is between the characters and their desire- objective, the better for the reader.

Let’s take Mr. Bean as an example. The scene starts and we know he needs to accomplish an effortless task: buying a pair of shoes or washing his hands, it doesn’t matter. We start exclaiming something like “oh, come on, don’t do that” or “watch out”, but deep inside, we want him to fail. Not at the end, no. We want him to buy is pair of shoes or wash his hands. We’re not cruel. But we really want to be entertained, and without him passing through every ring of the chain of events before reaching his final goal, we won’t. As simple as that.

So, that’s Distance. Create a character obsessed with reaching a lake, put him in between a mountain with a bear hunting him, and make him allergic to bees. The Desire will push over his limits; his background will make the reader glued to the book, avid to read more of the adventures. The distance will ultimately make the story what it is: a long chain of events.

And soon, the third D, Denial.

D as in Desire

What is desire and why is it so important?

You probably listened to a song called Freed from desire. The idea is obviously not that new, as desire seems to enslave us. We need to know how to control that desire and, as writers, how to fully understand it. We have mentioned before 4 Ds, let’s start with the first one, desire.

In Stanislavsky’s philosophy, desire is a super objective; obstacles and conflicts are vital for a story to develop. What you must ask yourself now is: how can I create impediments to my characters if I don’t know them yet and how could I think of knowing someone if not starting from his personal goals?

Desire, definition.

So, let’s try to find your characters’ desires. First, associate it with an action verb since this is what a story is about: action. An example to avoid is to imagine a desire like this:

“A man wants to be a better person.”

Maybe our character Alan told us he wanted to be a better man when we interviewed him; this isn’t a desire we can use in a story if we want it to develop. His desire has to be specific and better if it is double, as in:

“Alan wants his family to trust his choices.”

The character would think in this way:

“I lied to my family all my life. It’s time for me to stop using drugs and let them trust me again.”

In short, it’s an action plan followed by the primary goal of the character. Creating a double and specific desire, we could later decide to “attack” our character from two sides.

Alan wants to be trusted by his family, but his nature is against it. So, trying to adjust his life, he’s probably going to replicate the same pattern repeatedly. When finally, Alan seems to have found a balance, it’s maybe too late and his family doesn’t want to speak to him anymore. How would he react to this change of events? Now that Alan is alone in the world, would he return to his bad habits, or would he change completely no matter what? What does it mean to trust him now that he is alone from his family’s point of view? How would his family react to his changes?

The more specific the desire, the less “egocentric” it would be from the reader’s perspective. A story based on “He did this, then he did that” is quite boring, to say the least. What makes a nice story is a desire that goes in two ways; Alan depends on his family as much as they rely on him. This creates several possibilities for the writer, for you and me, to discover new plots. Remember that the desire has to follow your character’s attributes. Imagine if Alan thought about his desire in this way:

“I lied to my family all my life. It’s time for me to find a way to cover the fact that I use drugs, so they will trust me again.”

See how twisted the story is now? Alan doesn’t want to be a better person but just a better liar.

Now ask yourself: what would happen if my character failed to achieve his goal? What are the consequences for him and for the rest of the characters involved? It’s better if the reader always knows what it’s at stake and what the risks are for the main character. Without risks, there’s no reader, as simple as that.

Sometimes a character can have a desire on the surface, manifest to everyone, plus another one that only the reader knows or think to know. It’s you, the writer that has to work with these two levels, making the reader curious about how it is going to end. The desire has to be clear if you want the readers to be really engaged, asking themselves, “how is it going to end for him? Is Alan going to lie successfully to his family, or he’s going to be discovered? Will they trust him again? In any case, achieving or not the primary goal has to leave a closure for the reader, an answer to all the questions raised.

So, this was the first D, next time, we’ll inspect our second D, for Distance.

The 4Ds

And none of them is Daniele, pity

We imagined our characters, maybe watching a colleague closely for years or just having a glimpse of an old woman on the way back home in the metro. Whatever the case, we have the first idea of our characters and a vague idea of the plot. Now, we decided to tide up our characters (or nicely invite them to a tea party), and we started questioning them. We saw how comfortable it is to ask easy questions and how uncomfortable it makes us ask some more profound, strictly personal questions. 

It’s totally fine. But it’s still not enough. With your characters, you need to ask questions about their past, their dark secrets, and their manias. Think about how challenging it is for you to ask any question to a complete stranger, even where to find the closest pharmacy. And now consider how challenging is to answer a question since it’s still you speaking through your character.

4 Ds shape your characters

Suppose someone is describing a car to you:

“With a maximum top speed of 105 mph (169 km/h), a curb weight of 1993 lbs (904 kgs), the TR3 has a naturally-aspirated Inline 4 cylinder engine, Petrol motor. This engine produces a maximum power of 101 PS (100 bhp – 74 kW) at 5000 rpm and a maximum torque of 159.0 Nm (117 lb.ft) at 5000 rpm. The power is transmitted to the road by the rear wheel drive (RWD) with a 4-speed Manual gearbox. On the topic of chassis details responsible for road holding, handling behavior and ride comfort, the TR3 has Coil springs. Front suspension and Semi-elliptic leaf springs. De Dion axle. Rear suspension. The TR3 braking system includes the front and rear for stopping power. The TR3 model is a Cabrio car manufactured by Triumph, sold new from 1955. I’m going to sell my apartment to buy it.”

If you are ignorant of car matters, you’d most probably find this description ultimately futile. You have a lot of information, but you didn’t give anything useful to the general reader; no emotions mean no way for the reader to follow you into your story. Also, when that person added he would sell his apartment to buy it at the end of the description, you probably thought he was insane. Let’s imagine another person describing to you the same car in this way:

“Yesterday, an old man approached me at the market and asked me if I had ever watched La dolce vita by Federico Fellini. I’d never seen him before and found that question really odd. At any rate, I wouldn’t lose anything answering back, so I did. I told him that I’m a cinema connoisseur and mostly into old Italian movies. So he told me that he had the original car from the movie, the excellent Triumph TR3. That’s a magical, convertible, fashionable car as no one does anymore. When you accelerate, you feel the engine almost speaking to you, a roar full of stories and secrets. That’s more than a car. It’s an obsession now. I’m going to sell my apartment to buy it.”

Now, even if you’ve never heard of the car before, you probably start visualizing yourself seated in the front seat of this cult car, the engine speaking to you. You know this person is a cinema connoisseur and all the information you acquired is helpful in understanding the ultimate decision. It’s still a crazy conclusion to make, selling an apartment to buy a car, but now you know why. There’s a reason behind it.

Well, what we’ll do next time is to analyze the 4 Ds that will shape your characters and, therefore, your story:

Keep reading!


It’s time to start making some order on our story.

Levels, what are they? 

In short, it’s the same process we analyzed before, but this time we’re bound to a scheme that goes down into our character through levels.

Level A

Let’s call it level A, the most simple kind. Imagine introducing someone as in the famous scene in Bridget Jones’s diary:

“Introduce someone with thoughtful details, as in ‘Sheila, this is Daniel, Daniel this is Sheila. Sheila likes horse riding and comes from New Zealand. Daniel enjoys publishing and comes…”

Well, no. Maybe this first level should get less intimate. Visualize yourself instead as a TV quiz presenter and you want to introduce one of your contestants:

“This is Sheila. Sheila is in her mid-thirties, a respectable citizen and an excellent teacher in a school for the hearing impaired. She likes swimming and she and her wife are now moms of a wonderful boy called Josh.”

Level B

So, level A gave us a bird’s eye view of our character’s life. We know she is a middle-class mid-thirties woman, a mother, and has some hobbies. We start now wondering if this is it. We dig some information there, but is it enough to make an interesting character?

That’s why we have a B level, like in that monstrous Dubai parking where I used to get lost between ‘Parking lot F 32 12th floor or F32 11th floor’. The only difference is we need to constantly explain why we parked our characters in such a parking spot; we cannot just assume it was the best spot for us and the characters have to fit there.

Now start asking yourself and, therefore, your characters why they make some decisions. Sheila is a teacher for children and teenagers with hearing disabilities, but why she’s doing this job? Is she or her sister, her mother, or her wife deaf? 

We know she’s married to a woman. How does this fit with her character, her background, and the place she lives? What is it like to live in a small town and be a gay mother? If you decide to place her in a specific location, it’s not coincidental and never has to be.

Although sometimes during Christmas time we need to park our park in a very random parking spot far away from the mall’s entrance, that’s not an excuse. Our characters must arrive when the mall is closed and park their car in their correct spot. I hope you get the sense of this simile.

Level C

So, we raised a hairbow creating a flat, stereotypical character that a quiz presenter can introduce in a handful of seconds. Then, we raised a second hairbow to our reader by giving that quiz participant some critical information and background history.

Now it’s time to psychoanalyze the characters and take from them all resourceful details. You can ask your characters whatever you want, way more questions than the ones you asked them before.

You can ask what your Sheila would choose between a beautiful university research career in Geneva and a simple life as a teacher in a small town in the U.S. And why not? She doesn’t want to, or she’s scared? She tried already and failed? Is it related at all to any other characters?

Yes, that’s an important point to keep always in mind:

All the details you raise about your characters must be helpful in the story’s development and, therefore, for accomplishing the final goal they need to reach. The characters would eventually pass hundreds of small goals in a story, from getting out of the sofa to saving someone from being hit by a car.

Levels, graphic by Daniele Frau

But they will always have a final, super goal to accomplish. They will fulfill or not, but that’s irrelevant. The important is they reach that crescendo and arrive at that last moment ready, together with the reader.

So, to paraphrase Collins, if a woman is obsessed with money all her life, a perfect detail to put in could be her playing with a small golden ring when she’s nervous. Then, the reader would know that the second would always prevail between her personal happiness and a lot of money.

That’s all for today. Let’s go back to write something interesting. I have a couple of lovely characters to write about. And you?

Peculiar traits

Peculiar traits and where to find them

You are on the bus; there are tons of people to add to your character palette around you. Humanity at its best and worst awaits to be acknowledged. Then you noticed a bald guy with a beard, so skinny you can count his bones. The guy is in his forties; his feet move rhythmically, following an invisible tempo. 

You start imagining which songs it’s trapped in his head and start counting the time: tap, taptaptap, tap, taptaptap. When you descend, you’re sure he was humming Eye of the Tiger by Survivor

What did you do?

You tried your best to be a Sherlock, trying to guess a song starting from the appearance of the guy and the movement of his feet. What you did is OK if you want to write some boring novel swarming with flat characters. Here you’ve committed to building round-believable characters, so let’s try to go the extra mile.

Let’s do it again

Peculiar traits

The guy in front of us has something in his pocket, with a keychain bulging a bit out. From the colors, it seems it is the BMW symbol, so he has some car keys in his pocket. Why would a 40-years-old with a car decide to spend time on a bus on such a busy hot day? A mechanic, maybe? Or his car broke and he had to take the bus? Then, you notice his feet moving rhythmically, following an invisible tempo. It’s not the rhythm he’s following that attracts you, but something else. It seems he’s pushing on an invisible accelerator and breaking and repeating it constantly.

A good man

He’s a good man, he’s always has been, but then something changed, something deep. His values changed, together with his life, after the accident. He was a family man, stressed enough to have money to pay a loan but not too much to get insomniac.

He was working a night shift when it happened when he passed that guy with a scooter. They argued, as always, when you’re driving in a busy city. But, this time, it wasn’t a typical argument. The guy in the scooter started to follow him, shouting at our guy in his brand new BMW. When finally they stopped at the traffic light, the guy in the scooter descended and yelled again. Maybe he was under drugs, perhaps he was insane, who knows?

Our guy remained inside his BMW, just waiting for the green light to go. Too tired and too nervous about spending time with this useless prick. And then it happened. The guy outside gave the first kick at the car door and it got dented. The light was still red; the traffic light seemed frozen, a match ready to burn the city at any moment. 

People snaps

People snaps. People lose control for the most surprising reasons. For our guy, that reason was his car; he couldn’t stand another kick, and every time that foot kicked his car, it made him angrier and redder than the traffic light in front of him. He opened the door, grabbed the guy and threw him with all his forces to the other side of the street. 

Fatally, the guy in the scooter fell badly, his head on the edge of the sidewalk. They said it was a once-in-a-while scenario, an accident, and he got heavily provoked. Police left all the charges, and everything seemed to return to normal.

Everything except the guilty sensation hidden inside him. His feet still thinking about that moment when he could put the first gear and go, his hand reaching for the keys inside the pocket, turning on an invisible engine.

What did we do?

We imagined a layered character doing something unexpected due to background we don’t know yet. In a book, even the minor characters must have a background story, even if it’s barely a simple, sketched one. This leads to the “so what” moment we discussed earlier. After that, we ask ourselves how a person with such a background will speak, walk and so on.

Curved shoulders, slight tic on one eye, moving back the glasses, or constantly sneezing three times. Add whatever you think is accurate for your character and his background.

In the following article, we will start speaking about levels to structure your characters correctly.

In the meantime, keep reading my stories here and see you soon!

Daniele Frau

So what?

Let’s dive deeper

Over the silence

Did you ever spend so much time with a friend that, in the end, what remains between you two is only silence?

That’s not the worst sensation since it’s better than talking just for the sake of talking. So, you and your character are getting good acquaintance, then good friends and maybe best friends after your chat. You really want your fictional friend to strive and have a wonderful meta-existence.

Unfortunately, fiction writing doesn’t work like this. I have a friend that likes to write only real stories with a good ending. he said once, and I quote:

“Why imagine some adventurous sad story when I have a good one in front of me with a perfect happy ending?”

And I answered:

“What do you believe, speaking about Napoleon is a boring topic? But his life didn’t end well, did it?”

That’s the summa of what is behind the “so what?” moment. You need to understand your character better; to do so, you need some difficulties. It’s too easy to be a badass or a choirboy sitting in a bar chitchatting. I’ve met so many of these people in my life, and when it truly mattered, they disappeared like smoke.

Yes, smoke and glass disappear when you reach a certain point in the chat with your character. What remains? The bone, some nerves, you x-screen your character completely.

Let some people enter the coffee place where you’re supposedly chatting with your new dramatic persona. For example, in the movie “Danny the dog”, there’s a scene that depicts this moment. Some criminals enter a shop with guns and beat up a couple of customers. It’s quite a shocking scene; all characters are surprised and shocked. The reaction of the main character?

He appears on the screen and tells his new friend (Morgan Freeman) that he finally found a ripe melon. A ripe melon! There was a life-or-death scenario around him and what he was focused on was a ripe melon? Well, his friend would understand eventually that something is utterly wrong with him.

It’s a turning point in the movie, a powerful scene that tells us a lot, even if we were just tuning in at that moment and saw it alone.

So what?

So what? Graphic by Daniele Frau.

Stress them out

Let’s see what our characters do on a stressful occasion, exactly like Danny. They will turn to us with ripe melon in their hands, or we will find them behind the Kellog’s stand, shaking?

This method will allow you to undercover something that lies way under the surface: the values. Given a stressful situation, will your character react violently or remain as calm as a toad in the sun? 

What these values will uncover? Let’s discover it in our next article.

In the meantime, keep reading my stories here and see you soon!

Daniele Frau