Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Make my day and blow the bloody doors off!

Who said, “Go ahead, make my day.”?

Okay, smarty-pants. Who said, “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”?

Oh really? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin' to?

Don't know about you, but when I read the above movie extracts, I find it hard to imagine any actor other than Clint, Mike or Bobby saying those lines.

Actors have personalties which they bring along, and this simple and obvious fact can be very useful for us writer types.

Here's a thought: let them star in your book.

Three actors who have starred in many of my short stories and novels are Sean Connery, Ray Winstone and Gwyneth Paltrow.

There's something about these guys – in my tiny mind at least – that prevents them from saying things in any way other than a way that suits them uniquely.


Okay. This is what I do: I cast a star or well known – by me – actor as a character in my story. When I write the dialogue, I picture them saying these words. Does this fit the actor? Can I see the actor saying these words? I will often change dialogue simply because Ray Winstone – for example – looks odd saying, “Could you pass the salt, please.” (I can see Hugh Grant saying that.) No, our Ray could say, “Pass the bleedin' salt.” Easily.

You see this happening in long running soaps. As they get to know them, the writers start to write for the actor playing the character.

So there you go.

I've found this tip very useful for bringing uniqueness, personality and consistency to my character's dialogue. And to a lesser extent, their actions.

Let me know your thoughts – as if they were said aloud by (the utterly fantastic) Dame Maggie Smith.

I'll be back.


  1. haha that is a good way to look at it. My characters tend to be a bit more of a combination of actors, so I look more at their own personalities when working with dialogue.

    Same applies though. I feel it immediately if the dialogue sounds false.


  2. Funnily enough we were talking about this very thing today. A writer friend is also a film critic and he always casts his characters and even has his camera angles thought through when he writes. I do like the idea of casting the characters even if I've conveniently forgotten to use Dame Maggie's voice.

    It's nice to meet you, Gary. I dropped by to see you as we're exchanging emails.

  3. Dame Maggie Smith -- Let's see ----

    Oh, yes, most certainly, I do this all the time with my characters. I scoure the "images" world of film (BBC and Masterpiece Theatre) from the internet and when I find the right face, to go with my internal dialogue, I copy and paste as quickly as I can into my photos folder.

    Now it's just me -- As a matter of fact, I have used Dame Maggie Smith, as well as Dame Joan Plowright and Sir Anthony Hopkins as characters. As I'm writing Regency, it's a win-win as there are so many fab actors to choose from across the pond.

  4. nice tip - I reckon I'd stuff it up though and have Alan Carr calling people 'slags' and shoving their heads through car windows..