A Review of Dialogue The Art of Verbal Action for Page, Stage, and Screen

Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for Page, Stage, and ScreenDialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for Page, Stage, and Screen by Robert McKee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I an a learner. My preferred mode of learning is to read and then try out simple examples of what I have learned. I am random, abstract. I am comfortable with bits of knowledge cluttering up my brain in apparent disarray. I knew that if I kept on learning things, at some point, an event would trigger a re-arrangement of that knowledge into a more useful form.

That re-arrangement would not make me smarter. If anything, I would be more ignorant than I had been before the switching around of concepts and facts. Holes in my knowledge and understanding, hidden by the previous jumble, would now be obvious. I could see the patterns that defined what was populated and what I needed to learn to complete the pattern. I would understand the questions that I needed to ask and when I needed to ask them. But I would also understand the situations in which certain questions had no relevance. Speed, effectiveness, and power were mine for the taking.

One such book for me was Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code by Martin Fowler. This is a reference book on how to re-arrange the code of computer software to make it better. There is page after page of techniques, each dry and detailed. But Fowler also explains, for each technique, why the change that the technique would effect would be an improvement, when it should and should not be used, and how the improvement might trigger side-effects. The unexpected effect of all that detail was to give me the conceptual structure that organized a dozen previous books on programming. I could never look at my code or the code of others in the same way after reading and re-reading this book.

My quest to become a (better) writer parallels my quest to become a better software developer. I have read many books on craft of writing. I have practiced on projects, small and large. The jumble in mind verifies the extent of my efforts. I have been ready for that organizing event to sort things into a recognizable pattern. Reading Dialogue: The Art of Verbal Action for Page, Stage, and Screen is just that event. As before, my ignorance is made explicit and my needs for further development made manifest. I am not done reading about the craft, but I will be more focused than I was.

I have no idea of whether anyone else’s experience will parallel mine. No matter. This is a book well worth reading, well worth learning from.

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