「服務他人是你住地球應該付出的租金。」– 穆罕默德‧阿里 (拳擊手)
"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." -- Muhammad Ali, Boxer
We Want to Tell You...

電影《刺激1995》(Shawkshenk Redemption) 以精心編寫的對白帶著故事發展,其中幾句甚至成為了眾人所愛引用的經典名言。摩根費里曼(Morgan Freeman) 貫串全片的回憶式旁白,也讓人在步調緩慢的劇情中,緊緊跟隨故事主軸。好的對白與旁白,既不干擾欣賞,又能讓觀眾迅速入戲,且不易失去專注,是敘事技巧中非常重要的元素。


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voice over (n.)

on a television programme, film, or advertisement, the spoken words of a person that you cannot see



Being able to write compelling dialogue between characters is an essential part of any good story. It’s not an easy thing to master and something that many writers struggle with. The same issue arises when writing voice over (VO) for video games, movies, or other media that incorporates the spoken word. Several different approaches are effective to make the characters sound authentic or give them some memorable lines, and there are also some things to avoid.

The way people talk is indicative of many traits, including their background, education, and socio-economic status. In the real world, people often say the wrong thing, repeat themselves, or misspeak. The writer’s job is to make characters talk in a way that doesn’t distract the reader or audience from the world being created and actually adds something to the story or aesthetic.




“I guess it comes down a simple choice: Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

— Andy Dufresne

(Photo Credit: IMDb)



“Show, Don’t Tell” 不言而喻的藝術

During a theater play, the audience is further away from the actors on stage, so it becomes more necessary to write dialogue that explicitly states what is happening. For example, when a character dies, someone will announce that they are dead so the audience can know rather than guessing about their fate.

Most readers enjoy descriptive language, but there is often a tendency to explain too much in the dialogue rather than leaving it to the reader’s imagination. This is especially true for screenplays, or movie scripts. In a film, the camera can capture subtle clues like loss of breath, limpness of body, or other physical signs that the character has died, which could not be otherwise expressed on the stage to an audience in the back row. When it comes to screenplays, the saying goes, “Show, don’t tell.” That means the actions of the characters and the visual elements of the film like the setting, costumes, props, etc. should be enough for audiences to follow the plot development and understand what is happening without it being explicitly stated in the dialogue unless absolutely necessary.

The scene description and the actions of the characters can explain the details without someone having to say, “It’s a beautiful, sunny day, and I feel happy,” or “It’s raining outside, and I feel sad.” Instead, the camera can show the rainfall or sunshine and the character looking sad or happy accordingly. With this in mind, when characters do speak to each other or in a VO, the audience can appreciate the subtly of the how the characters talk instead of being distracted by the clunky written dialogue.



(Photo Credit: Official Trailer of Shawshank Redemption)



One of the hardest things to do in writing is to accurately capture a particular dialect, accent, or slang in a realistic and authentic way. Writers might attempt to use a regional way of talking, or a lexicon from a minority group or counterculture. To do this well is very difficult, but the reward is that it gives your characters more of a unique identity. When done properly, this technique can add depth to the character and indicate where, when, or in what context a conversation or story is taking place and who the character really is just by the way they speak. If it’s done without the necessary care, however, it can make the dialogue sound forced, fake, or even offensive to certain people. On the other hand, using a caricature or an exaggerated version of a well-known stereotype is sometimes necessary in comedy or as social commentary. Either way, this kind of content has to be treated delicately and with respect for the culture, language, and manner of speaking being represented on the page or on the screen.



When only one character is talking, either to others, themselves, or in a voice over narration, it’s called a monologue instead of a dialogue. Many screenwriters think that writing narration to explain the story is lazy, but it can be the most powerful tool in their arsenal if done right. Think about a few of your favorite movies, and at least one of them probably uses voice over narration. It gives the audience a window into the main characters thoughts and can move the story along quickly. The most prominent examples of this technique working well are in movies that are based on books because the source material is so well-written.



[First Person Narrated]

“I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand.
I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

— Red
(Photo Credit: IMDb)



New media like internet videos and video games take advantage of how effective voice over can be. Storytelling in games is an interactive process, so the characters are often talking to the player in a monologue, or in brief dialogues between game play that contribute to the story. Since video games have such a diverse range of characters and possible scenarios, the best way to learn how to write games is to play them. As for online video platforms like video blogs and news, the way a story is reported on or talked about in print is different than how it is portrayed vocally. The emphasis and amount of information in each sentence has to be more concise so that the audience can follow it. Listening to a story being told is quite different from reading one, so keep that in mind when writing dialogue or monologues.




文/ Evan Witkowski

本文收錄於英語島English Island 2018年10月號