Dialogue – responding to questions in The Serpent: part 1

This article is also available to watch on Youtube

We’ve been looking at techniques for responding to questions.

In the last post we looked at two examples from Mammoth Screen’s The Serpent by Richard Warlow. Let’s look at some more examples from the same script. This is episode 1, available from BBC Writers Room.

In this scene, Charles and Monique are trying to sell the sapphire / diamond ring to Wim and Lena.

When Monique asks Charles ‘they don’t have to decide now’ it is not a real question. Of course Charles wants them to decide now, but, he’s willing to play the long game. It’s a lot of money.

How does Charles reply? Of course not. But he’s lying. Of course he wants them to decide now. So what technique is this? We might say Charles is responding to Monique’s question by saying what Wim and Lena want to hear.

Let’s look at another question, a bit later in the same scene.


This time Monique pushes for a sale, telling Lena to let Wim buy her the ring. Lena smiles at Wim. Wim ‘beams for her’ and asks Lena: Well, what do you say? Lena responds not with words but with action, laughing and pulling him to the dance floor.

Let’s look at another scenario.

At the Dutch embassy, Lawana, the Thai administrative secretary, asks Herman to clarify that he is who she is expecting: Mr. Kippenberg?

Herman swears in Dutch before responding with a question: how long ago did the others leave?

Lawana – perhaps she doesn’t want to say. So Herman answers his own question.

To conclude, three more techniques writer Robert Marlow uses when responding to questions:

  1. Say what others want to hear.
  2. Respond with action.
  3. Answer your own question.

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