Dialogue – responding to questions in The Serpent part 2.

This post is available to watch / listen to here:

In the last post we looked at three techniques writer Richard Warlow uses in episode 1 of The Serpent when his characters respond to questions.

(The script is available on the BBC Writers Room website.)

In this post we’re going to consider three more techniques.

Here goes:

In this scene Celia and Teresa are floating down the river in Bangkok discussing heroin and hash in Kathmandu.

Celia asks Teresa Then where are you going?

Teresa chooses not to answer.

Technique 1. Choose not to answer.

Let’s look at the next section of the script.

Celia’s next question is You sure you don’t want to get high?

Teresa answers a question with a question. Why get high? Standard screenwriting technique, but, how does Celia respond to Teresa’s question?

She doesn’t. Teresa continues her train of thought, enjoying the breathtaking new oriental landscape.

With this 2nd question (and we might say that by responding with two consecutive questions the writer transcends the standard technique of answering a question with a question) Teresa both reveals character and sets personal boundaries – she doesn’t need heroin or hash – she’s naturally high.

Technique 2: respond with two questions, while revealing character.

Finally, in this scene Teresa calls her Grandma (Emma) back in California, who asks:

Teresa responds I just felt I didn’t say goodbye properly.

That’s not true. And we know it’s not true, because by the end of the scene Teresa has admitted to Emma, her grandma, that she has a ‘bad feeling’…

But, initially, Teresa avoids the question, possibly to protect her grandma from the truth.

Technique 3: avoid the question.

So, three more techniques from Richard Warlow

1. Choose not to answer.

2. Respond with two questions while revealing character.

3. Avoid the question to protect the asker from the truth.

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