Diaries Magazine

Crafting Compelling Myrtle Beach Dialogue

Posted on the 06 March 2013 by Cfburch4 @cfburch4

The arrival of "Welcome to Myrtle Manor" in reality televison coincides with my attempts to teach students how to write dialogue for fiction.

Some viewers have wondered how much of Myrtle Manor was reality and how much was television. Either way, certainly the residents of Myrtle Manor were conscious of the cameras when they spoke to each other.

How does one gague the authenticity of reality television?

Authentic or not, Myrtle Manor has inspired various thoughts among people I know, from awesome to shit.

The problem, in my opinion, is the difference between reality and entertainment.

I might say, if I'm drinking and acting pretentiously, that entertainment is a "heightened reality." But at least I have Alfred Hitchcock to back up my pretentiousness: "Drama is life with the dull parts left out."

Drama requires excitement. It also requires interesting dialouge. So if we're going to read dialogue, or watch it on television, it needs to be interesting.

Here's the rub: most of life, and most conversations between people, are fairly dull. Especially in Myrtle Beach.

For example, imagine two golfers on a Myrtle Beach fairway:

Golfer One: "Try bringing your club back further."

Golfer Two: "OK, I'll try that."

That probably squares with reality. But even a golfing fanatic would consider it a dull exchange between two people.

Reality needs the help of a writing workshop. Let's introduce a little tension into this scene.

Golfer One: "Try bringing your club back further."

Golfer Two: "I've tried that before. It doesn't help."

A little push-back -- better. But not quite exciting. Let's kick it up a notch.

Golfer One: "Try bringing your club back further."

Golfer Two: "Quit giving me your damn advice."

That could be a serious threat, or it could be a joke between a friend who is winning and a friend who is losing.

Now, let's go for the heights of heightened reality: "The Sopranos," Myrtle-style.

Golfer One: "Try bringing your club back further."

Golfer Two: "I said be quiet! That's it!" Turns and beats Golfer One with club until head is bloody pulp. 

Now we have edgy, critically acclaimed, Emmy-winning TV -- and all we did was change what Golfer Two said.

Let's apply these principles to Myrtle Manor.

Let's imagine Jared is getting a haircut at Tangulls.

Take One:

Ray: "OK, cutie, you are done."

Jared: "OK, thanks for the haircut."

Ray: "Do you like it?"

Jared: "It's OK."

Ray: "OK."

That's just not working for me. Let's consult with the producers and try a Take Two:

Ray: "OK, cutie, you are done."

Jared: "Oh my God! You totally [bleep]ed up my head!"

Ray: "Jared, you now are the sexiest thing in the trailer park."

Jared: "I said I didn't want the top so short!"

Ray: "You are so sexy now, you ought to give me a big tip. And I'll take it in any form you'd like to give it to me."

Jared: "Ah! No! No no no no no!"

Now, you see, Take Two is more interesting than Take One. Take One is reality. Take Two is television.

Making the two intersect must take a lot of editing.

For now, I'm willing to give "Myrtle Manor" another shot. So I'll wait until Sunday to see what's next for the crossroads of reality and television in Myrtle Beach.

-Colin Foote Burch

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