Dialogue, Scene Setting & Building Tension: A Study – Pt2 (& Mah Plans 23/06)


If you missed part one of this little study of The Matrix trilogy, may I suggest you have a look at it here. You don’t need to, but if you want the funny bits, most of those were last week. 😉

This week I’m talking about scene setting within the trilogy. How the directors, producers, camera operators, set designers and actors all worked together to build engaging and memorable scenes to drive the story.

Well some of them were those things. Some were poorly veiled excuses to parade people in ‘silly’ clothes or have the main cast show of some skill of their character.

Again the film of the three is best. In one scene, Neo goes to work, late, as usual, and stands in a dull grey office to get bollocked by his boss. As the small, besuited man talks down to him, Neo is only half listening, he is watching the window cleaner wipe grime off the windows. As each swipe takes away a film of soapy bubbles, there is an accompanying screeeeeeeeeeccch of rubber against the glass. You know the sound? It’s horrible. And it’s a backdrop to the entire scene. I think it’s excellent as a device to show how Neo feels about this conversation with his boss. How hard it is on the ear, how repetitive, how dull. Like washing windows. Couple that with the washed out colours, dry dialogue and complete lack of backing music, the scene is a great example of a the type of life someone would love to get away from.
This is why, later on, I have no trouble in believing that Neo might pick the blue pill.

Much later within the film, again within the Matrix, Neo goes with Morpheus and Trinity to visit the Oracle. Her home is a classic small flat, in a huge block of several. Slightly run down, grimy corridors, lifts not working perhaps as well as they should. At the door, when Neo lifts his hand to knock, it is opened by someone on the other side who not only knew he was there (without a peep hole) but knew his name too.
Inside there are children, normal at first glance, but definitely a bit strange upon closer inspection. The girls playing with colours blocks with numbers and letters on them aren’t building towers, but floating them through the air, passing them back and forth to each other without using their hands. A boy, sitting on the floor in full lotus is bending metal spoons with a stare, like Uri Geller.
When Neo finally gets to see the Oracle, he finds a homely black woman baking cookies and smoking.
All of these sets you up for something strange. You know it, though you’re not sure what. The fabulous piece of misdirection from the Oracle sets up the rest of the film, but the scene preceding those very important lines has already built up a level of expectation inside you.

Insofar as laying out how things are in the Matrix and how they are in the real world, I think the film does an excellent job. This is one of those instances in which the dialogue is strongest, as it fills in detail for those senses that we don’t get to experience while watching. The Oracle talks about the smell of the lovely cookies she’s making in the Matrix, while Mouse talks about the strange grey goop the crew eat on the ship and why chicken seems to taste like everything.

I will be using some of the tricks from this film in future; describing what surrounds a scene (as well as the detail that drives it) is very important to give a flavour of the place. A feel of the atmosphere. Use of colour and sound lend tone or emotion to a scene that you can’t always get from reactions or dialogue. Or that you don’t want to get from those things, especially if a scene is conducted mostly with narrative.line break, swirling graphics, from openclipartOkay. That’s done… moving on with this week’s set of goals.

I feel that I’m finally getting back into the swing of things. I’m still tired, but I’m no longer aching in various body parts and the drive to keep pushing my story is back. That has a lot to do with the fact that I’m seeing the story evolve once more. Nothing is more motivating than watching the story grow on paper. Seeing the word count tick up and up. Seeing the chapters get ticked off as I fill in the narrative.

Last Week

Work on getting my daily output on WTRE back to where it was before the op (2000)
Done. Bar the two days I had off at the weekend (which I knew would happen) I’ve been back on form, averaging 2000 words per day. I cracked out something like 10,000 words this week and I’m keen to do it again.

Collate the rest of my SORB beta notes
Eeeeyup. Thank you so much guys, I do so appreciate what you’ve done for me. I’ll be giving some time over to working through what you gave me this week and I’ll come back to you if I have any questions.

All that puts me in good stead for what’s to come, but the tricky part is deciding how to split the time up. There’s a lot I want to do.

This Week

  1. Continue to write, on average 2000 words per working day on WTRE
  2. Read at least two peer blog posts per day – I’ve missed keeping up with you guys and feeling horribly guilty about dropping off the grid. I’m coming back!
  3. Look at three chapters of SORB with my beta notes
  4. Outline another short story for CF
  5. Edit the faerie short story and send it out

Phew.
Blimey, that’s a lot.
Well, it looks like a lot, but it’s not really. Hopefully.
This is the test, to see if I’m really back to where I was pre-op. If I can manage this, I can manage anything, right? 🙂

Catch you around. x
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About Ileandra Young

I'm a thirty-*mumbles* year old (purple loving, cheese worshipping) author of fantasy, juggling a pair of beautiful twin boys with my burning desire to make up stories and write them all down. When I get the chance, I play games, listen to music, and in days long past I even ran a radio show. Though I occasionally write non-fiction, my heart lives in fantasy and my debut novel, Silk Over Razor Blades is now available through Amazon along with part two of the trilogy, Walking The Razor's Edge.
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One Response to Dialogue, Scene Setting & Building Tension: A Study – Pt2 (& Mah Plans 23/06)

  1. Pingback: Dialogue, Scene Setting & Building Tension: A Study – Pt3 (& Mah Plans 30/06 and Half Year Recap) | Writing: A Conversation Without Interruptions

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