With the new year at hand, you may have some refreshed ambitions about accomplishing the burning goals you’ve had for so long. For many of you in the animation world, this might come in the form of developing a story of some sort. All too often, it gets easy to fall victim to the invisible trap of flat, un-scintillating dialogue. To avoid this fate, here are three great suggestions to build your writing skills for more explosive and engaging dialogue between your characters:
1) Take an acting class or two! Yes, this certainly includes improvisation classes. This is especially great if you are in, or heading to, college and need to fill extra elective courses. It’s incredible for learning how to think like a character other than yourself. (On a parallel note: this is also a huge win for drawing better acting!) Remember, good acting comes from great reacting – from that comes better dialogue.
2) Watch both good and bad movies (or shows), and think about the dialogue from each character as you watch. Really try to isolate the dialogue by asking questions as you absorb. (This is easiest to do when trying it with stuff you’re super familiar with already so that you don’t get swept up in just watching it.) But ask questions like “Does where this person come from effect the way they speak?” and “Why would they say that? Would it work the same if they said it a different way?” and “What is the character trying to get across? Are they trying to say something different than what they’re ACTUALLY saying?” and other questions like these.
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3) Try to assign your characters to someone similar them. That could mean someone you know personally or maybe an actor. But let’s say your character is an insecure, irritable guy who only looks out for himself. Could he be like George Costanza from the show Seinfeld? How would he act in a scenario at work when he realizes the box of donuts is empty, except for a half of the yuckiest donut? And what if it was half EATEN, not cut in half? What if all this happened on his birthday? What sorts of things would he say in that scenario compared to if he was like Walter White in Season 1 of Breaking Bad? See how assigning other similar characters or people you know helps give them a voice? It becomes a lot easier to think of dialogue that stands apart from character to character when they all come from one person’s head.
Of course, as with anything, these methods take time and practice. Methods such as these, though, make it far easier to write dialogue that keep your audience far more engaged because your characters won’t all sound like you talking, or like sloppy caricatures of archetypes you might have stored in your mind.
Hope this helps!
Disney Storyboard Artist
Creator/Host of The Animation Network podcast
The goal of The Animation Network podcast is to excite and inspire people interested in animation, answer burning questions specifically about TV animation, and share a colorful spectrum of experiences that lead industry pros to where they are today!
You do not need a lot of artistic skill or even a lot of animating skill to become a great animator. This has been proven again and again with everything from the Flintstones to South Park. Remember that the creators of South Park, Matt Stone and Tray Parker, started with pieces of cardboard and a single camera. They, like all great animators, focused on the story and characters before anything else, and that was their key to success.
A Lot Of Patience
This skill goes without saying. Animation is a very slow and tiresome process. It can take a long time to set up your shots, and even longer to get your scenes to run in the manner you desire. Animation is rewarding, but in very slow and unexciting way, you need patience to maintain the same level of enthusiasm throughout.
The Ability To See The Job Through
Animation is fun and exciting. It is great seeing your characters come alive, but any animator will tell you that seeing the job through to the end is almost painful. Most people start off with a high degree of enthusiasm, but 25% of the way in it turns into a drudge and a slog to the point where only the most determined and motivated see it through.
You Must Be A Perfectionist
Whether your animation technique is low or high tech, you need to get it perfect. A single frame out of place and the entire project will look tacky and amateurish. This is especially true if you are trying stop motion animation, where rushing or a lack of correct detail may irretrievably ruin your entire scene. The writers at assignmentmasters are always stressing just how important being a perfectionist is. It is not a retroactive process, it is a skill you master in the moment so that you do not have to go back and correct things later.
Always ALWAYS Be Willing To Learn
Take the free animation software Blender. If you start from nothing, you can learn how to create a basic 3D model and computer animation within two weeks, but the software is so complex that it can take years to learn all the functions. The manual, if there were one, would be the same size as that for a jumbo jet. Only if you are willing to learn and keep on learning, will you be able to advance past being an amateur.
A Very Strong Creative Vision
This may seem like a given, but it is the creative vision that turns wannabe animators into animators that complete projects. The ability to focus on the end result is the only thing that gets some animators through the working process. Unless you are able to create a strong and solid vision of the end result in your mind, you are likely to give up when the pleasure of animating turns into drudgery.
The Ability To Narrow Down And Streamline Your Process
If you want to go from an amateur animator to a brilliant animator, you need to push yourself to learn more about your software/technique and need to push yourself to learn more–but it isn’t just about learning the technical side. You need to learn how to streamline and improve your process. It is done in hundreds of ways, from re-using previous backgrounds, to copying model animation functions so that one character may pull a similar face to another without having to start the manipulation process from scratch.
Always start small. All the best animators start with small clips and small projects. The experience alone is invaluable as you will learn just how much effort goes into a 20-second clip. In addition, not only will small clips of animation help you try different techniques and styles, they are also handy additions to your portfolio for if you are looking to apply for jobs in the visual entertainment and gaming industry.
Laura Jonson is a creative writer who and brand creator. She knows how to make brand recognizable. Now she is working on writing service AssignmentMasters. In the future she is going to launch her own project dedicated to brand-creation.