An excerpt from my script review for The Witch which will be available 03/21/16:
4.) Dialogue and Description
Description had its moments, and was decent overall.
Page 12, after the witch kills Baby Sam:
She grinds at her MORTAR AND PESTLE. One can easily assume
Page 13, describing the house the family lives in:
CALEB picks up his homespun doublet. He stumbles quietly over
and through the pile of sleeping SWEATY-FACED SIBLINGS and
straw mattresses on the floor. Dwindling food stores hang
from the pitched ceiling, almost knocking his head.
MERCY is curled up with JONAS, who sucks his thumb.
THOMASIN has JONAS’ DIRTY FEET near her FACE.
Page 22, Katherine still mourning the loss of Sam:
KATHERINE lies on the bed, her hands clenched together, her
eyes closed. She whispers an inaudible prayer.
A sadder face has never been seen.
On the dialogue, I need to make a note.
The author references this early on that some character lines come straight out of journals from that time period.
My suggestion here is that if you’re going to use particular dialects DO NOT overdo it.
This script walked a fine balance between dialect of historical Salem and what we use today. Aside from the opening scene, I understood clearly what was going on in the story.
(Maybe not the ending, but that’s a plot issue not the fault of this section).
You want your reader engaged in the story, and using any sort of dialect should support the overall tone, not be employed simply as a cheap trick to make you look clever.
Other than that, there were lines that landed emotional impact.
Page 20, after having a deep theological discussion about us all being born sinners:
Is he (Sam) in hell?
Quite the paradox there, William. Answer your son that! Did your infant son go to Hell because he couldn’t pray yet?
The family was religious, but the story (and dialogue) did question certain aspects of their faith, especially William’s playing fast and loose with his own rules.
Was he a hypocrite? Certainly, but this line above certainly called into question, making me think as a reader, what does happen to babies when they die?
(I have my own personal beliefs, but that’s not important. What is, is that this script made us think about it!)
How thou couldst lose my father’s
silver wine cup in this hovel, I
I have no–
Peace child, it is gone. Did a wolf
vanish that too?
Katherine really doesn’t care for Thomasin, and doesn’t mind low blows about the baby disappearing on her watch.
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