it is said that Moliere, when asked by a friend how his new play was coming along, responded, “Splendidly! All I have left to do is ze dialogue.”
Of course, we’re not all Moliere, but this makes sense if you’ve ever written a play. Most of the effort is expended on story, character development, back-story, preliminary staging, set design, thematic embodiment, and so on.
A note on back-story: This is the secret ingredient of many works. We can’t taste it, to continue the metaphor, but it leaves a subtle flavor, a difference in the way we perceive the characters, a sense of reality in the way they interact. When someone was discussing A Doll’s House with Ibsen, the playwright held forth for a long time on the back-story not of Nora, nor even Torvald, but of the maid, the least important character in the entire play.
As you may have guessed, I’ve started a new play, another short one-act. It’s an adaptation of a short story I wrote a long time ago and have since lost. I remember the underlying tale well enough, though, and Thursday night I made eight+ pages of single-spaced notes–character names, possible titles, set details, props, costume items, loose lines of dialogue, key action. And back-story. Will it all work? I have no idea, though I see glimmerings. Only one way to find out. Write ze dialogue.