HBO's 'Succession' Can Teach You A Lot About Writing Great Dialogue

Succession is a show built on characters worming their way in and out of situations. So how can they clearly express motivations with and without saying what they mean? 

Succession is probably the best show on television right now. It's Season Two finale was jarring, interesting, emotional, and surprising. But one of the best things about the show is how it handles character motivation -- and reveals it through dialogue. 

You see, the characters are so complex that their motivation constantly changes. That means that sometimes the characters have to say what they mean. 

Let's look at at a Nerdwriter video explaining this theory and see how it applies to your own writing. 

How Characters in 'Succession' Say What They Mean 

More than any other show on television, Succession's dialogue sings when you hear it. Sure, lots of the lines are filled with crude and hilarious insults and profane word play, but the show uses these conversations to set up the deeper themes. 

The Roy family runs a news conglomerate. We generally think of the news as facts listed off as truth. But in the modern era of "fake news" and people capitalizing off of lies...what are words worth? 

Kendall Roy called words "complicated airflow." So how can a TV show with characters who don't value language become so obsessed with language? 

By turning words into character motivation. 

Crafting Dialogue as Character 

While other shows use action -- and trust me, Succession uses action (did you see the finale?) -- these shows also highlight how things are said to dig deeper. 

Sarcasm is one of the main ways they develop characters and their arcs. Think of how Shiv uses it to keep Tom guessing. She doesn't honestly talk to him, and when she does, her honesty keeps him so at bay that he agrees to be in an open relationship. 

Sarcasm is how Roman finds his strength among his two more physically powerful siblings and his abusive father. In a world where sincerity is suspicious, characters have to arm themselves with the words to keep the world at bay. 

But what are those words? 

Lies. 

The Roy family lies with reckless abandon. Logan is the king of that, lying about who will take over the company, lying about cousin Mo, making Kendall lie to be the fall man...

And the list goes on. 

Everyone is paranoid because of the words that get told to them. They never know what to believe. Sincerely is suspicious. Sarcasm is a shield and insults bare the truth. 

Lies build the world they want. And those lies and investigations into the lies are what make the show incredible. 

What's next? Succession will change how you Shoot and Edit

The writing on Succession makes it fun to watch, but the technical aspects of the show elevate it to one of the best on TV. Here's how they do it! 

Click for more!

 

Your Comment