“The best teacher is a cheap, little Penguin Classic. Read read read.” “The saddest, saddest thing is a human being who has no stories. Because a human being who has no stories is someone who has not been loved, and who has not been able to love. As soon as you engage yourself in being human you start developing stories.”
“Human truth. Not photographic, realistic, journalistic recorded truth – but the truth we recognize as human beings, how we interact with one another, what are our strengths and our weaknesses, how we interact – and, what is, what is the meaning of our lives.”
“Stories are equipment for living. Human beings need storytelling in order to make sense out of life, in order to live as well and as civilized as a human being can. And so they will go to the storyteller for meaningful, emotional experiences they cannot get from life. […] People are desperate. Are they getting the stories – comic or tragic – that would help them live through this really ugly period in history? “
Question: How do you write dialogue?
Richard Price: It’s pretty intuitive. I think dialogue is a knack; either you have it or you don’t. A lot of writers find other elements of writing a lot easier than I do. I have a terrible time writing the King’s English. I couldn’t punctuate a four-word sentence if my life depended on it. I hear people. When I’m writing, I hear people. I do improv. I’ll be out on the street and I’ll pick up the rhythm of it but it’s not like anthropology. It’s not like I’m trying to get the glossary right. It’s just about expressing how somebody’s brain works through what comes out of their mouth. I went to management meetings at Schiller’s and I rode around with cops a lot. I was kind of a fly on the wall but all I’m basically looking for is what’s plausible. Before I start lying, let me lie responsibly. What are the parameters of plausibility and given that, once I know that if I do this, that’s way over the line of possibility, I won’t do it. The other thing is I want to write in such a way as somebody who’s showing me the ropes will read the book or see the movie or whatever it is, and not close the book or walk out of the theater like a third of the way through saying “Well, that was a waste of time.” They’re sort of my audience in an obsessive way. I want them to say “Wow, he really nailed it.” It’s arbitrary. It’s literature. It can be anything you want. It’s not social realism, it’s not photojournalism but I do have that obsessive desire to nail things for what it’s worth.
“So it is… it’s right dead, smack in the center of what it is to be human, the ability to tell a story. There is another theory that has it that the narrative art is an evolved adaptation on which we got in the Pliestocine because those who had it had a much greater edge. They had a much greater survival edge on those that did not have it. If I can tell you that right over there in that river was where the crocodile ate Uncle George, you do not have to test that in your own life by going over there and getting eaten by the crocodile. And I can tell you all sorts of other things that are very useful to you for survival in your world if I can tell you a story. And we know that people learn and assimilate information much more through stories than they do through charts and graphs and statistics. You might want to back up those things with the math. But what really hits people is the story because it’s not an intellectual thing and it’s not just a scream. It’s not pure emotion; it’s a melding of those two things, which is where we exist as human beings. We’re not thought machines, we’re not screaming machines, we are thought/feeling machines, if we’re machines at all, let’s pretend we’re not. We are thought/feeling entities. In fact, some people who have done studies on it say that if you remove the emotion from the person through some accident, they have a lot of trouble making decisions because they try to reason everything out and you actually can’t. It’s endless.”