Writing Memorable Dialogue and Unforgettable Characters

This entry was posted on Monday, October 7th, 20132013-10-07T14:31:00Zl, F jS, Y at 7:31 am2013-10-07T14:31:00Zg:i a

MISERY is one of my favorite movies and it works so perfectly on so many levels. Great character arcs, tight structure, ticking clock(s), simple, terrifying premise and also, I mean really – Annie Wilkes has got to be one of the most memorable movie characters of all time. Her strange, developmentally stunted dialogue: He didn’t get out of the COCKADOODIE CAR!

And so it led me to think – if you had to make a list of the most unforgettable movie characters who would be on it?

Off the top of my head, my (starter) list would be:

Travis Bickle
Annie Wilkes
Hannibal Lecter
Austin Powers
Annie Hall
Dirty Harry
Tyler Durden
Ferris Bueller
Norma Desmond
Claus Von Bulow
Jake Gittes

Notice I didn’t say Tim Robbins in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION – another brilliant movie, good actor and memorable role – but the difference here is the name of the character is what comes to mind, not the actor – because the character was so uniquely memorable that he or she subsumes the actor. Was Marilyn Monroe unforgettable in SOME LIKE IT HOT? Yes. But that’s because it was Marilyn, not her character, Sugar Kane. Alec Baldwin was great in THE DEPARTED too (really great) but the difference between those mentions and the ones above, is that the characters in my short list above are so memorable, they stand out from the actor and many of us can quote their particularly memorable lines of dialogue.

What lists would you make? Who are your most memorable movie characters? Can you quote them? Do you quote them from time to time -

You lookin’ at me?

You have no idea.

All right Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my close up.

Yeah, baby, yeah!

And more importantly – are you writing characters this memorable? It’s not easy, god no – but it’s what we should strive for, right? Writing a character so memorable that what your character says will wind up in the lexicon of great movie dialogue. How amazing would that be?


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