When the twins were only girls they were once watching Little House on the Prairie, the Michael Landon show, and Mary was getting married and leaving someone behind or something, and she said to the guy, “I will always hold your head in my heart.”

The twins burst out laughing. Even as young girls, they caught exactly  how corny a line that was!

The problem with such a statement is that it conjures up the ridiculous image of literally taking someone’ s head off their shoulders, and sticking it in your heart.

Now of course that’s not what the character meant, but in order to avoid cheesy writing, purple prose, you have to avoid any kind of statement, even if it’s a common expression, that conjures up a ridiculous image.

A while ago I used to frequent a writer’s chat room. And there was one guy who called himself Silenteye and claimed to be a household name but wouldn’t reveal who he was. I think it might have been William Goldman.

Anyway, whenever someone would type ‘so and so rolled their eyes’, he would reply, “Silenteye rolled them back.”

I learned not to ‘roll’ my eyes. And everytime I come across that expression I think of Silenteye. Even though it’s a common expression, it still has a disorienting aspect to it.

Same with the statement ‘his eyes wandered all over her…’. I read an article or book or something about writing tips, and one of the best tips I’ll always remember was the one to beware the disembodied eyes. Basically, eyes coming out of their sockets and travelling on their own, at least in words.

You can say his gaze wandered over her, or he measured her with his gaze, but don’t talk about eyes going anywhere except within their sockets.

Long after the hype of any movie, the dialogue and story lives on. The words the characters say, if the movie’s any good, should hold up over time and not cause later generations to giggle.

That’s the mark of a true classic.

The dialogue in Gone with the Wind still rings true even after decades. The acting might be a little cheesy for today’s standards, but close your eyes and you can hear the truth of what Rhett is saying to Scarlett and vice versa.

On the other hand,  the two movies I was watching back and forth the other night are two examples to whom time has not been so kind.

The first Ben Hur has dialogue that is every bit as giggle-worthy as Mary’s line about holding someone’s head in her heart. (The Ten Commandments is even worse–but that’s fodder for another post!)

The other movie I was watching is actually just as bad, and yet it’s only fourteen years old. I’m talking about Titanic.

I never did see it in the cinemas. I tend to like to watch blockbusters after the hype has died down somewhat.

I think it’s because I always listen to a movie more than I watch it.

I think I’m a very auditory person, but even I didn’t catch what was really bothering me about Titanic right away.

It was my friend Sydell who said that boy, the dialogue needed editing! She’d said how she’d have liked to take a blue pencil to all the ‘Jack’s’ and ‘Rose’s’.

Sample (pardon any inaccuracies). The scene where Jack Dawson (Leonardo Di Caprio’s character) is handcuffed to the pipe in the lower regions of the ship. The ship is starting to sink.

Kate Winslet: Jack! I found you!

Leonardo Di Caprio: Rose! You came! How did you know?

Kate: I didn’t.

Leo: The ship is sinking, Rose. Go. Go get help.

Kate: Okay, Jack.

She comes back with an axe.

Leo: You found an axe Rose!

Kate: Yes, Jack!

Leo: Okay Rose, take a few practice hits.

Kate: Like this Jack?


You get the picture!

Honestly, I’ve always thought the star of that movie was the shipwreck. And for Ben Hur the star is definitely the chariot race.

Notice in both those scenes there is very little dialogue!