September 16, 2008

Getting Stories From Real Life - 2: More From Casey Anthony

Recordings of the police interviews (interrogations?) of Casey Anthony have been released by the authorities, and audio versions are available for downloading online. (Get the audio here.)

Take these, compare them with the transcriptions contained in the 400 pages of police files previously released for download and you've got some interesting source material for consideration. (Get the 400 pages here.)

For example, listening to Casey Anthony's smooth delivery about her work at Universal, dropping off the baby with Zanny the Nanny, etc., is very educational when you've read the corresponding transcripts in the 400 pages. Consider both the questions and the answers surrounding her admission that she's been lying to the policemen....

Personally, I think this is a great help in learning how to write dialogue. I'm particularly fascinated with how she pauses, her choice of words, the ramblings and the sparceness ... absolutely.

As a lawyer, deposition transcripts have held some of this information for me. Video depos were always preferred, if they were cost-effective, because the jury would get so much more information from them. Having a lawyer take the stand to read from a transcript isn't the same at all: a tremendous amount of information is lost, even if you do get to read the question, "were you lying then or are you lying now?" and the inevitably doomed response (those are the moments that a litigator lives for) ...

Juicy depositions notwithstanding, these Anthony police interviews are much more enlightening than any deposition I've seen or heard or read. And, it's not often that the real world provides such an opportunity.

One last thing -- remember how Dean Koontz is adamant that the only word to be used when writing dialogue is the word "said"? No 'he explained', no 'she exclaimed', no 'he gasped' ... you get the idea.

Well, that Koontz rule makes so much more sense to me after this Casey Anthony lesson. Not only do I believe that anything aside from the word "said" serves only to distract, if the dialogue is authentic, it's the only thing that's needed - or that even makes sense.

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