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How To Write
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Quick Start
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Getting Started
What to Write
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Fundamentals
Characterization
Plot
Scene
Dialogue
 
Short Scripts
Plot
Character
 
Format
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Types of scripts
Slug line
Scene Description Lines
Terms
example
 
Perfecting
Beware!
Rewriting
 
Helpful Things
Stop Theft!
Teacher's Information
Resources
About This Guide
 
 
 
 
How To Write
A Movie
Contents
Quick Start
Example:
Prom Date
 
Getting Started
What to Write
Writing Methods
 
Fundamentals
Characterization
Plot
Scene
Dialogue
 
Short Scripts
Plot
Character
 
Format
Specifications
Types of scripts
Slug line
Scene Description Lines
Terms
example
 
Perfecting
Beware!
Rewriting
 
Helpful Things
Stop Theft!
Teacher's Information
Resources
About This Guide
 
 
Dialogue 

Writing What People Say

In real life, I'm not a person who does much small talk and I'm kind of quiet, unless I'm leading a seminar. But I make a lot of noise on paper. In fact, my dialogue tends to run on and on. Many people have the opposite problem, they talk a lot, but find dialogue difficult to write. Whether people find it difficult or easy, their dialogue usually needs a lot of polishing. 

Dialogue is the words that people say. There is no place for a he said, or she felt, just the words. Example:

ELIZABETH

Thanks a lot, dweeb!

You might clarify Elizabeth's emotions with a dialogue instruction if there is a compelling reason. For example, Elizabeth understands why her boyfriend, John, made her angry: he was having problems at home.
ELIZABETH

(Compassionately)

Thanks a lot, dweeb.

Good stories with good dialogue will leave little doubt as to the meaning and will not need compassionately, but use enough dialogue instructions to make it clear.

Dialogue should be as short, or crisp, as possible. The standard dialogue line is three inches long. Three of those lines is about as long as will play well. When it is longer, it needs to be focused, broken up, or polished. 

Trying to say too many things at one time is a common problem. Make the line say just one thing, or respond to the previous line and say something new. Take the following poor dialogue for example:

JOHN
I've been looking all over for you. Where 

were you today? I've looked up and 

down the hall and in all the classes. I 

couldn't figure it out! What do you want 

to do after class? I'm going to the frog 

races, do you want to come?

ELIZABETH
I've been around - you know me, I'm

lost half the time. Sorry you missed me. 

I don't know what I want to do after class. 

Frog races! I may be out of my mind, but 

I'm not crazy. No, let's do something else.

Elizabeth responded to each of Johnís questions, but I doubt that even John could understand. 

Compare to this:
 
 

JOHN
Where were you today?
 
 
ELIZABETH
How should I know? I just inhabit this 

body. I skipped out again.
 
 

JOHN 
Not again! I was afraid of that. I've been 

looking all over for you.
 
 

ELIZABETH
I'm so sorry, John. It's sweet of you to 

look out for me.
 
 

JOHN
I'm going to the frog races after class. 

Want to come?
 
 

ELIZABETH
Frog races! Just because my mind is 

gone, that doesn't mean I'm crazy.
 
 

JOHN
Then can I give you a lift home?
Elizabeth staggers across the sidewalk and looks faint. John holds her steady.
JOHN 
Yes, I will take you home.
Reinforcement Question:

1) Dialogue should:

a) Talk about next weeks date, hobbies, and what's new on TV.

b) Be as brief as possible and focus on what the character wants.

c) Be three inches long, and usually not over three lines.

Reply to previous dialogue and say something new. 

"b." and "c" and "d."

Next: Format

Distribution:

You are free to give this article in its entirety to others (small groups, under 100) as long as the copyright with my name (Dorian Scott Cole) is included. This material is not public domain and may not be sold, mass distributed, published, or made electronically available in any form, without permission from Dorian Scott Cole. Complementary distribution (unpaid - no charge) will not be charged for. Visit the Visual Writer Web site for e-mail address information.


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