05-14-2007 12:01 PM
Let's explore dialogue. For more information, read Chapter 6 in Writing Movies.
Dialogue is a curious thing in screenplays. It's incredibly important. Nothing sinks a screenplay (or movie) faster than terrible dialogue.
Even though each line needs to reveal worlds of information, dialogue still needs to sound spontaneous, a process for the writer that is anything but.
And it works all the better if characters are saying words that don't convey what they mean, but rather something other than what they mean.
The less dialogue your screenplay contains, the better. If ever you can replace dialogue with a visual means of conveying the information, you should, since movies are a visual medium.
To master screenwriting, you must master the contradictions of dialogue.
The Viewing Assignment
The Writing Exercise
Eavesdrop on a real-life conversation. Then try to write down the conversation verbatim, just as you heard it. It won't be possible unless you use a tape recorder, but try.
Then write a much briefer version of the conversation in screenplay format, distilling the essence of the characters and the situation. It's fine if you fabricate dialogue to achieve this. Keep your version under one page.
To share your passage with the group, create a New Message and use "(Your Book Club User Name), Dialogue -- Writing Exercise" in the subject line.