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How To Write Great Screenplay Dialogue
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If you want to write a great screenplay, learning how to write screenplay dialogue that is compelling and realistic is a must. Here's how to tighten up your dialogue and avoid the biggest mistakes made by amateur screenwriters.
One of the biggest mistakes that aspiring screenplay writers make is writing extremely long passages of dialogue. You should strive to get your point across in a crisp, concise way to make the character's conversation flow and fit into the pace of a film. Taking several sentences to convey a simple idea makes your writing seem clunky and you'll quickly lose your reader's interest.
Learning to be economical with your screenplay dialogue is a major boon to writers. You should also avoid using vocalizations or sounds in your screenplay to try and convey what your character is thinking or feeling. Using descriptions of your character's facial expressions or gestures is also something that you should avoid.
Another mistake that amateurs make when writing screenplay dialogue is simply not knowing their character's personalities well enough to differentiate each of their lines. If there is no way to tell which character is speaking without looking at the character's names on the script, then you haven't done enough to establish their own particular way of speaking.
If you think about the Star Wars series of films, you'll recognize that each character has their own particular way of speaking. You'd never mistake Luke Skywalker's hopeful, youthful way of speaking for Darth Vader's evil and menacing more sophisticated speech.
One great character in that series is Yoda and his completely distinctive way of speaking. At first, it might seem distracting but it soon becomes part of the character's charm and completely sets him apart from all of the other characters.
Don't overdo it with the gimmicks. After all, there can only be one Yoda and the character of Jar Jar Binks completely fell flat and his way of speech actually infuriated audiences. The point is to make full use of the writer's toolbox of varying rhythm, vocabulary, cadence and diction to give each of your character's their own unique voice in keeping with their personalities and background.
There are some writers such as Quentin Tarrantino who can get away with breaking the rules and writing long soliloquies and letting their characters get quite long winded. Part of the reason he gets away with it is because he is such a proven commodity and also because his films are generally backed by independent financing companies and not the major studios.
For new screenwriters who are trying to break into the business, it's advised to be as economical with screenplay dialogue. Perfect your ability to deliver clear, crisp dialogue to get your foot in the door and to be as versatile as possible. As in most fields, as you build a reputation and a track record, you will gain more freedom to go outside the accepted best practices and experiment with different forms of dialogue and pacing.
To sum up, if you want to get a break in screenwriting, you'll have to learn to write dialogue that is engaging while at the same time economical. Use the dialogue to convey your character's thoughts and reactions instead of relying on vocalizations and notes on expression and gestures. Be sure to give each of your characters a unique voice that makes them stand apart. Remember these things and you'll be well on your way to creating the kind of screenplay dialogue that sells scripts.
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