Writing Dialogue for Scripts
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Writing dialogue effectively requires the writer to depart from the narrative. Instead, script writing is far more basic, although that doesn’t mean it is any lesson challenging. The writer has to have an accurate understanding about how people really interact with each other. Most interactions between people are based not on what you hear but what you see. Body language and emotions are what ultimately make dialogue realistic. Wooden dialogue produces emotionless acting. This is why the scriptwriter must have the ability to create words that the actors can truly bring to life.
Along these same lines, a great dialogue writer should not need to coach the actor on how they are supposed to respond emotionally to the script. If an actor has to be told what to do, it does not only bruise his/her ego, it is evidence that the script is weak. Indeed, when the writing is strong and contains precise words and phrases then the emotion and behavior that the actors should exhibit will be self-evident.
A major mistake that novice writers make in writing dialogue, especially when they are accustomed to writing narratives, is the need to add all the details and cues. They fail to remember that what they’re writing is going to be used in a movie, television program, or play and that all the subtleties will already be on display in the form of acting. Trying to micromanage every aspect will lead to acting that sounds forced and unnatural. The writer must also realize that their idea about how the dialogue should be acted out might be at odds with the actors themselves as well as the director. Obviously the scriptwriter puts their own mark into anything they do, but ultimately a good actor makes the dialogue really shine.
A skilled dialogue writer must have a realistic understanding about how people speak and even a grasp on human psychology. The writer should develop a personality profile of the characters being portrayed in the story. For example, they know that a 7 year-old girl in a story is not going to engage in the same way as a 60 year-old professor. Thus, a good scriptwriter manages to wrap his/her around the various personalities and make them distinct. The alternative of making all the characters speak in the same way leads to boring, uninspired stories as well as making them unbelievable to the audience. When the personalities are realistic, the actors and director will be more likely to trust the writer’s vision and go along with it rather than using their own license as an actor.
Another tip when writing dialogue is to be visual. A good writer is able to close his/her eyes and imagine the scene being played out as they think about the dialogue. A helpful exercise for an inspiring scriptwriter is to watch a TV show/movie and jot down its dialogue. Next, they should read the dialogue again without watching it on the screen. If show. Then turn off the TV and read the dialogue alone. If the words still manage to evoke the scene that you’d just viewed, it means the writer was successful in transferring script into emotion.
The best way to become an effective dialogue writer is to study people. Spend time with friends and family, paying close attention to their interactions. Very often a character that is written into a movie or TV program is based on somebody the writer knows in real life. Also, watch TV and movies as a student of the art of dialogue and not just for pleasure. These tips will lead to success as a dialogue writer.