Dialogue is one of the most important elements in a
screenplay, for countless reasons. While great dialogue will not
automatically make your script golden, weak dialogue will definitely pull down
your script. It will not be an understatement to say that dialogue is the
fastest and most overt indicator of a writer’s voice and craft.
When we recall our favourite movie, one of the first things
we think of is the moments we love, especially the dialogues. Who can forget
the iconic Kitne aadmi the from Sholay or Ja Simran ja, jile aapni zindagi from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge! There are some dialogues
that we love and some we hate, which is why you have get it right. Want to know
more about how to write fabulous dialogues, read on!
to what’s around you
Listen to people very carefully, what
they are saying and what they are not saying with equal interest. The world is
full of dialogues, if you can hear them. We tend to think of dialogue as back
and forth between speakers. But when you listen, you realize that people talk
over each other constantly and rarely finish a thought completely.
Dialogue reveals what characters hide,
what people try to conceal. Since you are writing the character, you become the
characters you are writing.
You hear it in your head as you write it. The best thing you can do is sit with
your actors, do a dry run and make adjustments according to the requirements of
the character or the actor.
of your dialogue
Figure out the flow, the how, the when,
the why and it will be words in the right order. Movie conversations mostly
involve exchange of information (“the fingerprints match”). Figure out how the
characters would tell each other the information. Well written dialogue subtly
gives the facts, while badly written dialogue tends to give information in
You might come up with some punch lines
the first time, but for the rest of the dialogues, it is best to write the
first draft of a scene, without any punctuation. Next step is to write the
final version, when you have the blueprint for the scene. Read each line aloud,
over and over again, fine tuning it as you go, with better words.
listening or speaking?
Once you have the scene finished, read
the lines again to make sure the characters are not just speaking because they
have to. Sometimes, they might just need to listen and sometimes just nod or
express without dialogue. Write these finer nuances in it too to highlight the
Similar to writing a story, many a
times, the best way to improve dialogue is to cut it. After the draft is
complete, let it be for a couple of days; then revisit it and if a piece of
information is not important, cut it out. Develop the cut instinct. There might
be instances where there is a scene with 10 lines of dialogue, and you cut it to
five lines, then the five liner becomes two lines, and yet again the two lines
might end up with zero lines.
Screen dialogue is different from real-life dialogue, which is often
uninteresting for an outsider, and contains small talk. Whereas screen dialogue
is tight, interesting and engaging while being realistic and authentic. So,
keep your dialogue interesting, engaging and tight. If you want your screenplay
to click, keep your dialogue interesting, engaging and tight, which comes with
effort and a good amount of rewriting.
conflict where needed
Include as much drama and conflict as
possible as it keeps audiences engaged and makes them wonder what’s going to
every line out loud, and ask yourself whether that line is realistic for that
character at that time. See if it could be made any tighter. Make sure
every character has a distinct voice, since most scripts have multiple
characters. Every scene exists for a reason, so be sure that what you’re doing is
writing out the scenes that are integral to telling your story.
Effective dialogue is not an exact reproduction of real-life speech but rather
a condensed form that cuts out verbiage while retaining the flavor of
authentic, natural speech. Good dialogue imitates the natural rhythms of
everyday speech; it contains nuances, overtones and original turns of phrase
that bring out the individual personalities of characters.
Do you need dialogue in every scene?
Do characters have to use words to
respond to a question?
Do characters have to have something to
say in response to every comment or situation?
answer is No!
what is the Purpose of Dialogue?
To reveal character
To move the story forward
only dialogue can expose the real motivations and secrets of a character in all
their complexity. It’s especially effective when it exposes the character in an
entirely new way from what we as an audience expect. We use dialogue to
Dialogue reflects feelings and
There may be subtext. What is really
Direct dialogue drives people apart:
“You’re always late!” Indirect dialogue draws people together: “I know you had
to help your sister before you could come.”
Conflict in dialogue can reveal
Dialogue should move the story forward
& serve the plot.
mood of the story
The type of dialogue must be
appropriate for the genre of that specific film. Set the tone and style of the
story right away. This is especially important in comedy, so that we know that
it’s all right to laugh.
Good dialogue has a beat, a rhythm, and
a melody. It’s affected by time, place, the weather, and so much more. It’s
intangible like mist, and it depends on your characters and who they are, their
relationships, the situation, and the genre.
Sometimes you might to set up the story
in the first few words of dialogue.
From the start, keep in mind your final
end point, and build the dialogue toward the climax.
Write less than you think you need. See
and hear it as you write. Act it out in character.
See who is dominating the scene,
shifting dominance and apex.
word should have a purpose
Chinatown: Jake Gittes is relaying an off – color
joke to his male employees. The joke is not important, what is important is
Mrs. Mulwray is listening without Jake’s knowledge. The dialogue purpose is to
cause an awkward moment and put Jake off-guard.
Fiction, Jules gives his opinion of hamburgers. He is not trying to
instruct the young men in the apartment about beef patties, he is making it
clear that he is the most dangerous, unpredictable and powerful person in the
dialogue sound natural
Use contractions (“don’t”, “shouldn’t”,
“can’t”) unless a character is very stuffy or speaking in a very formal
Let characters break off sentences, or
speak in phrases rather than sentences. (You might think of these as verb less
sentences, they’re great for dialogue.)
Have characters interrupt one another.
Use the occasional “um” or “er”, if a
character is being particularly hesitant.
Find the character’s voice.
How your character speaks will bring
him or her to life. The dialogue you construct for your characters needs to be
specific. Let the dialogue help clarify characters.
What area of the world is the character
Is he foreign? Local?
What part of the country is he/she
Use of colloquial (not formal or
literary used on ordinary or familiar conversation) slang can reveal roots of
is the educational level of the character?
Big words or small words?
Malapropisms (the mistaken use of words
in place of a similar-sounding one. Often with unintentionally amusing effect.)
Understanding of the world.
Ability to make their point of view.
is the personality of the character?
Violent? Meek? (Quiet, gentle) Timid?
(Showing a lack of courage) Insecure? Proud? Egotistical?
Finds humor in every situation?
Chip on his shoulder?
Seduces with every word?
Dialogue is also about attitude. Characters with sunny dispositions may find
the silver lining on every storm cloud. Characters who view the world as a dark
and menacing place will find words, images and ideas to reflect that.