Author Topic: Top 3 tips for writing good dialogue  (Read 999 times)

Daniel Botha

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Top 3 tips for writing good dialogue
« on: May 08, 2013, 12:14:58 PM »
Something that always tends to pull me out of a screenplay is poorly written dialogue, which can sometimes come across as incredibly awkward and sometimes what writers refer to as "on-the-nose". When I first started out, I had no idea what either of these terms meant and I had no idea how to solve the issue. It can be confusing at times and incredibly frustrating.

Truth is, writing dialogue isn't often a skill that comes naturally to screenwriters, just like writers don't immediately develop a style and they don't always master structure on their first attempt. Writing good dialogue takes time and a lot of practice.

Having said that, there are a few tips that I usually follow to keep my dialogue tolerable. It's not brilliant, by any means, but the way I write dialogue at the moment at least gets readers through the script.

1) Read your dialogue out to yourself. Weigh down every word and determine whether individual words actually have a place in your character's dialogue. It's important to know ow our characters sounds. What I've just recently started doing is recording myself reciting the dialogue into my small microphone and playing it back to myself. I sound like a loony, but it helps to know how things actually sound.

2) Have distinctive voices for every character. Easier said than done, IMO. What I usually try and do is create stereotypical characters. It's a bit judgemental, I know, but by immediately putting my characters into certain social groups, I know exactly how they are going to communicate with each other. For example, I might make a trashy character, which results in frequent use of shortened words and things like that. Match the way your characters talk to their background. Hopefully, the result will be dialogue that works.

3) Eavesdrop!! Next time you're somewhere public, take some time to just listen to other people talking to each other. Mentally take notes of certain traits within their speech and things like that. Considering how real people talk while writing dialogue, should result in your characters sounding like real people. Nothing fake comes across when you pay close attention to real people in the real world. It's not all your figment of your imagination.

I have other tips, like limiting the use of profanities and things like that, but I'll leave this thread at that.

Does anyone have their own tips? Or does anyone disagree with my own tips? Would be great to hear your own opinions.

Dan

Dave Troop

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Re: Top 3 tips for writing good dialogue
« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2013, 12:27:23 PM »
Some very good tips, Daniel.

I just wanted to offer one tip for writing good dialogue. 

Your characters need to know when to shut up.

Sometimes the best dialogue is no dialogue at all.  In certain scenes, your characters may be able to convey more with a look or gesture. 
Or the scene might go on too long. Too much dialogue can kill a scene, destroy the pace,  or bore the audience.
A good witer must be able to edit. 




Nybabz

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Re: Top 3 tips for writing good dialogue
« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2013, 02:40:57 PM »
Some very good tips, Daniel.

I just wanted to offer one tip for writing good dialogue. 

Your characters need to know when to shut up.

Sometimes the best dialogue is no dialogue at all.  In certain scenes, your characters may be able to convey more with a look or gesture. 
Or the scene might go on too long. Too much dialogue can kill a scene, destroy the pace,  or bore the audience.
A good witer must be able to edit. 


HOLLA!!!!


Daniel Botha

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Re: Top 3 tips for writing good dialogue
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2013, 03:54:36 PM »
Some very good tips, Daniel.

I just wanted to offer one tip for writing good dialogue. 

Your characters need to know when to shut up.

Sometimes the best dialogue is no dialogue at all.  In certain scenes, your characters may be able to convey more with a look or gesture. 
Or the scene might go on too long. Too much dialogue can kill a scene, destroy the pace,  or bore the audience.
A good witer must be able to edit. 


Yes! An awesome tip, Dave. I think it's important for writers to remember that as great as dialogue may be, it isn't always needed. I'd substitute a brilliant line of dialogue for a visual that shows a character trait anyday. Very important thing to think about. Thanks.

Dan

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Re: Top 3 tips for writing good dialogue
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2013, 01:16:14 AM »
I'd substitute a brilliant line of dialogue for a visual that shows a character trait anyday.

I don't know how much I agree with that part, specifically. A great line of dialogue can live on forever. Very rarely is there a particular visual that has that kind of staying power.
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tailbest

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Re: Top 3 tips for writing good dialogue
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2013, 02:23:34 AM »
I think it all depends on the context. It's hard to get a great line of dialogue, but it's also hard to have a great gesture. You really can't force either and should try to do what naturally fits best.

Though, I'm horrendous at dialogue, so I guess I should know when to shut up  :)
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Daniel Botha

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Re: Top 3 tips for writing good dialogue
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2013, 07:20:14 AM »
I don't know how much I agree with that part, specifically. A great line of dialogue can live on forever. Very rarely is there a particular visual that has that kind of staying power.

I think great lines of dialogue are born when there is no way of telling that specific part visually. I see were you're coming from, though.

Mr. Blonde

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Re: Top 3 tips for writing good dialogue
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2013, 07:58:48 AM »
I still stand by the fact that the best dialogue happens with in conjunction with something visual. One of the favorites (a lot of people's favorites, probably) is from Terminator 2 (which had a bunch of great lines) but where the motorcycle cop asks the T-1000 if he's all right. He says, "Fine" then turns away before scanning the motorcycle and says, "Say, that's a nice bike." Good times. =)
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Writer Arena

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Re: Top 3 tips for writing good dialogue
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2013, 10:31:49 PM »
I always like to think that there's some scripts that rely on dialogue to tell the story and when they do that dialogue better be great.

Then there are scripts where the dialogue is purely functional.  In which case, it should be snappy but it shouldn't get in the way.

It all depends on where you're trying to sell the script but I think there's room for both kinds.   

Pia

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Re: Top 3 tips for writing good dialogue
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2013, 08:11:39 AM »
I'm not very good at dialogue. It makes the pages go by, but I wish I could skip it entirely.

tailbest

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Re: Top 3 tips for writing good dialogue
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2013, 08:47:32 AM »
I honestly think that great dialogue comes natural to certain people. Others can work real hard at it and make good dialogue overall while others will always struggle with it. Each writer has their strengths and weaknesses, which is why a site like this is good for all writers.
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Alex

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Re: Top 3 tips for writing good dialogue
« Reply #11 on: May 26, 2013, 12:12:06 PM »
Hey Dan,

Some good tips here and I have to also say from the collaboration on our feature, character Bio's would have to be up there in importance. It sets the backstory for the character, his/her likes and dislikes and the characters personality.

Whether the reader knows the backstory is irrelevant, as it comes across in the feel of his writing. You have to know the character well to know what he/she would do and say.

I would recommend after a first draft, write the bio's, then comeback in the edit and redo their dialogue. It will make the characters and dialogue impacting.

Alex
« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 12:14:48 PM by Alex Sarris »
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