Mastering Natural Dialogue in your Screenplay
Updated: Apr 27
Dialogue is one of the most important aspects of a screenplay. If a screenplay doesn’t have proper dialogue, the script will not able to go anywhere.
It’s extremely important to understand why every screenwriter needs to master natural dialogue in their screenplay. With keeping factors such as making the conversations sound realistic, moving the story forward, conflict, and having each character have their own voice. All of which will propel any character into the best shape they can be in for the story.
One thing to note about dialogue is you want their conversations to sound relatively realistic. Meaning the audience will believe your dialogue. One great example of realistic dialogue can be found in Richard Linklater's film Before Sunrise. Despite the fact that the script was written in only 11 days, it proved to be one of the most amazing pieces of dialogue ever seen on film.
Beginners will often put people’s names in dialogue whenever they’re talking to someone. Meaning they’ll say “Hey Joe” or “Joe, want to get food” when in reality people just say “Hey” and “Want to get food”.
Other mistakes involve overwriting and underwriting. Meaning your characters sound way too intelligent to the point it’ll bore the audience or your characters sound too simplistic. Either way, the audience will lose interest fast.
Move the Story Forward
Think of dialogue as a way the move the story forward. For a script, the dialogue shouldn’t be anything, but achieving the goal of advancing the story. If dialogue is simply thrown into a script for laughs or to just increase the page count, no one will be interested in your script. In simple terms, don’t waste the audience’s time with pointless dialogue.
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Just about every script is filled in every scene with conflict. Conflict is almost always told through dialogue. If you don’t have any conflict in your dialogue, no one will care about your story.
Think about any film or tv show, every scene has conflict in it. Even basic sitcoms have a character’s goal that ends up meeting some sort of conflict during an episode.
Each Character has their own Voice
It’s important every character has their own individual voice that makes them unique from each other. The best way to do this is to write some dialogue for each character then be able to tell which character is which simply from the dialogue.
To help your character’s be individual and unique, I recommend creating character sketches for all of your characters. A character sketch isn’t a drawing of a character, but it lists several questions about your character to figure out who they are.
Dialogue is extremely important in the world of screenwriting. If someone can’t come up with great dialogue, then their script will fall short. Even films that have barely any dialogue in them still have strong dialogue when it occurs. Always work on your dialogue for your script.