• Anthony Hett

How to write a short film - Writing dialogue (part two)

Hello and welcome to my blog, where I offer simple and practical advice on how to write and make an interesting, engaging and hopefully successful short film.

In today‘s blog post I will be talking a second look at Writing dialogue.

Now I could literally talk about dialogue all day long, it's definitely one of my favourite topics. But in the spirit of trying to keep these posts relatively short and succinct, here are three more tips for improving your dialogue.

Show don't tell

It's difficult to express just how important I think this is when writing both short and feature length films. Unless you are writing a stage play, I would always avoid writing exposition wherever possible.

Now of course sound, music and dialogue are all incredibly important elements of a film but it is important to remember that film is a visual medium. Therefore, when I say to avoid exposition, what I mean is that you never say something in your dialogue that can be said with an image or series of images.

Word economy

Similar to when I discussed writing scene action, I would recommend keeping dialogue concise. Of course there are different styles of dialogue and it is important that you find the style that works best for you. However, for me, if a line of dialogue isn’t telling the audience something about the story or a character, you need to ask yourself: what is it doing and is it really needed?

If it doesn't have a strong purpose for being in the script, then it is simply taking up time, something you don’t have in a short film script. I would therefore avoid any small talk in your dialogue, unless it is saying something about the situation or relationship between characters. I would also try to avoid using long speeches.

Individual voice

I strongly believe that it is vital for all of your characters to have their own individual voices. One thing that I feel severely lets a script down is when you find that all of the characters sound the same and even worse, they all sound just like the writer. It is important to know who your characters are, so that you can understand how they speak and therefore what sets their lines apart from the lines of other characters.

It is important to do the hard work on your characters, this is something I discussed in my post Knowing your characters and if you'd like to know more about how to understand your characters better, make sure to read my posts on Character breakdowns and Character bibles.

So that concludes my thoughts on Writing dialogue. I hope that you found them helpful. Let me know what you think in the comments below and share this post with anyone who you think might find it helpful. Be sure to check out my YouTube videos and previous blog posts, and don't forget that there are new videos and blog posts every Wednesday at 9am (gmt). My next post will be discussing The difference between story and plot.