How to write dialogue in scriptwriting?

Dialogues section is the part where the characters’ conversations are written in the screenplay. In this post, we will talk about how to write dialogue.

In a screenplay page, dialogues look like this:

how to write dialogue
This example is based on Time to Love (1965) by Turkish director Metin Erksan.

How to write dialogue in a screenplay is directly related to the understanding of function dialogues. Let’s explain it with examples.

How to write dialogue: What is dialogue?

Dialogues are not about what you want to tell in your story. Therefore, you should not try to tell your story and explain events through your characters’ dialogues. You should only include organic conversations that arise from the interaction of characters with their environment and each other.

For example, let’s say an executive officer was commissioned to collect the debt of a close friend of him. It is not pleasant to confiscate a friend’s personal belongings, such as television. But at the same time, the officer must fulfill his duty. Imagine that this dilemma is the mainframe of your story. As you write a story about this situation, you shouldn’t reveal the main conflict in dialogues very directly like this: “I am very uneasy to confiscate Ahmet’s belongings. But I have to fulfill my duty.” Because you are not expected to explain the situation in this way, rather you should construct an original event and present it to the audience by using the audiovisual opportunities provided by the art of cinema.

Your character’s description of the situation in the dialogue may eliminate the curiosity about both the character and the event, and leaving no space for the reader/viewer to explore. We, therefore, advise you not to reveal your characters’ inner motives and not to see them as a means of explanation. Because screenplays relying on too much dialogue use the opportunities provided by literature and theater art, rather than cinematic art in which the dialogues are not the main means of expression. The main role of dialogue in scriptwriting is not to tell a story, but to create a narrative that emerges through the interaction of characters. This allows us to recognize and empathize with the characters. Even if your characters speak to the audience as an inner voice, the goal here is not to tell the story or explain the situation, but to interact with the audience.

Make your dialogue flow

Just like the other sections, the dialogue part is also should flow in your screenplay. For example, you should avoid adding action lines between your dialogues. If necessary, you can type actions in parentheses just below the characters’ names.

Of course, you should use this method economically. If you add an explanation to each dialogue, you can have more problems. The most common mistake made here is to express the feelings of the characters. For example, you do not need to specify specifically whether a character is angry or confused. The reader should already be able to understand this from the course of the stage and the dialogue. A well-written script has organically embraced all emotions in the dialogue without any explanation.

Realistic Dialogues

Dialogues should be character-specific. Most of the time, as different characters come from the same author, they can create the feeling that the same person is talking. So make sure your characters use different ways of expression. Realistic dialogues are also about how much real the characters that you create. Therefore, you need to put realism into the characters’ actions before your dialogues. Writing realistic dialogues is not really mean that dialogues are written as a real dialogue. That is, you do not need to include pauses, word repetitions, mouth and accent usages in dialogues. In any case, you should write the dialogues as much as understandable in a proper language and leave such details to the actors and the director.

In the next post, we will write a screenplay example.

Next post: Screenplay examples: Practical scriptwriting

Previous post: How to write screenplay action lines?

How to write dialogue FAQ

What is dialogue?

Dialogue is the part where the characters’ conversations are written in the screenplay. Dialogues are not about what you want to tell in your story, but what your characters are saying. Therefore, you should not try to tell your story and explain events through your characters. You should only include organic conversations that arise from the interaction of characters with their environment and with each other.

What is the role of dialogue in a screenplay?

The main role of dialogue in scriptwriting is not to tell a story, but to create a narrative that emerges through the interaction of characters. This allows us to recognize and empathize with the characters. Even if your characters speak to the audience as an inner voice, the goal here is not to tell the story or explain the situation, but to interact with the audience.

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