How to Write Great Dialogue - Low Budget Filmmaking Ep 3

How to Write Great Dialogue - Low Budget Filmmaking Ep 3

You may watch the tutorial on the youtube video below

When to use Dialogue (spoken lines):
Filmmaking can also be called "visual story telling" and it's called visual for a reason, it means telling the story visually, so that's what you should be basically focusing on. In other words, if you can tell an information visually without dialogue, then do it.
Some people make the mistake of giving away all the informations through the dialogue, maybe because they think that the viewers may not understand what's going on, well that ruins it, people will understand, they are smart enough, instead they should use context and subtext.. .. no need to go in depth in the meaning of these two words for now, I'm just gonna give you an example so that you'll get what I'm talking about:
Imaging two people at the airport, you showed a scene of plane landing, then back to the characters, one of them tells the other
"the plane just landed", this line is totally useless, because we already saw that, unless  telling the line serves a purpose or the way it was said will reveal something different.

How much dialogue do you need:
There's a rule in the filmmaking industry that says "start the scene as late as possible, and finish it as soon as possible", which means there's no need for all the small talk every time, like: "hi", "how are you", "what have you been doing", "see you later", "bye", "have fun"...etc unless they serve a purpose.

1- Do not be boring:
(This is actually the Golden rule that affects all the others)
we live in a time where the viewers have soo many options and choices, if you want them to finish watching your movie, the last thing you want is to bore them with useless scenes and information, so think about that in every line of dialogue.

2- Your dialogue must be human and logical but not actually real:
Hows that? in real life we say a lot of non sense, we talk in all directions, we tend to avoid the point.. you don't want that in your movie because it's boring, what you need is a dialogue that it's short and straight to the point and that's sells it as real even if it's not, you'll never hear people in real life talking like in movies.

3- Do not drop facts in the first lines of dialogue:
Spread them all over your movie timeline, save some till people are curious and wondering.

4- keep sentences as short as possible:
Like I said earlier, in real life we tend to talk a lot of nonesense in our conversations and sometimes after the conversation ends we think about a great punchline that we could have said, well when you are writing a dialogue you have all the time in the world to think and come up with it. The best dialogue is the one that has short punchlines.

For example, a kid came home from school, he told his mom "mom I was expelled today", and then later the mum meets the dad and tells him "your son was expelled today" this is repitition and repitition is boring, even if it is done scenes later, because the viewers already know this information, saying it again is a waste of time.
You can fix this by cutting directly to the reaction of the father, for example having him saying "WHAT? why? what did he do?" and then continue the conversation, the viewers will understand what the mum just told him.

Everything you write in your dialogue should be either:
moving the story forward - revealing character - or at least entertaining 
if it's neither of that then make it short, of course your dialogue can not be all perfect.

Those tips should be enough, but we can even go deeper as to how to make your dialogue even greater by concidering these three interesting points:

1- The intention:
the dialogue has to match the intention of the character in  the scene not just transfer information from writer to audience, each character has their own personality, motives, and back-story, they are not robots, they are expressing their own desires through the lines they say, so the dialogue should not be separated from the character as a whole. Which will lead us to the next point:

2- Uniqueness:
Or "unique characters", every character has different way of talking, different vocabulary that depends on their status, education, where they grew up... for example a doctor with talk in a different way than a criminal, the choice of word is important. 
Do not write the dialogue as if it was YOU talking 
Use different keywords for each character, for example for the expression "what?" some say "what's that?", some would say "excuse me?".. and so on, same for the word "NO" some say "no", some say "nope"... so when you are writing a line for a certain character think about the way they use these expressions and stick to it, for example if John says NOPE, then every time John has to say "no" it's better if you make him say "nope".
some people in real life say a word or an expression a lot, for example "you know", or "like".. you can use that and make one of your character stick with one of them.  
it helps in building an independent character, that is believable and that s not you.
Or if you can, rehearse your dialogue with your actual actors, it will help you write the dialogue according to your character's personality

3- Contrast and conflicts: 
It's better when the two people or more in the dialogue are different with different motives and intentions, so be aware of those things as you write, if the characters are the same the scene will be boring. this is not a "must do" rule, as it is impossible to do that in every scene but if there's room for it then do it, it will make the scene more intense and interesting.

Now we are done with the rules, let's talk about how to apply them:
Following the rules may actually kill your inspiration and flow or writing, they limit your creation, so what you should do is just forget about them at first and just write.
Once you're done writing the whole thing, it's time to apply the rules and correct all the mistakes. Go through your dialogue over and over and each time you do, focus on one aspect, one thing at a time, for example first time focus on shortening the lines and removing any useless words, next time focus on customizing the vocabulary of characters (changing the "No"s and "yeahs" and other expressions), next time try to create contrast... etc..

Last thing I'd like to say is, good dialogue writers are also good listeners, so if you wanna get better then listen, listen to random conversations, pay attention to the dialogues while you're watching movies... and of course the best way to improve is to write your own dialogues and to make mistakes.
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