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The #1 Script Hack For Writing Dialogue That No One Talks About



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September 16, 2014 5 comments
Writing Dialogue

Are you struggling with writing dialogue? 

  • Have you ever received script coverage that’s given a “POOR” or “FAIR” rating to your screenplay dialogue?
  • Do you regularly get called out on your script dialogue by execs, producers, script consultants etc.?
  • Has your dialogue been called “clunky”, “unnatural”, “ineffectual”, “excessive”, “on-the-nose”? Or all of the above?

Don’t Worry, We Know What You’re Going Through

Mastering the skill of writing dialogue is a long and very painful process. Heck, sometimes even the pros get called out on writing bad dialogue.

But, what if we were to tell you there’s a simple dialogue hack that can dramatically improve the conversations in your screenplay in one month or less?

To find out what it is keep reading! Firstly, consider this:

Film Is Not Really About Dialogue At All

Film is 80% visual and 20% aural, and yet, when script readers at companies, producers, agents, etc. read a script, they tend to skim the description lines and focus on the dialogue.

The paradox is that although film is not based on screenplay dialogue, it’s the dialogue that gets more of the attention from most readers.

This means that you’d better make sure you know how to write dialogue and that it’s on the money.

It’d better NOT be “clunky”, “unnatural”, “ineffectual”, “excessive” or, god-forbid, “on-the-nose”.

Screenwriting books will often talk about improving writing dialogue in terms of “subtext, revealing information, hiding information,” etc. and often tend to get screenwriters lost in theoryville.

What they lack is a hands-on technique that gives almost instant results to improve your dialogue.

So, How Do You Dramatically Improve Your Script Dialogue In 30 Days?

Well, there’s one great little technique we’d like to pass on to you. And it is this:

  • Fire up your laptop and open a blank Final Draft document, or whatever screenwriting software you use.
  • Put on a movie in the genre for which your writing.
  • Type out the dialogue from the movie as you watch it.

And that’s it.

You don’t even have to write out the whole movie, you could just write out your favorite scenes. The important thing is that you type out exactly what’s being said by each character in the movie.

Doing this will literally force you into writing dialogue that sparkles.

It may not be your own great dialogue (yet) but it will force you to get into the rhythm of how great dialogue should sound: the phrasing, the length, the wit, the back and forth dialogue battles between characters etc. All of this will be absorbed into your own consciousness as you type it out.

This is an INCREDIBLY effective way of improving your script’s dialogue almost over night.

Do it enough — I’d say a minimum of twice a week for one month — and you’ll notice a marked upward shift in the quality of your dialogue. It’s really amazing how typing out a transcript really helps you learn how to write dialogue.

If typing directly from the screen sounds a bit daunting. here’s a shortcut that works almost as well:

A Second Method For Improving Your Script Dialogue

  • Go to a free screenplay download site like Drew’s Script-O-Rama.
  • Search for a script in your favored genre that’s presented as a transcript, not as the full original screenplay. The transcript will usually be just all dialogue and no description, which is what you want. (It helps if you know the film quite well). So, say you’re a comedy screenwriter, you could go to where you’ll find the transcript for The Heartbreak Kid.
  • Copy and paste the transcript into your favored screenplay software.
  • Go through the entire document and reformat the dialogue. Add the character names, put everything in it’s right place. Like typing directly from the movie, this will force you to get stuck into the dialogue and get a feel for how it works and flows.

Watch How Your Screenplay Dialogue Improves…

Whether you decide to type directly from a movie onto your laptop, or reformat a transcript, the important thing is that you do it consistently for a number of weeks.

A good way to get into the habit of doing this is to do it everyday as a warming up exercise before working on your own script.

Keep at it, reap the benefits and learn how to write dialogue like the pros.


Find out more great screenwriting hacks on Concept, Characters, Structure and much more on our online screenwriting course, ScriptHackr

  1. Tim says:

    I like the first idea. Do you just write out all the dialog transcript style with character names and such? Or do in one big chunk just to get it on the page as fast as possible?

    1. SRP says:

      Hey Tim, thanks for the comment. Whatever works for you. Whether you try and add character names as you go, or just get all the dialogue down first and then add names, you’ll probably end up pausing the movie a lot anyway.

  2. Farhan says:

    Not thought of this before. Will try it out, thanks guys!

  3. Stephen Bruce says:

    I love the concept underlying this exercise. For those of us who choose the manual typing method, how do we determine the proper punctuation so that dialogue reads the way we hear it performed onscreen? Should we include parentheticals where we see fit? And, even if we go with script-o-rama transcripts, don’t we risk misjudging sentence structure, format, etc. as we mentally match dialogue to onscreen performances?

  4. Michael says:

    This is super helpful i had not thought about doing this before. ,.

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