Say What?
-Listen to your dialogue-
by T Severe, Ph.D., Screenwriter/filmmaker


Ugh! Getting dialogue right can be a challenge. No wonder so many screenwriting workshops focus exclusively on writing strong dialogue. It really is so critical. How your character speaks creates someone who is believable and can instantly pull your audience into the world you’ve created. Each character should speak in a way that reflects their role in the story and gives insight into his or her personality. There are plenty of great resources you can locate elsewhere to really enhance your dialogue writing. PSA periodically sponsors speakers who assist our writers. But here are a few techniques you can do as you develop your script:

  1. Get friends/family to read your dialogue OUT LOUD. Even better, grab your phone and film it.
  2. If you can’t solicit readers, read a passage out loud yourself. In both cases, record it for playback.
  3. Most computers have text-to-speech. Great for proofing your work at times. Pick one of the preset voices your computer has and let it read a passage. Final Draft lets you assign voices to your characters. Try it. Then LISTEN to your dialogue. Does the dialogue work or does it sound wonky, forced, contrived or simply doesn’t fit the character? Ask yourself, would this character really talk like this? Would they really say that?

Remember, strong dialogue helps anchor your story in the audience’s mind. Need proof:

I’ll be back.
Help me, help you.
I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
You can’t handle the truth.
May the force be with you.
And of course: You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Keep writing.


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