Dialogue Technique: AD LIB GREETINGS
July 27th, 2019
Writing good dialogue is hard. We all struggle with it at times and sometimes we struggle all the time. Finding the right tone, voice, etc. to make characters sound real is hard enough let alone focusing on moving the plot forward or developing character. One thing I have noticed is the needless dialogue some people use. Is it really necessary to dialogue your characters saying “hi” and “top of the morning” to one another? Maybe it is, but most likely it's not.
Remember one of the most important Golden Rules of screenwriting, “get into your scene as late as possible and out as soon as possible.” Meaning, don’t include chit chat and other needless things that aren’t moving the story forward or developing (showing) character.
So I ask you how is starting off with characters introducing themselves or saying “hi” getting into the scene as late as possible? It’s not. Again, not that you can’t have a scene or scenes that do this but they better be fore a reason like the characters don’t like each other or they haven’t seen one another in a long time and there’s some kind of dramatic moment.
But it’s not just starting off your scenes with such trivial dialogue, it’s also avoiding the breaking up of the pace and flow of the scene for the reader. There’s a technique to forgo such niceties as characters greeting one another. It’s what I have seen (and use) as the “AD LIB GREETINGS” technique. Here is a good example of what I am talking about from Ronald D. Moore’s 17TH PRECINCT, “Equinox” episode script:
See how that scene just keeps its pace and flow without inserting the “Hi Jeff” and “Hey Isreal” dialogue? Again, if there was a dramatic purpose like sarcasm or whatever, fine, but most of the time you can use this technique and keep the pace and flow of the read for your reader and remember those readers are very important.
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(Follow on Twitter) Christopher Wehner is a published author and produced screenwriter, EL CAMINO CHRISTMAS @Netflix and AMERICAN DREAMER (later this year); visit his IMDB page for future projects. Christopher has been a leading member of the online screenwriter's community going back to the 1990s. In 2001 he published the groundbreaking book Screenwriting on the Internet: Researching, Writing and Selling Your Script on the Web,.
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