Los Angeles Film School – Hollywood Dialogue Writing Composition


The following scene is full of obvious exposition. Rewrite the scene using conflict, humor, or a confidante to replace obvious exposition.Please carefully read the powerpoint and use the example from pdf file.
SAL So when did you move to Cleveland? TED About two years ago. SAL You are kidding.I moved here two years ago myself. TED What are you doing now? SAL I work for a large investment banker. TED I’m a successful umpire. SAL I love baseball.But I have no time to go anymore, let alone play.I used to be a pitcher on the bank’s softball team. TED I’m getting a little bored with it, actually. SAL How could you? Everyone loves baseball.My kids especially do. TED I have no kids. SAL I thought you were married. TED I was. We divorced.My wife was very selfish; she didn’t want to ruin her figure with children. SAL I have three great kids. TED That’s great. SAL One from each of my marriages.But the third time is the charm; my new wife is a wonderful woman.

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COM 213-Writing for Media
• Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should
contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no
unnecessary sentences for the same reason a
drawing should have no unnecessary lines and
a machine no unnecessary parts.”
–William Strunk
Role of Dialogue
• Advances the Story
• Reveal the characters
• Plays off of the visual world of the film
Seeing is More Powerful
• Show rather than tell
• Dialogue is among the least important parts of
screenplay-yes intelligent talk is always better
than dumb stuff- per William Goldman
• Most believe screenplays are dialogue rather
than structure
• Titanic-lousy dialogue-it is Cameron’s action,
visual imagery-but better dialogue would be
No One Talks Like That!
• Dialogue is not real speech. It must sound
natural-its an echo of real speech that has
been carefully edited and designed to appear
as real
• Characters who want nothing say nothing-so
tie to motivation/conflict
• Get off the nose-use subtext, hidden
meanings, etc.-dialogue is an iceberg
How Can I Say This/ Dialogue
• In the Headlines-plays they have to express
action, etc. in the film world we can see it-say
only what needs to be said
• Leap-frogging-get to the important thought or
emotion without becoming generic
• Avoid conclusionary statements
• Always show-if someone is shy show them
struggling with it as opposed to saying it
Don’t Say That
• Filler lines- “well”, “so”, “Oh, Bill”
• Monologues-avoid characters working out
problems in extended thoughts rather than
• Cliches
• Soapbox
• Integrate exposition that must be in dialogue
into the story-avoid the obvious..or just to fill
the audience in
Technical Do’s and Don’ts
• Dash-Dash- (–) when a speech has been interrupted
• Ellipsis (…) used to show a suspended sentence-lost of
thought, fade to another subject, etc.
• Caps-mean speech or line is shouted-avoid if you can
• Abbreviations-used only if the character would
• Comma, used to show a slight hesitation-avoid overuse
• Phone conversations- avoid
• Accents-mention it once –don’t write in dialect or
• Read it out loud

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Dialogue Writing

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