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Writing Insights: How to Write Dialogue

Writing Insights: How to Write Dialogue

If you can’t write dialogue, you can’t make it as a screenwriter. In a medium where it’s all but impossible to show thoughts and feelings, it’s dialogue that drives the plot, demonstrates who the characters are, and makes up most of the word count.

The average novel runs to about 90,000 words. The average screenplay? Just 15,000. That’s 75,000 words of description gone missing, leaving the dialogue to do most of the heavy lifting.

Okay, there are films that have succeeded, against the odds, using only a few spoken words: ALL IS LOST is a great example. But for the most part, knowing how to write dialogue is a key skill for any screenwriter. Here are our tips…

  • Give each character a different voice. A lot of scripts have characters that all speak exactly the same way – usually the same way as the writer! But if you make your characters talk in their own unique way, not only is it more realistic but it also gives us a better idea of their personalities.
  • Avoid exposition. If the audience needs to know something, find a natural way to get the information across instead of throwing in a conversation that feels contrived. There are no worse words to read in a screenplay than “As you know…” If the character already knows it, why are they being told again?
  • Listen to how people actually speak. Record a conversation and pay attention to the rhythm and style of real speech; when you write dialogue, that’s the kind of style you want to replicate, although you can cut out all the “um”s and “erm”s!
  • When writing a foreign character, don’t turn them into a cliche. Treat them the same as all your other characters – as real, rounded people! Just because their grasp of English may not be perfect, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to just use a stereotype.
  • Don’t overuse parentheticals to describe how a line should be delivered. A screenwriter’s job is to write the screenplay, not to direct the film itself; actors and directors won’t appreciate you trying to control how things are said. A lot of the time it’s unnecessary anyway – unless something is being said ironically, it should be clear from the words themselves how to say the line!

So there you have it – now you should know how to write dialogue in your screenplay, and make it stand out over the competition. But of course, this is just one of the skills you’ll need. There are a great many more things to learn…

If you want more hints and tips on screenwriting, check out our other Writing Insights articles by clicking here!

 

Horror proves popular – May 2019 Script Sales

Horror proves popular – May 2019 Script Sales

There are several interesting things to note from the May 2019 Script Sales as reported by Script Pipeline, but what struck us the most was that there are several horror projects here.

This shows that no matter what, there’s always a core audience for this genre, making it a good target for screenwriters looking to get a production credit under their belt. The production costs are also often low for these kind of projects – always seen as a big positive by producers!

  • DON’T GO IN THE WATER sounds like an interesting idea. Horror has produced plenty of iconic monsters and villains over the years, and it looks like they might be aiming for another one here as an alcoholic  does battle with a tentacled monster in the lake. Yes, the idea of being trapped in an isolated cabin is a tired cliche – but the monster sounds like it might enliven things.
  • Another year, another remake. This time it’s the classic HELLRAISER getting the treatment, set to be written by David S. Goyer. After ten films in the franchise already, you’d think that people might be getting tired of it; this is one that could either crash badly or breathe new life into the series.
  • Speaking of remakes, how about a spinoff? Another series that seems to go on forever, SAW gets another instalment – which might not sound so surprising until you realize that the story concept is by Chris Rock. However this turns out, it should certainly be interesting!

On the other end of things, there are also several comedies being sold and set to star various stars including Chris Hemsworth – a welcome bit of news, given how well he plays comedic roles.

If you’d like to see more of Script Pipeline’s report on script sales in May 2019, you can click here to do that now!

Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest  – 2nd place script and writer!

Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest – 2nd place script and writer!

BAD LISTING: a horror/thriller where nothing is ever as it seems…

BAD LISTING is the kind of script where it’s impossible to say what will come next. This horror screenplay, where twists and turns leave you constantly guessing and where things are repeatedly turned on their heads, impressed us with its compact storytelling and execution. A very worthy second place goes to Brent Hartinger for this script!

Having taken 2nd  place in our Winter 2019 Contest, Brent wins a year of script development from WriteMovies and guaranteed pitching to industry, which are both now underway! If you’d like to win these kind of prizes and find success with WriteMovies, make sure you submit to our Spring 2019 Screenwriting Contest, which has a Grand Prize of $2000 and more (click here!)


Here’s a summary of BAD LISTING:

When Cleo rents a “shared” AirBnB unit, she worries the other guest, Jack, has a dark secret. But from Jack’s POV, Cleo isn’t who she claims to be either. Or maybe the real problem with this short-term rental isn’t Jack or Cleo, but an even darker, more sinister presence watching them both. A small-cast, minimal-location script.

If you’re a producer interested in this project, email david.vogel@atalentscout.com today!


And here’s a quick bio of the writer of BAD LISTING, Brent Hartinger:

bad listing writer Brent HartingerBrent has had nine screenplays optioned for film; four of those projects are currently in various stages of development, including PROJECT SWEET LIFE, a teen caper story, now in pre-production for a 2020 release.

Also a novelist, Brent has had three of his books optioned for film. His fourteen novels include THREE TRUTHS AND A LIE (Simon & Schuster), which was nominated for an Edgar Award; and GEOGRAPHY CLUB (HarperCollins), which was adapted as a feature film in 2013, co-starring Scott Bakula, and is now being developed as a television series.

Brent has won many screenwriting awards, including first place at the Storypro Awards, the Fresh Voices Contest, Acclaim Scripts, the L.A. Comedy Festival, the Screenwriting in the Sun Award, and a Writers Network Fellowship. All his scripts on TheBlackList.com have been “featured scripts,” with scores of “8” or higher.

A former entertainment journalist, Brent co-founded of the website AfterElton.com, which was later sold to MTV/Viacom. Now Brent continuously travels the world as a digital nomad, writing his screenplays and novels along the way.

Find out more by visiting his website: www.brenthartinger.com

Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest – 3rd place script and writers!

Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest – 3rd place script and writers!

 

WITHOUT BORDERS: a socio-political thriller, unravelling a mystery that spans the globe… 

It takes a lot to grab our attention and make it into the top three in our contests, but WITHOUT BORDERS by Chris Gebhardt and Jenn Russi did it in style. With high-octane action, political conspiracies, and a web of intrigue, this is a script that kept us on the edge of our seats from the first page to the last! And this is just the pilot episode for the rest of the series – the rest of WITHOUT BORDERS promises a lot more to come!

For taking 3rd place in our Winter 2019 Contest, Chris and Jenn have won guaranteed pitching to industry and a year of free script development with us, and we’re really looking forward to working on WITHOUT BORDERS with them! If you’d like to follow in their footsteps, be sure to enter our Spring 2019 Screenwriting Contest, which has a Grand Prize of $2000 and more (click here!)

 

Here’s a summary of WITHOUT BORDERS:

Alhena Mansour, a seasoned UN human rights investigator, returns to the Democratic Republic of the Congo after ten years away to investigate the disappearance of a UN worker in the war-torn East.

As Alhena navigates the minefield of political instability and humanitarian crisis, she quickly becomes embroiled in a far-reaching conspiracy to control the global economy. With millions of lives hanging in the balance, Alhena has no choice but to see her investigation through to the end… no matter the personal cost.

Alhena encounters old friends and new enemies on her journey down a dark path of human rights abuses and corrupt politics spanning from New York to Beijing. To get to the truth about what’s happening in the Congo, Alhena must confront old wounds and relive a traumatic event in her past… one which holds the key not only to her current investigation but to the world’s economic future.

If you’re a producer interested in this project, email david.vogel@atalentscout.com today!

 

And here’s a quick bio of the writers of WITHOUT BORDERS, Chris Gebhardt and Jenn Russi:

As a writing team, Jenn and Chris come from dynamic backgrounds that allow them to balance each other’s perspectives while drawing on their unique life experiences. Jenn has worked for five years in international development, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is currently undertaking a PhD in Politics at the University of Glasgow on UN Peacekeeping. Chris was the Chair of the Board of Florida High Schools Model United Nations from 2013-2016 and is now putting his 11 years of experience reporting on the world’s space programs to good use as the Assistant Managing Editor of NASASpaceflight.com.

Through their 15 years of friendship and collaboration, they have developed a strong foundation of effective communication and mutual respect that has allowed the theme of their writing to tackle issues — both good and bad — surrounding the globalization of society.

As a writing team, they have been mentored by award-nominated writers/producers Marc and Elaine Zicree (STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, BABYLON 5, SLIDERS, THE LAZARUS MAN). Their pilot, SURVEILLANCE, won “Best Pilot” for April 2016 in the TV Festival competition. Another pilot, TECHYCARDIA, won “Best Teleplay” at the 12th annual Action on Film Festival in September 2016 and was a Quarter-Finalist in the 2017 Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition.

Additionally, Chris received an LA-based production company grant in 2016 to write and produce a short filmed, AVOWED — which had a successful festival run and was nominated for Best Dramatic Short at the 2018 Central Florida Film Festival. He also received a paid, one-on-one mentorship in 2017 with TV and film writer David H. Steinberg.

Oscars 2019: What we learned

Oscars 2019: What we learned

Whatever you think about the Oscars, there’s always something to be learned from them. Last night was no exception: there was the usual number of sure-fire wins mixed with a few shocks that leave us scratching our heads. Here’s our take on what happened at the Oscars 2019…

  • The big news of the night was the surprise win of GREEN BOOK for Best Picture. This may not have been the most competitive year for this category, but stacked up against films like BLACKKKLANSMAN and ROMA, it’s still not what we expected. Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times even went so far as to call it “the worse best Picture winner since Crash“. Ouch. But the main thing to take from this? ROMA might have been the favorite on the night (rather than THE FAVOURITE… okay, it’s a bit confusing) but the Academy isn’t ready to give highest honors to a Netflix film just yet. The big studios continue to guard their territory.
  • Spike Lee finally has an Oscar, winning Best Adapted Screenplay for BLACKKKLANSMAN. When it comes to films about race, the Oscars have generally favored less hard-edged material than Lee makes, so at first glance, this looks like it could indicate a shift for film’s biggest awards ceremony. However, that’s all kind of cancelled out because…
  • The winner for Best Original Screenplay also went to GREEN BOOK, which has come in for a lot of criticism for perpetuating the “white savior” trope and couldn’t be more of an opposite to BLACKKKLANSMAN if it tried. Take a look at that article from Chang and you’ll see why it’s so confusing that the two screenplay awards went to these two films. On the one hand, a film that takes an intense, no-holds barred look at racism – on the other, a film that deals with it through a feel-good story. One thing is clear – Hollywood still hasn’t figured out how it wants to deal with this kind of subject matter.
  • Away from the main controversies, superhero stories are starting to gain some traction at awards ceremonies to go with their popular appeal, with BLACK PANTHER picking up three awards and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE winning Best Animated Feature. This is where the real money is right now – and it looks like there’s even the possibility of picking up some nice shiny awards to go with it.
  • On a similar note, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY took home four awards. Even though the only big one here was for Rami Malek’s performance as Freddie Mercury, it’s a surprise to see a film that got mixed reviews from critics fare so well at the Oscars. Is the Academy really becoming more democratized to reflect popular opinion? We’ll have to wait and see how next year unfolds…

From a screenwriting perspective, the main thing here is the confusion of seeing two totally contrasting films take home the awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay. Here at WriteMovies, we’ll be keeping a close eye on this, with several of our past winners – such as BLACKOUT.COM by Ruben Bush III dealing with this kind of subject matter.

The Oscars 2019 may not have had the drama of the wrong winner being announced for Best Picture like a couple of years ago, but they’ve certainly given us a lot of food for thought…

Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest – Semi-Finalists!

Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest – Semi-Finalists!

It’s time for more Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest results! There were a lot of great scripts in our Quarter-Finals and it was tough to make this next round of decisions, but after careful consideration our judges have decided on our Semi-Finalists!

There’s often a fine line when it comes to the different rounds of our screenwriting contest. Some scripts only just miss out, and it can be difficult to know why. A lot of the time, it comes down to the execution of basic elements – structure, characters, and dialogue.

Take a look also at this article that our Director, Ian Kennedy, wrote when we announced Quarter-Finalists: What your writing submissions are telling us, 2017-2019. If you’re making any of these mistakes, they could be holding you back!

But what else have we found with these latest Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest results? Well, a few things that have often helped our Semi-Finalists stand out from the rest:

  • Unique Concepts. If there’s something in a script we haven’t seen before, it immediately makes us want to read on. See what Ian wrote in his article about the number of scripts with a vehicle smash at about page 10 – when we’ve read the same thing so many times, it quickly starts to become dull. On the other hand, when we encounter something new – that’s really exciting!
  • Specific in genre and the story they wanted to tell. With a number of scripts, we found it difficult to tell what genre the writer was aiming at and it was a while before the story began to take shape. These unfocused openings usually fail to hold our attention. Be specific about your story, and be clear with its genre!
  • Engaging characters. Ian wrote it in his article but it’s worth repeating again here: “Make us care and get fascinated with your main characters and their world”. When we care about the characters, the script takes on a whole new life. Don’t rely on clichés or stereotypes, but create rounded characters we can engage with as if they were real people. And not just the protagonist either, but the supporting characters and villains as well!

And with that, it’s time for the moment you’ve been waiting for. Here are our next Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest results: the Semi-Finalists!

Semi-Finalists 
BAD LUCK VS KARMA, Aaron DavisTÖDLICHE ERINNERUNG, Urs AebersoldSPACE RACERS, Jason Azcar
THE DAWN OF EVE, James BinghamLE SECRET DU KATANA NOIR, Christian BourgeoisLA VENGEANCE DU COBRA, Christian Bourgeois
THE WALL, Anthony BuonoUNE CHANCE POUR GUERIR, Christine de ChauvelinPSYCHOANALYTIC TALES, Christine de Chauvelin
STRUCK, Elaine F ChekichTHE HUNTED, Mark FloodWITHOUT BORDERS, Chris Gebhardt & Jenn Russi
LAST CHRISTMAS, Owen GowerBAD LISTING, Brent HartingerKOBOS, Adam Hersh
HOLLYWOOD’S MOST WANTED, Manny Jimenez Sr.THE SAX, Pascal KulcsarAGENT 355, Laura Lambert
IN THE ABSENCE OF JUSTICE, Stephen F MaynardPROMISE OF TOMORROW, Andrew PenningtonTHIS IS NOT REVENGE, David Pierotti
BOY MOST WANTED, Tuck TuckerESTHER’S DEN, Persephone VandegriftTHE CRACK IN PEGGY SUE’S FLOOR, John Woodard

Keep an eye out for more Winter 2019 Screenwriting Contest results from us, as we move on now to judge our Finalists and winners – and decide who takes away the Grand Prize!