With the WriteMovies Sci-Fi and Fantasy Award well underway, we know many of you will be working to get your scripts finished by the final deadline on May 9th. So, to help you on your way, here’s our advice for writing sci-fi and fantasy dialogue…
- Take us out of the present day. There’s nothing more jarring than a story set in the distant future or a medieval fantasy land where everyone talks like they’re from 21st century USA. Avoid using words or phrases that are too modern and therefore out of context. An example of this going wrong? Yennefer uttering the phrase “off the grid” in the recent Netflix series THE WITCHER…
- But also – don’t overdo it. Just because you’re writing fantasy doesn’t mean that you need to use words like “thee” and “thou”! You don’t need to make everything too formal, either. This is a common problem in fantasy, where the dialogue can end up feeling stilted. Try reading your dialogue out loud; if it feels clunky, you might need to rewrite it.
- Avoid technobabble. An easy trap to fall into in science fiction. If you’re not sure how to explain a certain piece of technology, don’t just string together a bunch of scientific words and hope to bamboozle your audience – if the sentence is meaningless, it’s just going to turn people off. This applies to explaining magic in fantasy as well!
- Use visuals instead of words. This is good advice for all genres, but especially for writing sci-fi and fantasy dialogue where there are so many new concepts to explain to the audience. The solution? Don’t explain things, show them. We don’t need a technical explanation about how something works if can just see it working!
- Find a way to ground conversations. Both of these genres create huge traps for writers to fall into clichés of grandiose, portentous, and speechy dialogue. What makes GAME OF THRONES stand out in this regard is how the writers consistently position a character in scenes who brings the others down to earth and keeps the stories grounded and realistic on a human level – e.g. Tyrion, The Hound and (best of all) Bronn.
- Most importantly? Make sure people talk like people. Okay, this might not apply so much if you’re writing dialogue for robots, goblins, giant squid aliens or dragons. But the most important thing for sci-fi and fantasy is to make us believe it’s real – to present it as if it’s reality – and that applies to dialogue as well. No matter the context, no matter what else your fictional universe looks like, make sure that the dialogue flows and feels natural.
Think you’ve got all that down? We’d love to see what you’ve got! Click here if you want to submit to our Sci-Fi and Fantasy Award, which will also give you free entry to our Spring Contest and the chance to win the Grand Prize of $3500!