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Screenwriting and Dialogue

Some months ago I received a review from a 5 dollar online gig site for my first screenplay and the reviewer told me something about the dialogue in my screenplay that I had never heard before. She told me that I write “on the nose dialogue.” On the nose dialogue is not a good thing and it has to do with writing what a character is saying as “exactly what they mean,” rather than showing what they mean to say using subtext. Subtext is a visual way of showing something in a way rather than telling something in a screenplay. This was a lesson I learned the hard way, because after thinking about the reviewer’s comments for a while I finally agreed that at least in some parts, she was correct that I was using “on the nose” dialogue too many times.

I would grow to remember as I continued to write the mantra of, “show rather than tell.” In a movie, too much dialogue is considered boring mostly because movies are a visual medium as opposed to a radio show, or a narrated documentary. Over time I have changed some of the dialogue in my first screenplay but removing all the on the nose problems was not possible, at least not in the first 5 or 6 re-writes.

An example of a correction of an on the nose error in a screenplay would be for character, rather than saying “I love you,” instead would show his/her love by a look or a hug or some other action. Again, the show rather than tell is always a good example of using subtext in a screenplay.

Along with all this, I am learning that following some of the basic formulas of writing a screenplay are also very important and they include having a main character that has a goal and opposition to that goal. The main character must be motivated and has room to grow throughout the screenplay. The main character must also be believable not only as a person but within his actions during the entire screenplay. Keeping all this in sight throughout 110 pages of a script at times is not easy, which is why many re-writes can be necessary when you write a screenplay. While re-writing and making changes you have to always worry that the original thought of the movie is not being lost or some character or some idea or point of the movie is not broken because of all the changes you are making.

I have completed 3 screenplays so far, but I am still tweaking my 3rd screenplay because I still don’t love the ending yet. Screenwriting has been called the most challenging art form, and I for one am a believer in that idea.

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