Dialogue: Five Strategies

By Michael Schilf · January 22, 2010

The beginning screenwriter often uses dialogue as a crutch, thinking it is his best friend. Sure, most characters do have dialogue, but remember that action reveals character. SHOW us the emotion, the situation, the tension, etc. Don’t tell it. 

Characters react to a situation; they don’t just show up and give us a whole bunch of talk. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t blessed with fabulous scribes that deliver memorable, engaging dialogue. Quentin Tarantino, Billy Wilder, Charlie Kaufman all come to mind. And I can’t tell you how many scripts I have read that are full of it, lots and lots of talk. 

So here are five simple strategies to improve your dialogue:

1. Avoid static dialogue scenes.

2. Talk about one thing, mean something else.

3. Argue about one thing, but transfer it to something else.

4. Never repeat yourself.

5. Dialogue doesn’t have to be funny, action is funny.