Dialogue deserves to be good. What it doesn’t deserve is a fate of false reality where conversation is robotic, stiff and uneasy. It needs to flow when read aloud. Not once should you question if “that sounds real.” Your dialogue needs to be 100% realistic for the universe and characters you are creating.
But what litmus test can be used as a reliable filter for believable dialogue? Let alone good dialogue. Well…
PRINT OUT YOUR PAGES AND READ THEM WITH SOMEONE WHO IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH SCREENWRTING.
Got parents? Give them a try. A brother? Sister? They’ll work too. Cousins work well here also. This will help trim your dialogue and it will help eliminate clunky sentences and excessive exposition.
As a screenwriter, you understand formatting and [hopefully] where to carve out good scenes of back and forth. Be confident with this notion. If you feel a scene is in desperate need of an exchange, go for it. But editing (as it always should be) is what makes the screenplay in the end. You will go back and cut 75% of what you wrote because 1.) it just does not belong period or 2.) it does not fit in line with the character and/or the scene. What you think might be too concise is probably going to be the perfect amount of what is actually needed.
True Romance is a good example of dialogue done right. Each exchange is concise, to the point and gives us a deeper look into each character’s quirks. There’s not much fat in this movie.
Clip Credit: Morgan Creek Productions