What screenwriting can teach novelists and short story writers

 In Richard Beynon's blog, Screenwriting courses

Writing for the big screen (and the little screen) is very different from writing for the page – but the skill sets overlap.  Two of the biggest of these overlaps are dialogue writing and scenes. Let’s focus here on dialogue.

Although screenwriters are constantly encouraged to think visually, dialogue is all-important, simply because bad dialogue can sound so atrocious. (Think of much of the dialogue of Star Wars. George Lucas is not a good writer of dialogue. It’s his stories that save the day.)

Are screenwriters better writers of dialogue than novelists? Well, I would nominate Elmore Leonard as one of the best writers of dialogue ever. He wrote a whole slew of novels, it’s true – but he honed his craft on movie scripts, where he learned…

  • To keep his dialogue both taut and natural
  • To edit it down to a salty minimum
  • To use it to reveal character as much as carry the story forward
  • To differentiate characters
  • To avoid exposition
  • To use dialogue to suggest sub-text

So whether or not you’ve ever thought of writing for film or television, learning a screenwriter’s secrets to better dialogue will help you hone your craft.

All About Writing is launching its next season of script and screenwriting courses on 16 September 2019. Choose between our Screenwriting Crash Course or the more advanced Kickstart Your Screenplay course. Both are on early bird sale until 31 August. And in preparation we’re offering you the chance to be part of an online mini-course on Dialogue for Screenwriters.

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