What screenwriting can teach novelists and short story writers
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.