One of the trickiest parts of film and television writing is putting dialogue onto the page for your characters. You're not only trying to build out their voices, but you're also solidifying the tone of your screenplay and the world you've built. 

Overall, writing dialogue in a screenplay requires a writer to have a strong understanding of character, story, and the rhythms and patterns of natural speech, as well as the ability to balance dialogue with action, subtext, and other elements of storytelling.

Ten tips to help you write better dialogue'Before Sunrise'Credit: Columbia Pictures

Writing Dialogue is a Pain

Writing dialogue in a screenplay can be challenging for several reasons.

The first is that you have to use it to carry meaning and subtext. Good dialogue should not only advance the story and reveal character, but it should also convey meaning and subtext. This requires a writer to balance what a character says with what they mean and to avoid over-explaining or under-explaining the subtext.

The biggest issue in dialogue is making it sound natural to the story you're telling. 

The dialogue in a screenplay should sound natural and believable, which can be difficult to achieve when writing for the screen. This requires a writer to understand the rhythms and patterns of natural speech, as well as to avoid using excessive exposition or artificial-sounding dialogue.

Of course, all this needs to align with your pacing. 

A screenplay should have a clear and engaging pace, and dialogue is a key tool for maintaining this pace and momentum. However, it can be challenging to write dialogue that is engaging and keeps the audience interested, without slowing down the pace of the story.

Even after thinking about all of this, you still have to think about what's come before. and surmount cliches. 

Many screenplays fall into the trap of using cliches or overused dialogue patterns, which can be a major turn-off for audiences. Writing fresh and original dialogue that is both engaging and meaningful can be a major challenge.

So how can you write better dialogue? 

We have some tips. 

Ten tips to help you write better dialogue'Do The Right Thing'Credit: Universal Pictures

10 Tips for Writing Dialogue for Film and TV 

Here are ten tips for writing dialogue in film and television:

  1. Keep it concise: In film and TV, less is often more. Keep your dialogue short and to the point.

  2. Make it sound natural: Avoid writing dialogue that sounds stilted or artificial. Instead, aim for dialogue that sounds like the way people actually speak.

  3. Show, don't tell: Use dialogue to reveal character and advance the plot, rather than simply telling the audience information.

  4. Create distinctive voices: Make sure each character has a unique voice and speaking style that reflects their personality and background.

  5. Use subtext: Let your characters' underlying emotions and motives come through in what they don't say, as well as what they do.

  6. Vary the rhythm: Mix up the pace of your dialogue to keep things interesting. Use long speeches, short retorts, and everything in between.

  7. Avoid on-the-nose dialogue: Avoid writing dialogue that spells out what's happening too explicitly. Let the audience piece things together for themselves.

  8. Listen to real-life conversation: Study the way people speak and the rhythms of everyday conversation to help inform your writing.

  9. Cut the clutter: Get rid of any extraneous words or dialogue that don't advance the story or reveal character.

  10. Read it out loud: Finally, always read your dialogue out loud to see how it sounds. This can help you catch any awkward phrasing or unnatural dialogue.

Do you have any tips that help you when writing dialogue? Let us know what they are in the comments below!