The Page of Dialogue

There are plenty of fantastic movies that have extended scenes of dialogue. There are incredibly tense and engaging moments that can be created using little more than conversation.

However, a conversation isn’t just about what’s said. There are pauses, gestures, and actions that also play a part. This is why, when a screenplay page is full of dialogue and has no action or description lines on it, it raises a red flag.

Film is a visual medium, and if a writer is only focusing on what the characters are saying, they’re leaving out a key component. What are these characters doing while they’re talking? What are we seeing during the conversation? What can their actions do to build upon the dialogue and deepen our understanding of what’s taking place in the scene?

When looking at a page like this in your own writing, consider how something visual can stand in for some of the dialogue. Look for places where an action, gesture, or glance can convey what’s being said. By making part of the conversation visual; by making it something that needs to be interpreted by the viewer, the conversation becomes more engaging to the audience. Instead of being an eavesdropper, they’re now an active participant, working to unearth the full meaning behind the words the characters are speaking.

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