Screen Writing

Completely by chance I’ve found myself dabbling in screen writing. During the lockdown I took part in writing classes offered by a theatre company I studied with for the first time last year.

I have never written anything for stage or screen before apart from a handful of terrible attempts at high school. On a sidenote: English teachers are saints for reading creative writing attempts from teenagers. Imagine having a passion for literature and have to force yourself to read and mark drivel from the pen of a hormonal juvenile?

On the course we were encourage to read each others work and actively give feedback. I find that giving feedback is easy but to sit and listen to people disecting a piece you have pored your heart and soul into is my worst nightmare, even though it’s a vitally important part of the process.

The feedback I received was nothing short of unbelieveable. The instructor couldn’t believe it was my first attempt at writing for the stage. Every writer wants to hear that they can write good dialogue, because there is nothing worse than stilted conversations between characters that doesn’t sound real.

I never thought I was great at writing dialogue because it can be hard to know if it sounds realistic as you are tapping away at a keyboard.

Here are some tips for writing dialogue that I’ve picked up along the way and have helped me:

  1. People don’t normally speak in full sentences. So don’t write in full sentences!
  2. Dialogue is the ‘Greatest Hits of Speech’. It would be so dull if dialogue was written exactly how people speak in real life. Cut out the hesitations and get to the best bits.
  3. Dialogue should either reveal something more to the reader about a character or move the plot on. If it doesn’t then leave it out. The reader will just get bored if dialogue is full of irrelevant and mundane details.
  4. Listen to how people speak when they don’t realise they are being observed. Listening into conversations on the train is one of my favourite pastimes. Identifying speech patterns can make dialogue more realistic.
  5. Read what you’ve written out loud. You might seem crazy if someone walks in on you but when you hear the words out loud, you will instantly know that it doesn’t ‘sound’ right.

I’ve now started another online screen writing course and I’m hoping to have good material and ideas at the end of it. It’s so exciting to learn a new writing discipline and to be able to bring what I’ll learn to my fiction writing. Of course, I am hoping my writing will be eventually performed but for now I am enjoying learning the process!

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