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Old 03-26-2019, 09:45 AM   #1
Rijuti
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Default Dialogue question

Hello guys,

Which way is better to introduce action between the same character dialogue?
This is just an example:

Example 1:

John
What??

John gets up.

John
Are you serious??

Example 2:

John
What??
(John gets up.)
Are you serious??

Also in the action sentence, should I use John or just he?

Thanks!

Last edited by Rijuti : 03-26-2019 at 09:58 AM.
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Old 03-26-2019, 12:17 PM   #2
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Default Re: Dialogue question

I'd go with #2. It is a bit shorter than having a separate line of description. Besides, I presume you already have an introductory line of description that says John started out seated!

I'd make the parenthetical a bit more interesting, too. So, something like "(he rises, stiffly)", or quavering, etc. or something to enhance the action.

But, you'd still want to keep it to a max of one line, otherwise you've losing the advantage of a parenthetical over a line of description.

On the other hand, a separate line of description gives you the room to really enhance the action, while still keeping it to one line, such as "He rises, frantically, as if somebody's lit a match under his a$$."

Whatever suits the meaning you're trying to portray.
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Old 03-26-2019, 12:52 PM   #3
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Default Re: Dialogue question

That was really helpful.

So parenthetical option is more useful in short actions, where few words are needed. Otherwise, line of description is a better option and less confused too. That makes sense.

Thanks for the tips!

Last edited by Rijuti : 03-26-2019 at 01:03 PM.
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Old 03-26-2019, 02:11 PM   #4
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Default Re: Dialogue question

in most cases i would opt for #2. when it gets too long, i wouldn't, but i would assess whether a shorter version would work or if the scene context and dialogue itself implies an action response, then, i'd remove it.

using parentheticals keeps the dialogue moving without interruption and prevents the readers from missing the quick action by glossing past it.

i use quick action instead of using (beat) if it makes sense.
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Old 03-26-2019, 06:00 PM   #5
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Default Re: Dialogue question

Generally, parentheticals are more for tone & intent but they are frequently used for action to making the reading easier. Thus, #2 is fine to keep the page flowing, as finalact4 notes, since we pretty all much find ourselves reading down the middle of the page eventually, in a script.

I would not personally recommend writing "John gets up." That's clunky for a parenthetical which frequently is one word. I'd suggest "(stands)" if I may.
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Old 03-26-2019, 10:20 PM   #6
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Default Re: Dialogue question

I agree with what everyone has said. Here's another tip I have found useful in my own writing. I apologize if it seems a bit off topic, but like I said, I have found it useful.

At some point in the writing process (probably after you're mostly happy with the dialogue), go through your scenes and get rid of ALL stage direction and parentheticals. Then re-read and only add back in what's absolutely necessary.

The logic behind this: When we first start figuring out the structure of a scene we tend to add in unnecessary details to help flesh it out. These little crutches or kick stands as I call them (i.e 'angrily', 'leaning in', 'shouting', 'takes a step away', 'slamming his hand on the table', etc.) are very useful to get a sense of what the dialogue is still not achieving.

But then as the dialogue evolves and becomes good, these kick-stands are no longer needed. In well structured scenes I have read I tend to see very little stage direction and wrilies. Of course big exceptions do exist. Sometimes they are very useful, effective and necessary.
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Old 03-27-2019, 06:29 AM   #7
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Default Re: Dialogue question

Quote:
Originally Posted by manfredlopez View Post
I agree with what everyone has said. Here's another tip I have found useful in my own writing. I apologize if it seems a bit off topic, but like I said, I have found it useful.

At some point in the writing process (probably after you're mostly happy with the dialogue), go through your scenes and get rid of ALL stage direction and parentheticals. Then re-read and only add back in what's absolutely necessary.

The logic behind this: When we first start figuring out the structure of a scene we tend to add in unnecessary details to help flesh it out. These little crutches or kick stands as I call them (i.e 'angrily', 'leaning in', 'shouting', 'takes a step away', 'slamming his hand on the table', etc.) are very useful to get a sense of what the dialogue is still not achieving.

But then as the dialogue evolves and becomes good, these kick-stands are no longer needed. In well structured scenes I have read I tend to see very little stage direction and wrilies. Of course big exceptions do exist. Sometimes they are very useful, effective and necessary.
totally agree. i do a pass where i address this very issue, too.

i watched the Shonda Rhimes Masterclass and she said that before she sends her scripts to production she goes through and removes all stage direction. as showrunner, she also said that she is the writer, and she expects the actors to read the lines as she's written them. exactly.

good class.
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Old 03-27-2019, 07:13 AM   #8
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Default Re: Dialogue question

re: State Direction, and a bit more off-topic

It's a personal thing, but in recent years I've come to hate those arcane o.s., b.g. etc. abbreviations we're taught to use. They make screenplays singularly unreadable to a normal audience, and I'm way past the stage where I put one of them into my script and think "Cool, I'm a screenwriter, dudes!"

As a result, and wherever possible, I'm now using eg. "behind them" instead of "in the b.g." or "distant" instead of "o.s. (or o.c.)". It's been surprisingly easy to do, and I believe it improves the reading (and writing) flow. And it doesn't usually make text lines much if any longer - which is a big thing to me, as I worry constantly about script length.

I also publish my screenplays for a generic (buying) audience, and had written code to expand all of these ugly short-forms into their proper form. This even included "INT=>INTERIOR", etc.

By eliminating many of them, I can eliminate this step, too, and engage a broader audience. After all, this is one of my story-telling goals, whether or not the thing ever makes it onto the screen.
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Old 03-27-2019, 07:53 AM   #9
Rijuti
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Default Re: Dialogue question

Thank you all very much! Very useful info and tips.

So when you say eliminate all stage direction, you mean all the emotional states like "angry", "happy" "sad" and little things like "moves to the side" or "screaming" etc?

Edit: Unless, of course, is important to the story and needs to be there.

Last edited by Rijuti : 03-27-2019 at 10:29 AM.
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Old 03-27-2019, 10:39 AM   #10
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Default Re: Dialogue question

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rijuti View Post
So when you say eliminate all stage direction, you mean all the emotional states like "angry", "happy" "sad" and little things like "moves to the side" or "screaming" etc?
NOOO, sheesh! We don't mean that.

The things you mention are chiefly ACTOR directions. The first (emotional directions) can certainly be overdone; you do want to leave a lot to those lovely, hard-working and highly paid actors to figure out for themselves, but of course you need to be clear (is a laugh true, or sarcastic, if it's not clear from the storytelling). The others (move to side, etc.) are essential, say, if its to avoid a gunshot!

We're talking STAGE directions such as CLOSE-UP, PAN, etc. Maybe call them "Director's" directions. They should be avoided.

My discussion re: "b.g." (BACKGROUND) and "o.s." (OFF-SCREEN) was purely subjective.
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