Dialogue - How much is too much?



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  • #16
    Re: Dialogue - How much is too much?

    Originally posted by greyghost
    I just watched a DVD of Sling Blade..twice. I had never seen the movie before.

    It is a brilliant movie and seems to break many so-called "rules" of exposition, dialogue and pacing.

    It is so well-written, and the characters are so vivid and compelling, you can't quit watching.

    I came away believing you can almost get away with anything if it is well-executed.
    Billy Bob Thornton is a damn good writer. I loved One False Move. I bought The Gift a while back but haven't watched it yet.

    A good film that a lot of dialogue is Gaslight. It's mostly all dialogue, but very entertaining.


    • #17
      Re: Dialogue - How much is too much?

      Empath, the answer to your question is better arrived at if it's rephrased. Instead of "how much is too much?" ask "how much do I need?"

      The answer regarding *everything* in screenwriting (dialogue, action, whatever) is "as little as you can get away with". Good screenwriting is about economy. Use as few words as possible to get across everything that is mandatory to tell the story.

      If a character's eye color is important (and it almost always isn't), include it. Otherwise, don't.

      If a character MUST be short/fat/skinny/whatever... say so. If not, don't.

      If you can communicate everything necessary for the scene with 5 words of dialogue instead of 25, do so.

      From your sample, I would say that you're vastly overwriting, especially your action. As others have said, it is not your job to direct the actors and give them business to do with their hands/mouths/whatever.

      I would say that the bulk of all action I see in amateur scripts is not only "too much" but "completely unnecessary". If two scripts can tell the same story and one has 50% more whitespace, it's the better script. Yes, there are exceptions, but they're few and far between and using them for a defense almost always means you don't know what you're doing.

      Here's a very lengthy post about dialogue that I made on another forum. You may find it of use.


      • #18
        Re: Dialogue - How much is too much?

        Thanks Dobbs! This thread you linked me to is especially helpful.


        • #19
          Re: Characters trapped in one place

          Is the whole movie set on a bus or just a portion of it?

          You might want to look at some movies that show characters who are stuck in one place (either by themselves or with others) for a period of time.

          Speed (city bus)

          Cast Away (island)

          The Negotiator (one floor of high-rise building)
          A must-see film if you like thriller/suspense films, in my opinion.

          Die Hard (One office building)

          Clerks (convenience store and video store that are side by side)
          They even play hockey on the roof!

          Albino Alligator (a bar)
          Kevin Spacey's directorial debut. They really used every corner of that bar, including the bathroom. Virtually the entire movie is set there.

          Panic Room (in a panic room, of course)

          Movies that are set in prisons, mental institutions, space ships, submarines, etc.

          Besides exploring different parts of your small setting, you may want to also think about how to get your character(s) off the bus--even if it's just for a short time.

          The bus could get a flat tire, the bus could be involved in an accident, someone on the bus could need medical attention, the bus could get pulled over by the police, etc. You could research what Greyhound does in those type of emergencies for some ideas.

          Since your setting is a greyhound bus, you could explore having your main character(s) coming in contact with a wide range of people, maybe even someone from their past.

          A character on the bus could call someone on the phone or fall asleep/daydream (and we see what he/she is thinking about).

          If nothing else, a character could get kicked off the bus (maybe it's unjustly or she/he is set up) and now he/she has to walk or find other transportation.



          • #20
            Re: Dialogue - How much is too much?

            i'd like to answer this question if you'd be so kind.

            you say one more word...
            i mean one more and
            i'll shoot you... that i will
            you ham and egg bastard...



            know that was an exmple of when one more word, was overkill.



            • #21
              Re: Dialogue - How much is too much?

              I get freaked when I see too many lines of dialogue in a row. I am actually trying to break a habit of adding arbitrary action lines to alleviate said freakedness.

              Looking over my work I have identified a few favorites.

              Voltron smiles.

              Voltron looks around.

              Or sometimes for fun...

              Voltron smiles and looks around.

              Yeah, I'm working on it.


              • #22
                Re: Dialogue - How much is too much?

                You could use props. Once you have props, people can stir their coffee, doodle, twirl their guns, loosen their ties, etc.

                Of course, the hard part is making the action fit the character and the mood. In this way, the action becomes unspoken dialogue. Is Jeff loosening his tie because he's made nervous by what he's hearing from Tom? Is Bob doodling because he really isn't interested in what Carol's saying? Or is he trying to avoid facing her?
                Quantum Mechanics is God's way of making sure we never really know what's going on.