How to write dialog

May or may not be inspired by a recent film viewing.

Two simple rules.

#1) Is the dialog necessary for the audience to understand the plot of the story?  Then make it as clear and simple as possible.

EXAMPLE: “In twelve hours terrorists are going to blow up the moon.”

#2) Is what the dialog about a character and/or emotions?  Follow this simple two-step process.

  1. Write down what you want to convey.
  2. Now write the dialog conveying #1 without actually using the phrase or words.

EXAMPLE: “John Wick is bad ass.” <- WRONG.
“John Wick is who you send to kill the boogeyman.” <- Better!

I mean will this always work?  Not always.  You do want to be as efficient as possible in rule #2 to avoid purple prose.  But even when it fails, you at least tend to end up with dialog that is still entertaining.  Even if it’s silly and narmy, it won’t be boring.

When you get REALLY advanced, you’ll be able to convey multiple ideas in one line without actually spelling out what those are.

EXAMPLE: Why do I even bother? Should I just kill myself?

BECOMES: “To be or not to be, that is the question.”

If you want further examples, compare the dialog of Star Wars 4, 5, & 6 with the prequels.


2 thoughts on “How to write dialog

  1. I went to IMDB to find some quotes from Valerian to see how they fit into your instructions here.

    There are none listed.

    Apparently either nobody can remember what was said in the film, or nobody cared to type any of it out. Either way, I think that makes your point better than either of us could.

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