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Dialogue Part 1 – Personality and Voice

As mentioned last week, creating good dialogue is an essential element in setting the tone for your character(s).  I’ll go more in-depth on the subject by focusing on the personality and voice.

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Voice and personality are key in molding a character into the vision you have in your head. They inform you of what a character will or won’t say in conversation (character-to-character or inner dialogue). These two work in tangent to create an individual of distinction, especially when there are multiple characters involved.

Personality is the first concept that should come to mind when creating dialogue for the character(s). Whether a sadistic control freak, a depressed creative or a paranoid introvert, the dialogue must fit the personality. As a writer, it is your job to know your character(s) inside and outside when crafting dialogue. You don’t want a character with a sunny disposition speaking on some issue like a death in a negative manner. That language wouldn’t fit who the character is.

Along with personality, a character’s voice helps in shaping the dialogue in your script. Tone, language and phrasing can inform a character’s dialogue and their interaction with other characters (major and minor). Voice can be a tricky area if you don’t have a handle on a character’s personality. You don’t want someone whose language is peppered with clever, dry humor to have a line where bathroom humor shows up. It could come off as either not understanding your character or a jarring moment that takes the reader out of the script.

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Like in last week’s post, a trick you can use in developing personalities and voices by creating character bios to help keep yourself straight when writing for multiple characters. These pieces of the puzzle can inform what the dialogue on the page.

 

 

Hopefully, this post helps you in formulating dialogue through characters’ personalities and voices. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week for more on creating the dialogue for your character(s) through phrasing and vernacular.

Character Development Part 2 – Dialogue and Actions

After looking at developing a character’s personality and character traits, I’ll be focusing on the importance of dialogue and action in shaping how your characters are perceived.

Every line of dialogue and action in your script should be tailor-made for the character you are writing. When writing for a character, remember to ask yourself these question: would he/she say those words? or Does that action go inline with their personality?

A trick I always use is thinking of the character and their voice when writing the script. A bonus for you would be to create character bios to help keep yourself straight when writing for multiple characters. Sometimes, things can get a little confusing, and those pieces of the puzzle can be a big help in the process.

Dialogue influences action and vice versa. Dialogue is the way a character expresses themselves either verbally or internally (for my inter-dialogue heads). It dictates the audience’s perception of a character – good or bad, nice or naughty, sardonic or good-natured. A character’s words are their calling card. Action, on the other hand, allows the character to express themselves with a sense of physicality. Your character can be a master manipulator, prankster, klutz, athlete, artist, etc. based on their actions.

Both are forms of expression that inform each other in a way that is realistic to human behavior. An action can set a character’s words into motion as a response to another character or a movement. Dialogue sets precedence for any action as a response to another character’s words or lack thereof.  Keep this in mind when writing and rewriting your screenplay.

A book I often refer to when writing dialogue and action:

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Writing the TV Drama Series by Pamela Douglas

 

Hopefully, this post helps you in formulating your actions and lines of dialogue for your script. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week as I go more in-depth about creating the best dialogue for your character(s).

Character Development Part 1 – Traits and Personalities

 

Now, that we’re past feedback and the preliminary editing, I can get into the real matters at hand like dialogue, action. setting and this week’s topic – character development.

The key to any good script is creating great characters. These beings you write on the page help to bring your stories and ideas to life. Each character on the page is a part of you (whether consciously or subconsciously) when you begin writing or revising – fiction, non-fiction or equal parts – your screenplay.

This book can a major help in developing your characters:
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The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writer (3rd Edition) by Christopher Vogler

Let’s get into the business of personalities and personal traits. When writing a script, you must make sure that each character has their own distinct personality. Whether it’s an alpha (male or female), a sidekick or an antagonist, one-dimensionality is not accepted. Even villains have feelings and thoughts that make them complex. The best way to achieve this is by creating personality quirks that set them apart from other characters. A nervous tic. A personal secret. Anything that makes them stand out from the pack.

Here are the archetypes Vogler mentions in The Writer’s Journey:

Hero

The hero is the audience’s personal tour guide on the adventure that is the story. It’s critical that the audience can relate to them because they experience the story through their eyes. During the journey, the hero will leave the world they are familiar with and enter a new one. This new world will be so different that whatever skills the hero used previously will no longer be sufficient. Together, the hero and the audience will master the rules of the new world, and save the day.

Mentor

The hero has to learn how to survive in the new world incredibly fast, so the mentor appears to give them a fighting chance. This mentor will describe how the new world operates, and instruct the hero about the innate abilities they possess while gifting the hero with equipment.

Ally

The hero will have some great challenges ahead; too great for one person to face them alone.  The journey could get a little dull without another character to interact with.

Herald

The herald appears near the beginning to announce the need for change in the hero’s life. They are the catalyst that sets the whole adventure in motion.  Occasionally they single the hero out, picking them for a journey they wouldn’t otherwise take.

Trickster

The trickster adds fun and humor to the story. When times are gloomy or emotionally tense, the trickster gives the audience a welcome break by challenging the status quo. A good trickster offers an outside perspective and opens up important questions as they act as the comic relief to the story or the actions of the other characters.

Shapeshifter

The shapeshifter blurs the line between ally and enemy. Often they begin as an ally, then betray the hero at a critical moment. Other times, their loyalty is in question as they waver back and forth. Regardless, they provide a tantalizing combination of appeal and possible danger by creating interesting relationships among the characters, and by adding tension to scenes filled with allies.

Guardian

The guardian, or threshold guardian, tests the hero before they face great challenges. They can appear at any stage of the story, but they always block an entrance or border of some kind. They were basically saying “Don’t pass go, return back to your nice bubble.” Then the hero must prove their worth through either tricky, intellect or action.

Shadow

Shadows are villains in the story. They exist to create threat and conflict and to give the hero something to struggle against. Like many of the other archetypes, shadows do not have to be characters specifically. It can be any force preventing the hero from obtaining their goal.

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One note to remember: archetypes are good, stereotypes are not. When writing, you must create characters that are complex beings (human or not) that have real thoughts and feelings. It makes your story more interesting and compelling. There’s no room for one-dimensional tropes.

By writing this post, I hope you are better equipped to take on characters’ personalities and traits. Just remember that story is important, but your characters are what make the story. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week as I speak more about creating a character’s actions and dialogue.

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Feedback Part 2 – Peer and Professional Critiques

After speaking on the benefits of table reads earlier this week, this blog will focus on peer and professional feedback when it comes to your screenplay.

Having family and friends read your work is one thing, but letting your writing peers and screenwriting professionals comb through your words is a different level of anxiety. But you shouldn’t be nervous as getting feedback from other writers can be very rewarding when it comes to tweaking your screenplay.

Writers reading other writers’ work is like iron sharpening iron as they give you a keen insight make your script better. They can tell you what works, what needs work or what doesn’t work at all. It is very helpful in terms of hearing what your words may or may not be implying from another writer’s perspective. This only leads to more fine-tuning of the best characters or scenes and trimming the word fat for a better, more polished screenplay.

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As you think about pursuing peer and professional feedback, I’ll give you some places that have helped me on my screenwriting journey. Here are a few Facebook and LinkedIn pages:

Screenwriting Magazine

Organization of Black Screenwriters

Screenwriting Blogs, Interviews, and Advice

SCREENWRITER NETWORKING

Secrets of Screenwriting Group

Screenwriting

Writers’ Guild of America Discussion Group

Along with group pages, there are quite a few websites that can aid you in perfecting your screenplay. Here are a few:

The Black List

LA Screenwriter

Reddit Screenwriting

Screencraft

Screenwriter 911

Writer So Fluid

These are just a few of the resources you can use on your screenwriting journey.

 

By reading this post, I hope you feel a little bit better about your peers and industry professionals looking over your work. Now, you just need to find a safe place to let your words be free. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week as I talk about character development in a screenplay.

Feedback Part 1 – Table Reads

For any screenwriter, getting feedback on your screenplay is pivotal to creating your best work. There are many sources of feedback for screenwriters. With this post, I’ll be focusing on table reads, or read-throughs, and their importance to the editing and revising process.

After completing your first screenplay and sitting with it for a minute or two, you’ll want to get instant feedback. This is where traditional read-throughs come into play. Read-throughs are an excellent source of feedback when it comes to fine-tuning any aspect of your script. Seeing and typing words on the screen is very different from hearing your words read aloud.

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The vibe of a read-through is best summed up in its definition:

an initial rehearsal of a play at which actors read their parts from scripts.

You don’t necessarily need professional actors to make your words come to life. But you will need willing participants to read your script. Family members. Friends. Classmates. Co-workers. Anybody will do when it comes to bringing your dialogue to life. You might want to let your readers look over the script to give them a chance to pick which characters they want to voice. Outside of the speaking parts, there is the issue of narration. You need someone to give your characters’ actions pizzazz as the screenplay takes shape.

With characters and narration set, there is the issue of the venue. Big or small. Well-lit or dim. Living room, kitchen table or bedroom. The place for the script reading doesn’t matter as long as everyone is comfortable and understand what the goal of the read-through is. All you really need is the right creative atmosphere to produce a fruitful reading.

Once everything is set, the hard part begins – hearing your words read aloud for others to hear. It can be scary but don’t worry because it’s all a part of the process. Having others read your words allows you to hear what dialogue doesn’t sound correct or feels off for a certain character. What directions or actions are more tell than show in the script? Is too much dialogue and not enough action, or vice versa? Is the plot moving forward or stagnant? Is the climax strong enough? These are some of the questions that might arise as you hear your words outside your mind and computer screen. That’s okay because this is another step in perfecting your screenplay. You might be in your feelings as you hear feedback from others. That just means you have a real passion for what you’re writing, but don’t let keep you from hearing good constructive criticism.

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Hopefully, this post has introduced you to your new best friend – the table read. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week as I speak on another source of feedback – critiques.

 

Editing and Revising Part 3 – Creating a Clean Copy

While this week’s first entry focused on proofreading, this second part will look at getting a clean copy when editing and revising. Make sure to have your computer screen up and a red marker ready for an exciting ride.

With proofreading out of the way, let’s get to business shall we – actually reading through your script. For any writer, proofreading is a tedious process as you scan over every phrase and word in your writing. Screenwriting can be even more intense as one word or phrase correction can change the direction of a scene or act. Proofreading a screenplay usually goes through three phases to create a decent clean copy.

Phase 1 – the computer screen

All you have to do scroll through the pages at a snail’s pace to spot what misspellings and homophones you might catch. You can agree with your spellchecker or overrule it like a dictator. The choice is yours.

Phase 2 – the printout

Reading a hard copy of my script can an eye-opening moment as you comb through every character. Action. Word. Punctation. You’ll need a red pen and time as you can every page for a minute or two so no mistake is left behind. Make sure to keep tabs on your corrections by leaving a checkmark or X on each page.

Phase 3 – from the hard copy to the screen

At this point, you’ll be looking over the script page by page as you make corrections to your file. Just remember to look over the pages carefully so not to create more errors.

Bonus Phase – streamlining

As a writer, cutting away the excess can be very helpful in fine-tuning your screenplay. Eliminating unnecessary words and phrases can create a balance between dialogue and action and reduce repetition.

 

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By reading this post, you’ll be able to work out the bugs out and fine-tune your script just in case your big moment arrives. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week for more insight from The Screenwriting Forum.

Editing and Revising Part 2 – Proofreading

Last week, the focus was on preparing for the daunting yet rewarding task of editing and revising. Getting into this somewhat scary process by proofreading is this week’s focus. So get your cursor or pens ready to begin!

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Proofreading is a writer’s best weapon when it comes to creating a nice clean copy for potential prospects or running into your favorite producer or filmmaker (just kidding about that part – remember to go through the proper channels).

What pesky obstacles or offenders are you trying to spot when proofreading. Here are some common ones:

  • Misspelling – these common mistakes will scream at you from the screen with their antagonizing red lines. Here’s where you search and correct them.
  • Homophones – these pesky annoyances will hide amongst a descriptive action or well-written dialogue until you read through the script. They sound right but look awkward.
  • Punctuations – Sometimes being in the mood as a screenwriter can lead to a question mark being placed where a period is needed. This is an easy fix with a good read through.
  • Capitalization – As you write and format your screenplay, it can tricky trying to keep up with all the proper names. sounds, and directions that need proper capitalization.

Besides the typical mistakes, two majors that can cause any screenwriter to almost have a mental breakdown: omissions and improper formatting.

Omissions are any writer’s worst nightmare (especially for a screenwriter). Missing dialogue. A vanished monologue. A pivotal scene going missing. Snafus like these can be a setback, but with some patience and proper planning, you’ll be able to find your way out of this mind-numbing episode.

Formatting can be another nightmare as scene directions turn into a piece of dialogue or vice versa. Scene headings becoming transitions. Floating dialogue without its proper character to say it. All you have to do is look through, see what needs some attention and correct it in the screenwriting software of your choice.

Before we move on, here are some common homophones you may run across:

  • its vs. it’s
  • they’re vs. there vs. their
  • to vs. too vs. two
  • you’re vs. your
  • affect vs. effect
  • then vs. than
  • led vs. lead

Hopefully, Reading this post has helped you on your journey to working the bugs out in your script. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Look out for part 3 of Editing and Revising later on today.

 

Editing and Revising Part 1 – The Preparation

So you finished your first screenplay, now what do you do? It’s time to start revising and editing your work. While this might seem like an overwhelming task, there’s no need to worry because The Screenwriting Forum is here to help.

With any piece of writing, a writer needs to prep for the process as it can be long depending on the length of the script.  Here are a few suggestions for the road to revising:

A computer and printer: These two essentials are necessary for your revising journey as they allow you to edit and revise your screenplay through a computer screen and a nice print-out.

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Writing tools: Pens. Pencils. Markers. Highlighters. Whatever you need to strikethrough, write notes, add in or correct while reading your screenplay.

Writing mood setters: Your favorite pen. A personal trinket. Your favorite snack. Everyone has something that aides them in the writing process.

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Find a comfortable spot: This all depends on what you need as a writer to concentrate – some need a quiet tucked-away spot while others enjoy the ambiance of a coffee shop. Just find what works for you.

Along with these suggestions, here is a book to reference during the process:
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The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style (2nd Edition) by Christopher Riley

Hopefully, now that the preparation is out of the way,  you are now ready to start revising and editing your screenplay. Get ready for a mix of hard work and fun as you take this journey with The Screenwriting Forum.

Come back next week for Part 2 of Editing and Revising. See you then.

Welcome!

Hello readers and followers, and welcome to The Screenwriting Forum. Through this platform, I will be sharing all facets of the screenwriting process in an informative and accessible manner. I feel any and everyone who studies screenwriting or a knack for it should have a clear understanding of what goes on after the spec script is done. Not everyone needs to or has to buy every single how-to-write-a-screenplay book under the sun especially in the internet age.

Through this blog, I will speak on a variety of topics related to the editing and revising a screenplay. To make it more relatable, I’ll be using my editing and rewriting process to guide and help other aspiring screenwriters along with novice to the practice.

While my process will be documented, you, the reader, will be encouraged to share your thoughts and opinions and ask questions on any and every post.

poitning finger_participation

 

This is a community, not just an advice blog.

I hope we can grow together on this screenwriting journey.

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