In stage writing and acting, you must exaggerate character feelings and emotions. Not only is this a characteristic of this type of storytelling, but audience members are working with limited insight into these characters as they are stuck within the confines of the stage and its set. As a screenwriter you have the unique ability to follow characters into their intimate moments and even into their minds. Because of this, you don’t need to exaggerate emotions through dialogue.
Exaggerating character emotions through dialogue may seem proper as it establishes their internal feelings, but doing so often leads to diluting their true feelings and intent.
Explain Emotions With Small Phrases
One of the main aspects of screenwriting I truly love is its ability to showcase the emotional landscape of characters without having to be overt about it. Even the smallest answer to a question can resonate loudly with audience members. Sometimes the most powerful way to showcase an emotion is to try to dilute this emotion through dialogue. Instead of a character lashing out as his roommate because she continually forgets to clean the litter box, have the character simply nod and when she asks him if he cleaned the litter box. This simple nod can have so much power as it shows the audience the character is tired of cleaning after his messy roommate, but his desire to keep the peace is much stronger. Ultimately, this type of response can lead to resentment between the characters, which is way more powerful than simply having the roommate yell and scream at his less-than-proactive roommate.
Hint At Emotions
In screenwriting you’re able to showcase emotions through a variety of storytelling elements. Unlike stage writing, where dialogue is the main platform for highlighting internal feelings, screenwriting allows you to showcase these emotions through not only dialogue but action and camera sequences. It’s truly like being a fly on the wall.
Because of this, you’re able to provide viewers with all the necessary information without having to exaggerate emotions through dialogue. Instead of giving away the character’s true feelings, have them hint at how they feel.
Using the example above, perhaps the cleaner roommate could respond to his friends question of whether or not he cleaned the litter box with, “Why, yes. I did, just like I did yesterday.” This line of dialogue can then be followed by a small smile. While this doesn’t come across as overly emotional, the intent and subtext delivered by the actor provides all the emotional revelations that’s needed.