Monologues have a place and time within any screenplay. These longer dialogue blocks are an excellent opportunity to showcase inner turmoil or learned lessons by your main character; however, if you aren’t careful these monologues can actually lower the interest and entertainment value of your script. Whenever you feel it’s necessary to create a monologue, you must ask yourself several questions. Upon answering these questions you’ll have a greater understanding of whether or not this monologue is appropriate.
Writing a monologue is an article within itself; however, determining if your monologue is justified is just as important as actually formulating the piece.
What is Revealed?
Monologues are typically used as a means of revealing some aspect of a character. This revelation may include lessons learned or simply getting to know the character more. For example, in the opening credits of “American Beauty” we hear Lester deliver a monologue. It’s during this monologue that the audience learns more about not only the internal struggles of his character and his life, but also that he will be dead by the end of the film. While this gives away much of the story plot, the monologue sets the tone for the entire movie.
How Long is Too Long?
This answer is more subjective than definitive. The length of a monologue is directly determined by what is being said and the revelations placed within its words. Typically, a monologue is less than two minutes in length – two minutes in film time is comparable to 20 minutes of real-world time. As a general rule of thumb, keep your monologue under 1.5 minutes. If you feel that it must be longer, make sure that every word said has weight and is important. There is nothing more than reading a page-long monologue that doesn’t benefit the overall flow and feel of the scene or film.
If you are ever unsure how long your monologue will be, use a timer and actually perform the monologue. Don’t just simply say the words, but perform the piece as if you were the actor. This not only provides a clearer understanding of its length, but also whether or not the monologue is essential for the story.
As a rule of thumb, never include a monologue unless you are 100-percent sure it adds true value to the (1) character (2) story and (3) tone of the script.