As a screenwriter you must have a healthy dose of split personalities. During the course of a single screenplay you must view the world and speak as if you’re multiple people. This is one of the most challenging aspects of being a screenwriter and compiling dialogue. While new screenplay writers are typically unable to fully grasp the technique of writing outside of your own personality, over time you can learn to formulate and actually think as different people while still maintaining a strong grasp of story objectives and goals.
Before ever sending off your screenplay, review all dialogue with this question in mind, “Are these words from my own personality or the characters’?”
Would You Say That?
Adding pieces of your own personality is essential to create a real character with real feelings; however, you must only use your personal mind as a blueprint for how a character would react if they were a real human. The most successful screenwriters are those who formulate characters and dialogue that are completely different. The easiest way to tell if a screenplay was written by a novice is to review the dialogue. If sentence structure and phrasing are similar, that is to say if it seems the dialogue could be said by one person, then you must rework everything.
When reviewing dialogue, ask yourself, “Would I say that?” If the answer is yes, then you may need to rework the entire script. It’s only when you come across dialogue that seems as if another human being is thinking and speaking that you have successfully written your script.
Moving Beyond Your Personality
At the beginning of every scene, I always ask myself, “What would I do in this situation?” The reason for doing so is to create a clear blueprint of how I would react in this situation. Now when I move into the writing phase, I can look at my dialogue and action sequences and if they fit my own choices in any way, I delete and re-write them.
It’s important to learn that your personality and life experiences are essential to write, but you must leave them at the door. Use your personality as a means of empathizing with characters, not as a means of creating and constructing them.