In my professional experience, the hardest aspect of screenwriting is dialogue. The formation of vocal exchanges between characters is a talent within itself. While learning dialogue takes dedication and a willingness to make mistakes, one of the most effective dialogue writing tips I’ve come across throughout my years of writing is this: don’t repeat common knowledge.
Common knowledge in the realm of screenwriting is information that’s already been established either through dialogue or action sequences. Oftentimes, novice screenwriters have a tendency of repeating themselves within dialogue. This not only showcases your immaturity as a screenwriter, but also takes away from the overall objective/goals of a particular scene.
Say Once, Never Repeat
Let’s say your character works for a grocery store as a bagger. This fact of his life is established within the opening scene as well as in dialogue several minutes into the film. Now, later on in the movie the character refers to his work as a grocery bagger. While it may seem necessary in the scope of the scene (especially if the character is speaking to someone who isn’t familiar with his line of work), this is already common knowledge for the audience.
Repeating facts throughout a screenplay is not only redundant, but takes audience members out of the movie and breaks the suspended belief that’s been created. Instead of repeating facts within your script, formulate ways in which the same information can be revealed, but with different words.
Repetition is boring, repetition is boring, repetition is…
Repeating the same chunks of knowledge or using similar dialogue patterns throughout the film is not only amateur, but it’s boring. Every piece of dialogue should be fresh. It must provide viewers with enough information to maintain their interest while peaking their curiosity to continue watching. Nothing takes a viewer out of a scene quicker than repetition.
During each scene, carefully review the dialogue. Have you said similar information in previous scenes? Moreover, will you need to use the dialogue in one scene again in a later scene? If so, which scene is most important? Formulating your dialogue with fresh facts takes time, especially if dealing with complex story lines. No matter what type of story you’re writing, don’t ever fall into the trap of repeating common knowledge.