Childish Dialogue

One of the things that scripts consistently get wrong is dialogue involving children. It seems adults are inexorably bad at coming up with things that children say. Behold a sample from my own script, as it is currently being circulated in screenwriting contests:

Postville screenplay - before


Are you done yawning yet? I have four nephews and nieces, and I don’t think any of them would respond to that question that way. And even if they would, we shouldn’t write it that way, because it’s just plain boring.

So as I thought about this, I wondered aloud what I have heard my nieces and nephews say when I walk into the room and they’re excited to see me. Behold the updated version of this scene:

Postville Script pages - after


Is it the best moment in the script? No. But all of a sudden, this line of dialogue is no longer a mound of coal that the reader has to dig through in order to get to the diamond in the scene. It’s something that actually entertains. Suddenly this little girl is funny and adorable, so we immediately care about her and (more importantly), by proxy, her father, a protagonist who needs all the help he can get in being portrayed as sympathetic.

The fact that this interaction takes place in the first five pages of the script makes it all the more important that it’s an interesting read and drives us powerfully toward the main action in the scene.


One Response to Childish Dialogue

  1. […] going back through Postville with my eye on improving it at least 1% per day. A few days ago I improved the children’s dialogue. The day before that I cut several lines in the first 10 or 15 pages that could be construed as […]

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