Writing Dialogue Is Instinctual by Erik Bork

Film Courage: What is your process for approaching dialogue?

Erik Bork, Screenwriter/Author: It’s kind of instinctual I think. Once I know what is happening in the scene and I know where it’s going, where the characters enter the scene. It’s all about:

*Whose scene is it?

*What are they trying to achieve in that scene?

*What is in the way?

*What are they doing in trying to get through whatever is in the way?

That’s pretty much the template for every scene.

Then part of that is going to be dialogue, part of that is going to be what they say. And what they say should be the things that they would believably say given who they are and what their unique voice and way of speaking is in that situation given what is going on and what they want.

You want to avoid the mistake that people often make with expositional dialogue where people just speak information that the audience needs to know but they really wouldn’t say in that moment. You want them to be saying the things that they would really say.

When I’m doing it it is kind of instinctual and I’m just sort of quickly writingwhat I have people say and then maybe go back and revise it but what is probably in the back of my mind is it needs to be what they would naturally say given who they are and what they want.

And people don’t always express everything they want, right? The best dialogue has subtext. Which means the audience can pick up that they’re thinking and feeling something they are not saying but what they are saying is what they think is the right thing to say to try and get whatever it is that they want. Or the only thing they are able to say for whatever reason given who they are and what’s going on. But what is helpful is there’s a sense of subtext of we know what the inner life is underneath that they are not saying. But what they are saying hopefully feels real for that character and hopefully is entertaining and keeping with whatever the genre is. I mean if it’s…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


About : Erik Bork is a screenwriter best known for his work on the HBO miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS and FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, for which he wrote multiple episodes, and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards as part of the producing team. Erik has also sold series pitches (and written pilots) at NBC and FOX, worked on the writing staff for two primetime dramas, and written feature screenplays on assignment for companies like Universal, HBO, TNT, and Playtone. He teaches screenwriting for UCLA Extension, National University and The Writers Store, and offers one-on-one consulting to writers.

BUY THE BOOK – THE IDEA: The Seven Elements of a Viable Storyfor Screen, Stage or Fiction by Erik Bork







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SAWGRASS on Youtube by Jack Peterson. Jack is an American filmmaker based in Chicago. He’s been featured in the New York Times, the Daily Beast, and ABC News for his work as an activist. His first feature film, Sawgrass, is a psychedelic journey through Florida, featuring an extensive interview with the brother of the Las Vegas shooter. Sawgrass also features a performance by the Rock-afire Explosion, a vintage animatronic band created by famed inventor Aaron Fechter. Jack’s next feature film, My Perfect Everything, tells the story of a magician chasing an imaginary woman he met in 1989. My Perfect Everything is currently in the early stages of pre-production.