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Screenwriters can learn story and structure, but the ability to create real, tangible characters is more elusive — and ultimately more important.

The best gauge of good writing is whether a screenplay’s characters feel distinct and alive. A lot of that comes from how the characters speak: what they say and how they say it.

John and Craig offer some tests to see if your screenplay’s dialogue works:

  • Could you take one character’s words and have another say them?
  • Can you picture a specific actor speaking each character’s lines? Or, even better, are there actors you can’t picture saying them?
  • Do the characters all sound like you, the writer? Or do they have distinct voices?

This week’s listener questions include recycling material, writing large-group action scenes, and possible novels. Craig then rants about the evils of Zynga and the wonder of 1Password.

How do you do an imitation of Denzel Washington? Find out on episode 37 of Scriptnotes.

LINKS:

You can download the episode here: AAC.

UPDATE 5-18-12: The transcript of this episode can be found here.