We got a question in the Highland support queue this morning that is less technical than philosophical:
I started using Highland to finish a script I started in Final Draft.
In Final Draft when a character speaks, then stops to do something physical, spots something, etc, then speaks again, a (CONT’D) is automatically added.
When I finished writing the script in Highland I noticed that Highland does not add the (CONT’D) so I had half a script with (CONT’D) and half without it.
In short I am curious is the (CONT’D) needed? Should I add it to what I wrote in Highland, or do I go back and remove it?
I am going to submit this script to the Black List website, and am still an aspiring screenwriter. I personally think the (CONT’D) just takes up space, and understand why Highland doesn’t automatically add it, but wanted to get your opinion first.
Many thanks. I love using Highland, and won’t be going back to Final Draft ever.
What he’s describing is automatic dialogue continuity, which is a source of no small amount of consternation to screenwriters. I wrote about it back in 2010, and that advice still holds true.
But my opinions have clearly influenced the direction of Highland, so it’s worth revisiting.
In some cases, you’ll absolutely want to use (cont’d) to indicate a character is still speaking. It’s a signal to the reader (and the actor) that the character is continuing the same thought, regardless of the intervening action.
(looking at his phone)
According to Dark Sky, a storm is coming in four minutes.
A tornado suddenly touches down, flipping over cars. Tom is oblivious.
We should probably go inside.
In other cases, it’s much less clear whether dialogue continuity makes sense. If a bunch of action has occurred between the last time the character spoke, is it really correct or helpful to have that (cont’d)?
Consider Sandra Bullock’s character in Gravity. Minutes may elapse between her spoken dialogue, but Final Draft will default to adding the (cont’d) since no other character has spoken in the interim. You can delete the (cont’d), but it’s a hassle, and it will come right back if you reformat text around it.
With Highland, we made the decision not to do add the (cont’d) automatically. The screenwriter is always the best judge of whether the dialogue is continuous, so you can just type it yourself.
That’s sort of the philosophy of Highland and Fountain: your script is exactly what you type, nothing more, nothing less. If you want a (cont’d) there, it’s deliberate.
In recent editions of Highland, we’ve given users the option to have Highland automatically add (more) and (cont’d) at page breaks.
Again, I think that’s consistent with the Highland philosophy. The app is doing behind-the-scenes work to make the page look great, with algorithms to break dialogue at the period where possible, and squeeze in an extra line if necessary. This kind of (cont’d) only shows up if you really need it, so there’s no reason to bake it into the text itself.
On the subject of Highland, we have a new release in the Mac App Store today. It fixes a bug that was preventing .fdx export.