Considering the Actor

I was fortunate to attend a “Revisions” session with screenwriter Terry Rossio at the recent Austin Film Festival. Since then, I’ve been eagerly using my new found wisdom. One idea from Terry that really resonated with me is how to take the actor into consideration when writing.

Here are a few of Terry Rossio’s tips related to writing to support dramatic acting:

Regarding dialogue: Shorter is better.

“Words for actors are a problem. Silences in between words are an opportunity.”

Actors hate question marks.

It locks in their vocalization. If you have to write a question, preferably format it as a statement.

Exclamation points can limit acting.

End on words the actor can react to.

Get rid of “and” as well as other connecting words.

Lists are fun for actors.

Always use your dialogue ear.

Find rhythm and poetry in what you write.

Give the actor dramatic movement.

No half steps.

For example, don’t have your character “almost knock” someone backwards. Go ahead. Let the character knock them backwards.

For more of Terry Rossio’s wisdom, check out his website, Word Play.


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