One phrase that we should keep in mind when we write dialogue is this: less is more. Anyone can talk all day long, but did they say anything of value?

When it comes to scripts, I like to compare two shows I was watching simultaneously. These shows are not that similar except that they are both dramas. One show was Pretty Little Liars and the other was Boardwalk Empire. The first show is for teens and young adults, with lots of drama, gossip, high stakes, and twists. The latter is a drama for adults with lots of explicit language and graphic scenes, taking place in the 1920’s during the prohibition. Both are entertaining shows, and I finished them both. A few notes I made while watching them was this, that I try to remember when writing stories:

If you have one episode of a show in the middle of a season that contains two or three conversations between the same characters and each of those conversations convey the same emotions and come to same conclusion, then you are filling your dialogue with lots of words that mean very little. Pretty Little Liars has over twenty episodes each season while Boardwalk Empire has less than fifteen. The latter show will have one conversation with less words than any normal dialogue in “PLL,” and say a whole lot more.

Vocabulary matters, a lot. There is a book series I have been enjoying called the Innkeeper Chronicles which is Sci-fi, fantasy romance. As much as I am intrigued by it, let me just say that I found myself doing something in a couple books I really don’t want to admit. I skimmed a lot. There were multiple instances where the authors decided that the dialogue was going to have an explanation field day and go on for several paragraphs and take one to three pages of the same person not stopping at all because I guess we don’t need any pauses and we don’t want to do any showing rather than telling. I’m out of breath.

Please do not take that criticism as me condemning the series, I actually recommend it if you like Harry Potter or Star Wars, though there are some risqué scenes. Rather, I was disappointed to see that this was not edited down to contain short and sweet, less is more, show don’t tell moments rather than…what we got in the end.

Please, whatever you do, just consider the vocabulary you add to your characters. If you have a character that loves to talk a lot, no worries. Overall though, try different phrases (ones that don’t sound forced or like you are trying to impress anyone) and go with things that flow efficiently and say the most with the fewest amount of words. As a reader (and as a viewer if this is a script), it’s less exhausting.