Dialog in a Screenplay

CC image Talking by Pedro Ribeiro Simões at Flickr

    CC image Talking by Pedro Ribeiro Simões at Flickr

This post is based upon the work of Elisabeth Bacon, IB Film instructor at Skyline High School in Issaquah, WA,


To write a real-life (real voices, real timing, real structure) conversation by recording a conversation (making note of the surroundings/setting) and then turning the conversation into a dialog-based scene in formal screenplay format via Celtx.com.  Real conversation has a rhythm, a natural pattern that can be challenging to capture. This exercise will reveal patterns in an actual converation and you can use this pattern for other screenplay conversation patterns.



1. Form Teams

  • Team up in teams of three
  • Decide
    1. Who is recording and email the audio to the editor
    2. Who is editing and uploading to SoundCloud
    3. Who is talking in the conversation (needs to be 2-3 people)

2. Create Blog Post

  • Create a blog post titled, Dialog in a Screenplay
    • Include the headings:
      • Summary
      • Recorded Conversation
      • Conversation Screenplay
      • What I Learned and Problems I Solved

 3. Record Audio of a Conversation

  • Record an ordinary/everyday conversation
    • This is NOT an exercise in eavesdropping, so if the conversation is not your business or becomes something you shouldn’t record, DON’T… instead record another conversation
    • Feel free to let the people conversing know you are recording them, but with hope that will not change the genuineness of the dialog
    • Discuss a topic that has some opinions/interests to both people
    • Avoid swearing or other inappropriate not-for-school topics
  • Recording guidance
    • Place the phone or other recording device between the people talking
    • Record about five minutes of conversation
      • If possible, attempt to get the start of the conversation/new topic so you know what is being discussed
  • Make sure to get permission from the recorded individuals

4. Edit the Audio File

  • Email the recorded audio file to yourself (or the editor) or download the file to your Google Drive
  • File Conversation
    • If you used an Apple device, you may need to convert the file format 
      • Search for a file converter web site
      • Convert .mp4 to .mp3 or .wav with an online converter like onlinevideoconverter.com
  • Use Audacity to cut the conversation down to 1-2 minute-ish
  • Export as a .wav file
  • Upload the edited conversation audio to SoundCloud and embed into your blog post under the Recorded Conversation heading

5. Format 1-2 Page Screenplay

  • Transcribe the audio into a  screenplay in Celtx.com
  • Upload PDF file to your blog post under the Conversation Screenplay heading

Include in a scene:

  1. Scene Heading
  2. Action
    • The description of your setting/scene, remember, just what you can SEE – not everything, just what’s helpful/necessary
  3. Character
    • A name – feel free to fictionalize names
    • Only use first names
  4. Dialog
    • The dialog you recorded
    • It does not have to be exact, but the point is to write a real conversation including slang, unfinished sentences/thoughts, people being cut-off, etc.
  5. Parentheticals
    • Optional, but be sure you add them correctly, check out actual screenplays for how-to’s / examples

Images from WritersStore.com


6. Write Summary and What Your Learned

  • Write the project summary under the Summary heading
  • Write what you learned and explain at least problem you solved under the What I Learned and Problems I Solved heading