Screenwriting : Main Characters - Genre:Dialogue Ratio by Miguel Couto

Miguel Couto

Main Characters - Genre:Dialogue Ratio

I've been spending the passed few nights writing a spec script for a sci-fi, thriller. Can't give too much away but my lead is the typical strong, silent type... but is silent a good choice? I love writing dialogue, the supporting characters blabber a decent amount, but my main character doesn't have much to say. So, question: Where can I find information on how much a main character should speak within a specific genre? Secondly, what are your opinions on main character's who don't speak much?

Phillip Bastien

For me it's all dependant on what you're character says and at what time. It's a balancing act with characters like that, you either have to up the amount of dialogue to give them words or very carefully choose what and when to speak to get maximum effect for limited dialogue (see Schwarzenegger's Conan)

Anthony Moore

You want a movie with a strong silent lead - Soldier (1998) Kurt Russel.

Kerry Douglas Dye

Sounds like you're worrying about the wrong thing. There are plenty of ways to make us connect with a character without dialogue. One might argue that dialogue is the WORST way. Focus on making your character someone we can like, care about, and/or enjoy watching, and the quantity of dialogue is irrelevant.

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

I had the same problem! In the end, I've realized the hard way that silence was a cop-out, these leads were difficult people, not 'anti-heroes' per say, just too close to me and my own development. In the end, their problems were problems I hadn't dealt with yet, so I wrote other characters over them. It's been a healthy process, going back to square one and doing a full character arc outline before the big page one re-write. The new draft is way stronger, but it's definitely a difficult process. My advice, make sure you have this lead's character arc fully mapped out before you start. What are her primal urges? What is her main problem? What are her six little problems you want to see fixed? What is her early 'save the cat' moment? How does her problem match the movie's theme and premise? How does her arc compare to the antagonist's? How will the b-story compel her to be better? Or, you could just let the first draft flow as it will, and deal with the problems of weak lead character after the fact. Keep writing!

Miguel Couto

Thank you all for the advice, definitely feel more relaxed about it. I think as long as the character doesn't become passive it should be fine. I've written a bit further and am starting to enjoy his seldom lines more and more. Just out of curiosity, does anyone know if a formula has ever been hypothesized for this topic( Genre:Dialogue ratio) on an academic level?

Regina Lee

If you haven't seen it, watch Drive starring Ryan Gosling. That script was the strongest expression of "silent type" protagonist that I'd ever read.

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