Jan. 10 Writing Prompt

For the 10th, the writing prompt will focus more to the screenwriter. However, the novelist will get a good challenge from it, too.

One disadvantage that screenwriters face (compared to novelists), is that they have a much more limited area to provide character backstory.

In case you don’t know, the novelist can use a lot of different devices to build a backstory. One of the biggest is using action, or just simply telling the reader all about it.

In a script, though, the action isn’t shared on screen, at least to the point the viewer notices. The screenwriter relies on mostly dialogue. Action words are there for the actors and directors, while the audience only gets what the characters say.

Current actions and what the actors do on screen don’t do a whole lot for backstory.

So for today, we are going to work only with dialogue.

Dialogue is a powerful tool when used correctly and practice never hurts.

First, we will take a look at the prompt….

January 10

Jane McCormick is talking to her best friend Marta Rodriguez. Using only dialogue, tell as complete of a back story for Jane as you can.

The rules this time are pretty simple. You can only use dialogue and dialogue tags. You must also give as much of Jane’s backstory as possible.

Women Talking
Characters need to have back stories, but keep it relevant

However, the rub is that you need to think as a screenwriter. You have a limited space to get your point across. Movies are only 90 to 120 minutes long. So for this writing prompt, you also must keep it below 300 words.

Once you have completed the task, post it in the comments so we can all see how you did!

Here is what I came up with

“I don’t know what to tell you, Marta. He reminds me of my dad.” Jane McCormick said.

“Your dad? You never talk about your family, how am I supposed to know?” Marta replied.

“Besides the fact that you’re my best friend? Okay, how about this,” Jane continued, “I was born the third child to a lovely couple in mid-western Kansas.”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”

“No, no. Where was I? Oh yes, I was bullied in school until I was in 10th grade and grew my boobs. Then, I made more mistakes thinking the bad boys were the answer. That only resulted in abuse and depression. Then I got married to a guy that thought I looked best going through walls.”

“Oh wait,” Marta interrupted, “was that Mitch that you told me about that night we got drunk?”

“No, actually, that was Peter.” Jane said, laughing. “Mitch was the one that thought I should be agoraphobic and kept me locked in the house.”

“Oh, yes, that’s right. Peter. I tell you, it’s hard to keep up sometimes. You know I love you, but you have had a tough life. You started working at the store with us just after you got away from Mitch, right?”

“Yeah, about three months after.”

“And you’re finally ready to date again.” Marta said with a smile.

“Uhhh, not unless I just turned gay and you’re leaving your husband for me. Which, as I started with, is probably a good thing, since he reminds me of my dad.”

Key Take Aways

When doing this kind of exercise, you can move it over to your story. The trick is to keep the conversations short and crisp.

You also want to ensure that the information you give is relevant to your story line. If it pushes your story forward, use it. However, you want to avoid giving useless information just for the sake of giving information.

Less is more. So when using the back story you have created, make sure you only use what is relevant to keep the reader properly informed and interested.

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