The next time you write a scene, imagine you’re writing a silent movie. That means your characters can’t speak. Instead, they must convey their needs and their attempt to get what they want solely through physical action. Once you can tell the bulk of yours tory through physical, visual action, then you can worry about writing dialogue.
What happens with far too many novices is that they rely on dialogue exclusively to convey information. That results in “talky” scripts where the actor’s physical actions and the setting around them play little or no part. That results in a far less visually interesting story.
So start first with defining physical action for each of your characters in a scene. Identify what do they want? Then find a way to visually show us what they want.
In “The Artist,” a woman sneaks into a silent movie actor’s dressing room. Since she’s in love with this silent movie star, she stands near his jacket, hanging on a hook, and wraps the coat’s sleeve around her as if the man inside the jacket were holding and caressing her.
That visual scene alone tells you that she loves this man and wants him to love her in return.
The setting also plays a huge part because this woman not only loves this silent movie actor, but she has snuck into his dressing room and looks around in awe at his belongings because this is the closest she’s ever gotten to being near this man.
Imagine if this scene took place in a restaurant where the silent actor hung his jacket. The scene where the woman pretends the coat sleeve is caressing her would still work, but the setting would make the scene less effective because it’s not as intimidate as being in the actor’s dressing room.
So when writing a scene, focus first on the physical actions of the characters to tell a story. Then focus on the setting to further highlight the story. Finally, worry about dialogue.
Ironically, dialogue should be the last thing your characters should say.