Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Victoria Lucia

How and When to Add Dialogue Direction in a Screenplay

Dialogue is one of the most important components of any screenplay. Dialogue advances the plot, builds personality, and breathes life into your characters.

However, dialogue is more than just written words. How do you express how the words should be said? How do you inform an actor of how their character is speaking a certain line?

Keep reading to discover how and when to add dialogue direction to a screenplay.

Add Dialogue Direction in a Screenplay

What is Dialogue Direction?

Dialogue direction, also known as stage direction, actor direction, or personal direction, is the part of the script that tells a writer how a line should be delivered.

Dialogue direction might include details like volume, tone of voice, the specific action that should accompany the line or any other details that can help the actor bring their character to life.

Experts caution that dialogue direction should be used sparingly within a screenplay. We'll get into why that is in the dos and don'ts below.

How to Use Dialogue Direction in SoCreate Screenwriting Software

SoCreate's software makes adding dialogue direction to your screenplay quick, easy, and painless. It's also more fun than writing in legacy screenwriting software because SoCreate shows the emotion on your characters' faces!

Click on the dialogue stream that you want to edit. I circled the one I'm selecting.

A screen capture showing dialogue in SoCreate Screenwriting Software

Below it, click on the icon of a person and an arrow circled again below.

A screen capture showing where to select dialogue direction in SoCreate Screenwriting Software

Once you click that, a box will appear above the selected dialogue, and you can go ahead and type in how you want the character to deliver the line.

A screen capture showing dialogue direction in SoCreate Screenwriting Software

If an applicable version of the direction you gave exists within the software, it will change your character's icon to emote accordingly! Pretty cool, huh?

When you're done, just click outside of the dialogue stream item to save the change!

How Dialogue Direction Appears in a Traditional Screenplay

In a traditional screenplay, dialogue direction should be placed on a line above the dialogue. It's usually written in parenthesis that precedes the dialogue. For example, it might look like:  

Example of Dialogue Direction


How dare you!

Dialogue direction can also be used to signal that a character is continuing to speak. In that case, it might look like:

Example of Dialogue Direction


There's gold in that old mine.

Jim takes a long sip from his drink.


So, you see, I won't be leaving town anytime soon.

Dialogue Direction Dos and Don'ts

When it comes to using dialogue direction in your screenplay, there are some things you will want to keep in mind! Here are some dialogue direction dos and don'ts to consider:

Do use dialogue direction to express important information:

If a certain action or gesture is important to the scene, you should use a dialogue direction to make the actor aware of it.

Don't overdo it:

Too many dialogue directions can cause distraction or confusion when reading your script. Be sure only to use dialogue directions when it's appropriate.

Do be specific:

Dialogue direction should be short and precise. Be as brief and specific as possible. If you can't express what you're trying to say in a word or two, consider writing the direction as an action line instead.

Don't micromanage:

It's important to be specific in you're writing, but it's also important not to micromanage. Have you ever received feedback telling you not to direct from the page? Using too many dialogue directions too often can feel like you're trying to direct the actors. Allow the actors room for their own choices and interpretations to shine.

Do consider the reader:

Be mindful that your script isn't only going to be read by potential actors. It needs to be readable for anyone working on the project. Bogging down a screenplay with too many dialogue directions can make for a frustrating or distracting read. Keep all readers in mind and save dialogue directions for when they're strictly necessary.

Why you should switch to SoCreate...

SoCreate Changes Everything!

Try it now!

SoCreate Changes Everything!

Try it now!


Dialogue direction can be an important part of any screenplay. Hopefully, this blog was able to give you a better idea of how and when to use dialogue directions. They can inform actors about their characters and how to bring them to life. Remember that dialogue directions should be kept to a minimum to allow actors to develop their own opinions and ideas for a character. Aim to be specific in your directions, but don't overdo it. Good luck, and happy writing!

You may also be interested in...

How to Add Dialogue From the Tools Toolbar in SoCreate Screenwriting Software

To add dialogue to your story for a character that does not yet exist, navigate to the Tools Toolbar on the right-hand side of your screen. Click Add Character, and a popup will appear. Here, you’ll build your character. First, choose an image to represent your character by clicking “Change Image.” An image gallery will appear. You can filter images using descriptive tags at the bottom of the pop out. Find the image you like best, and click “Use Image.” Now, add a character name. Then, choose your character type. And finally, add the character’s age. Click add character to save your changes. A new Dialogue Stream Item ...

The 7 Deadly Dialogue Sins, with Examples

The 7 Deadly Dialogue Sins, with Examples

While screenplays don’t have to include a ton of dialogue (or any dialogue for that matter), most screenwriters do lean on dialogue to help move their story along. Dialogue is any spoken words or conversation among characters in your script. It sounds realistic, but when you dig a little deeper, it probably doesn’t mimic precisely how we talk because, in a screenplay, dialogue must have a focused, quick purpose. There’s no rambling in a screenplay; in the best scripts, the dialogue gets to the point. There are some simple rules for writing strong dialogue in your story and some big-time no-no’s. I found that one ...

Add Emotion to Your Screenplay

How to Add Emotion to Your Screenplay

Do you ever find yourself working on your screenplay and asking, “where is the emotion?” “Will anyone feel anything when they watch this movie?” It happens to the best of us! When you’re focused on structure, getting from plot point A to B, and making all of the overall mechanics of your story work, you can find your script missing some emotional beats. So today, I’m going to explain some techniques so you can learn how to add emotion to your screenplay! You can infuse emotion into your script through conflict, action, dialogue, and juxtaposition, and I’m going to teach you how ...