Character Over Concept: Writing dialogue in search of story

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Screenwriting manuals such as McKee’s Story (1999) or Snyder’s Save the Cat! (2005) uniformly instruct the writer to begin their work by defining a concept; from this, they will develop a structure and build the rest of the story. These manuals and their methods dominate in higher education and in the film industry. However, their methods’ overreliance on structuring the writing process may be at the detriment of considering more creative approaches to building a story. One such approach, criticized by McKee in Story, is writing dialogue in search of a story. Using interviews from Noah Baumbach, his collaborators, and other mainstream screenwriters, alongside my observations from my own writing and from teaching screenwriting, this paper argues for the importance of allowing a screenplay to develop through writing dialogue in search of scenes, characters and story. It proposes that this method can enhance the quality of the individual character voice, form a stronger basis to structure a plot based on the development of characters, and enhance the reflective and creative skills required to complete a screenplay.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sep 2016
EventScreenwriting Research Network Conference - University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom
Duration: 15 Sep 201617 Sep 2016


ConferenceScreenwriting Research Network Conference
Abbreviated titleSRN Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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