Multiple Speakers

Sometimes a writer needs to write Dialogue for multiple speakers. Whether is be two or more characters speaking at once, a group of people speaking together, or people saying different things at the same time, there is a way to properly format it.

Two Speakers:

If there are two characters saying the same thing at precisely the same time, a writer can format the Dialogue like this:

If, for some reason, the writer doesn't believe the above example completely conveys the message that the two characters are speaking together, he or she may add a Parenthetical, like this:

Well, that's great if the speakers are saying the same thing, but what if they are speaking at the same time, but are both saying something different?

Here is one way to format the Dialogue:

Another way to handle the same situation would be with what is called Dual Dialogue.

The same Dialogue formatted as Dual Dialogue looks like this:

Dual Dialogue is extremely useful if you have longer Dialogue between two characters who are arguing and trying to talk over one another.

Look at this example:

So how is Dual Dialogue written? I use Final Draft, and in Final Draft Dual Dialogue is accomplished quickly and easily.

First, write the Dialogue as you normally would. In the case of the example above, I wrote the WIFE Dialogue on top of the HUSBAND Dialogue. After that, I highlighted both Dialogue blocks, then went to Format > Dual Dialogue. From there, Final Draft will do the rest.

If you are using a different program and have to format yourself, do so using these indentions:

First Character Heading - Left Margin: 2.5"
Second Character Heading - Left Margin: 5"

First Speaker Dialogue - Left Margin: 2", Right Margin: 4.5" (from right)
Second Speaker Dialogue - Left Margin: 4", Right Margin: 2" (from right)

Groups of Speakers:

When a group of people are chanting the same phrase together, it can be done simply as in this scene:

But what if the group of people are NOT saying the same thing?

This can be done in a few different ways.

Let's look at an example of a group of reporters barking out questions to a disgraced politician. I know, that would NEVER happen in real life, but bear with me.

As a writer if you feel like you'd like a way to show that each of the phrases in the Dialogue block is separate and said by different characters, you can separate the various phrases with slashes, dispensing with the Parenthetical.

Here is how that might look:

Most of the time, in scenes like the two above, the screenwriter may not really care about the specific Dialogue tossed out by a group of random people. If the writer wants to leave the particulars of what is said to the director, the writers can indicate the group Dialogue as an AD LIB in a Direction paragraph.

Here's an example with the news reporters:

In the example above, the writer simply indicates what the questions should be regarding, but leaves the particulars of the scene to the director.

Similarly, a writer may have a scene where two characters are having a conversation in spite of a chaotic atmosphere with many extras screaming or speaking randomly around them.

In situations like this, writers shouldn't attempt to write Dialogue for each and every person talking in the background. At the same time, given the context of the scene, even an AD LIB call out may not be necessary.

Here is how such a scene might be formatted:

The background chatter will be obvious and left to the director to deal with.

A extreme rarity in screenwriting is having two distinct conversations happening at the same time. Here is an example done through the use of a Split Screen.

Scenes like the one above shouldn't be used too often, and should be kept short. It is confusing for the audience. Who is saying what?

As far as the formatting goes, once again I used Dual Dialogue, but it took a little more planning, as Final Draft's Dual Dialogue feature will only format two blocks of Dialogue at a time.

Also note that I established both scene locations with their own Master Scene Headings, and then combined the two with a Split Screen Subheading.

Once the scene was complete, I indicated so with END SPLIT SCREEN indented as a Transition.

If you have a group of people reciting a song, poem, prayer, or some other material, the Dialogue will be placed in quotes, like this:

Notice that rather than writing the Dialogue into stanzas, I indicated the stanza breaks with a slash.

A similar situation is if a character starts the recital, and other characters join in, such as in a prayer.

Here is how such a situation might look: