Talking Animals

Writers might be surprised just how many options are available to them when writing Dialogue for animals. Sometimes animals bark but the audience hears words. Sometimes an animal's mouth will move similar to a human mouth, forming words. Sometimes we'll here the animal's thoughts.

In this section, we'll explore many possibilities available to writers to allow animals to communicate with other characters.

First, though, writers need to realize that simple animal sounds are not Dialogue:

Barks, meows, roars, etc. belong in Direction, not Dialogue, like this:

The Silent Bark:

Many times writers will have a dog barking, seemingly in silence, while the dog's words are translated for the audience. This can be accomplished with an MOS call-out.

Here is how that might look:

The same effect could have been accomplished with a Parenthetical, like this:

Regular Bark:

But let's say we want to hear the dog barking and have the meaning of the barks to be translated for the audience.

This is accomplished, once again, with a Parenthetical, utilizing Subtitles, like this:

Now, Rex will bark, we'll hear the bark, and subtitles will translate what Rex is saying.

Animal Thoughts:

But what if Rex never actually TALKS to his owner, but the audience can hear what the dog is thinking?

Check this out:

With a simple Voice Over Character Heading extension we've cued the reader that Rex's Dialogue will be heard by the audience, but characters in the film will be oblivious.

Animals Pronouncing Words:

Every once in a while you'll see an movie where the animals speak and their mouths actually move and form words much like a human being would.

Kinda creepy, if you ask me. But if that's what you are shooting for, then just write the Dialogue as you would for any other human character in the film:

Gives me the willys just thinking about it.

Of course, if you want to be 100% certain the director will know what you are looking for, it might be best to add a Note within a Direction paragraph.

Look at this example:

With that Note, I've not only explained how Rex will deliver the line, but I've let it be known that only Gerald will be able to hear what he is saying.

As a matter of fact, a Note at the beginning of the film explaining how an animal communicates throughout the film might be the best idea of all:

Once that's done, the writer can feel free to write Dialogue for Rex as he would any other character.