Little by Little

Little by Little

A Lesson by Steven Norton

Using the least amount of dialogue as possible.


Visual storytelling benefits from a well-chosen soundscape, which can include music and song, where appropriate.


Images and dialogue should complement or contradict, without duplication.Screen images narrate, dialogue supports. Voiceover narration should establish an intimate, exclusive relationship with the audience, rather than give expositional information: use it for character purposes, not as a plotting shortcut.


Give information visually, via labels, captions, advertising billboards, newspaper headlines, street and shop names. Clarify the scene's event-type: familiar events, such as meals, arrivals and departures, supply an existing, accessible visual grammar.


In screenplays, visual montages can avoid repetition, compress time and reveal character. Gestures, movements and expressions provide characterisation and plot information. Psychological gestures can reveal emotional truths, secrets, or subtext.


 Where dialogue slows the tempo unnecessarily, cut it. I don't care, "if it slows it goes." Make sure the transitions from image to image generate pace and rhythm.


Think of Pixar's WALL.E: it begins with a skewed, futuristic city panorama: skyscrapers made from compacted rubbish, everywhere deserted. Closer in, a squat little robot busily collects and squashes rubbish for the next "trash tower". The robot is rusty, battered, but perky and inquisitive, sorting items for his collection. A stencilled acronym reveals his name: Wall.E.


The story world, the protagonist and a major theme are introduced with visual style, charm and wit: no dialogue.


I want you to write a three-minute visual scene or sequence based around a ceremony (wedding or funeral; launching a ship; official 'robing' or investiture; parade) in which the protagonist is involved. Sound, including music and song can be used, but no more than 10 words of dialogue.



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Posted 6 Years Ago

in the wide sky along the beautiful black skies a new red source of light appeared, much like our very own solar eclipse with much more diverse of an effect, under that dim light moved a tiny boy along the whitey grass affected by the new light, neither the sun moved nor the moon, under those thick black clouds, ready to drop thunder upon him anytime,the blue clouds would cry to stop it, precipitating rain covered his face as he looked in the wide black sky under the view of the new sun, it seemed as he was crying, but we know the truth.

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Posted 7 Years Ago

There's potential here but I found it not too much help. You only included one type of example but describing something in a story or even a poem has some visual story telling. Describing does not have to be outlined so much that it takes a full page to describe a ball and the everyday lawn that it landed on but if it's a major place in said story, novel, script etc. It needs to be described in great detail and then when one comes back to it a general if not short description simply designed to remind the writer and/or reader of what it was before.

I read this and I think to myself that it was more for the movie and script writers then what I took it for. I would have liked to seen more diverse examples on this topic so that everyone could use it in their writing.
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Added on January 7, 2010
Last Updated on January 7, 2010
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Steven Norton
Steven Norton

Lexington, SC

Not so much a writer, but more of an "imagineer".