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How do I indicate dialogue 'from a distance'? Two characters and riding down a field on a quad bike, one asks a question of the other, who answers. They're visible but you can't see their lips move.

V/O ... this is probably the best. (technically). O/C ... you can see them. O/S ... you can see them.

Anyone know or have opinions they could share?

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    Are you talking about a screenplay? I don't have much experience with those, but neither V.O. (an omniscient narrator) nor O.S. (when they are on screen) seems appropriate. Wouldn't this just be a general description? "A and B are on a quad bike. Their lips aren't visible." – Jason Bassford May 17 '18 at 5:58
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Get The Screenwriter’s Bible, it's the go-to for questions like this.

I've only studied screenwriting (I'm a novelist) and I've never sold one. But I would argue that you are trying to direct the scene, which is a no-no with screenwriting. Directors don't like to be told how to shoot their scenes.

Unless you have some absolutely crucial reason for why their lips must not be visible in this scene, I would write it like:

A grassy field extends to the horizon. In the distance, Bill and Ben ride quad bikes. 

               BEN  
      Dude, this is awesome! 

               BILL 
      I'm pooping my pants, man, quad bikes scare the crap out of me.

It's up to the director (and dictated by a number of factors like, the terrain of the location, the camera equipment available, etc. etc.) to decide how your scene is shot and whether to film them at a distance and use voice-overs or pan in for a close up.

But if you have good reason for directing how your scene should be shot, it may be worth editing your question to include that information.

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This is pretty much the same as asking how you can tell what people are saying behind your back. You can't hear what they're saying because they're too far away (unless they are shouting - which is, of course, a possibility in your scenario) and you can't see their lips to be able to read them.

There are a couple of ways that you can find out what was said:

  • Someone who took part in the conversation tells you about it later
  • Someone who overheard the conversation (a little bird) recounts it to you.

Translating this into your scenario:

  • They shout (whoop, yell, holler)
  • They are inaudible but recap the conversation later
  • You use the POV of someone(thing) closer to the dialogue (blade of grass, worm, bird or omniscient observer).

There is another way: have them speak somewhere else. After all - who talks when they're on a quad bike? They just ride, dude!!

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