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Old 10-17-2007, 06:54 AM   #1
AaronB
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Default On-the-Nose Dialogue

I just realized one reason why I've been having trouble writing dialogue that isn't on-the-nose...I've been re-reading Tolkien's LOTR for, like, the eighth time.

(Yes, I have in fact moved out of my parents' basement.)

Tolkien's characters rarely talk about anything except what the story's about. I need to get a hold of a couple of Gore Vidal novels or Updike or something, and train my brain in a different direction.
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Old 10-17-2007, 07:03 AM   #2
Kevan
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

Rectify "on-the-nose dialogue" in your rewrites when you write additional drafts..
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Old 10-17-2007, 07:15 AM   #3
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

Code:
INT. OFFICE -- NIGHT Larry draws his .45 and points it at Steve. He is very tense, on the ragged edge of pulling the trigger. LARRY You know, I really could use a burger right now. STEVE I'm more in the mood for Chinese. Steve dives behind the desk. Larry fires and misses. LARRY We had Chinese last time! Steve comes up from behind the desk with the office chair, and throws it at Larry. STEVE I could order a pizza. Whaddya think? Larry dodges the chair and fires again. Steve isn't where Larry thought he was. LARRY As long as we don't get anchovies. Steve siezes Larry from behind and holds a knife to his throat. STEVE I could go for that.
Something like that, maybe? =]
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Old 10-17-2007, 07:22 AM   #4
cvolante
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

I've discovered that I have a tendency to SPEAK in on-the-nose dialogue. I realize I don't completely and totally do it. But I'm kind of a concrete/blunt/caveman type, turns out.
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Old 10-17-2007, 07:23 AM   #5
dpaterso
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

Of course you have to bear in mind that in High Fantasy genre, where the story is usually driven by an epic quest to foil an evil menace that threatens to wipe out entire civilizations, the characters may be expected to persistently talk about the epic quest and the evil menace.

You know... there's something delightfully refreshing about writing on-the-nose dialogue. Maybe Kevan's advice is spot-on. Just write, and rectify OTND later.

INT. OFFICE -- NIGHT

Larry draws his .45 and aims at Steve.

LARRY
I have a gun and I'm not afraid
to use it! You'll tell me the truth,
or else.

STEVE
Don't shoot, please don't shoot!
It was all Joe's doing.

LARRY
What's Joe got to do with this?

STEVE
He planned the heist! Him and
Mike, the inside guy at the bank.

LARRY
Well, I'm going to call the police
and tell them about that.

STEVE
That's what you think! Take him,
Joe!

Joe sneaks up behind Larry and smashes a vase over Larry's head! Larry moans and slumps to the floor. Steve scoops up Larry's .45.

STEVE
Now I've got the gun, see?

LARRY
My head hurts, I can hardly
get up off the floor.

STEVE
Let's get out of here, Joe. We'll
meet up with Mike, go to the old
warehouse and split up the money,
just like we planned.

JOE
That could be a problem. Mike
ain't around no more. He had
what you might call a little
accident. He accidentally got
in the way of two bullets from
my gun.

STEVE
Gee that's too bad, I liked Mike.

Joe points his .45 at Steve.

JOE
Put down the gun, Steve.

STEVE
Oh noes! It's a double-cross!

LARRY
That's what you get when you
play hopscotch with psychos
like Joe.

JOE
Just keep talking, little man.
You're making me good and
angry.

<runs off to complete the script>

-Derek
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Last edited by dpaterso : 10-17-2007 at 07:40 AM. Reason: struck by sudden inspiration!
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Old 10-17-2007, 07:48 AM   #6
AaronB
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

Quote:
Originally Posted by dpaterso View Post
<runs off to complete the script>
Wow...just a little inspiration goes a long way with you, doesn't it!
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Old 10-17-2007, 07:07 PM   #7
wcmartell
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

Novels can be dialogue driven - I'm a huge fan of Greg Mcdonald, and he has great dialogue... for a novel. But those books would be a bitch to translate to the screen because the dialogue does all the heavy lifting.

The easiest way to get rid of OTN dialogue? Don't use dialogue to tell the story.

Watch Buster Keaton silent movies.

- Bill
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Old 10-17-2007, 07:25 PM   #8
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

Quote:
Originally Posted by wcmartell View Post
Novels can be dialogue driven - I'm a huge fan of Greg Mcdonald, and he has great dialogue... for a novel. But those books would be a bitch to translate to the screen because the dialogue does all the heavy lifting.

The easiest way to get rid of OTN dialogue? Don't use dialogue to tell the story.

Watch Buster Keaton silent movies.

- Bill
I've been told that Readers and Execs read the dialogue, not the action/description. If you don't use dialogue to tell the story, how are they going to follow the story?
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Old 10-17-2007, 09:45 PM   #9
WriteByNight
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

No on the nose dialogue unless you're Jimmy Durante.
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Old 10-18-2007, 07:17 AM   #10
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Default Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

Quote:
I've been told that Readers and Execs read the dialogue, not the action/description.
I think this is an urban legend or an isolated case. It's not the norm unless there are a lot of carefree execs out there who throw millions of dollars at a script that hasn't even been read.
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