On-the-Nose Dialogue

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  • 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.

  • #2
    Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

    Rectify "on-the-nose dialogue" in your rewrites when you write additional drafts..

    Comment


    • #3
      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? =]

      Comment


      • #4
        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.

        Comment


        • #5
          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
          Last edited by dpaterso; 10-17-2007, 06:40 AM. Reason: struck by sudden inspiration!
          Check out the fun Halloween 2020 contest thread
          in Writing Exercises forum!
          8 pages max, deadline, 28th Oct.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

            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!

            Comment


            • #7
              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
              Free Script Tips:
              http://www.scriptsecrets.net

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

                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?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

                  No on the nose dialogue unless you're Jimmy Durante.
                  "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
                  -Maya Angelou

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

                    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.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

                      Originally posted by cvolante View Post
                      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.
                      This is my problem too. I'm not a small-talk kind of guy.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

                        For starters have people talk only when they want something.

                        Then there needs to be a reason why the character wouldn't state exactly what they want. Like they would be thought a fool or they don't want to tip their hand.
                        "I am the story itself; its source, its voice, its music."
                        - Clive Barker, Galilee

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

                          Originally posted by WriteByNight View Post
                          No on the nose dialogue unless you're Jimmy Durante.
                          You mean, like this?
                          "Come up to my room in a half-hour -- and bring some rye bread!" (Durante in The Man Who Came to Dinner)

                          Lots of "on the nose" dialogue in the Hope & Crosby road movies . . . Bob's schnozz was always good for an ad lib.

                          I think a lot about "pointing" my dialogue when rewriting; sometimes transposing words in a line makes all the difference.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

                            My dialogue tends to be flat, lame, uninteresting, doesn't "sound right", etc etc... Just not my forte.

                            I suspect I have trouble w/ this b/c I'm not a verbal person. I don't talk a lot. I'm shy & tend to talk only when it's absolutely necessary. So maybe this has something to do with why I have trouble coming up with clever things for my char's to say.

                            To combat this I do what Martell suggests and write "silent movies". I concentrate on the story/plot/action/pace/physical gags.

                            I also try to add humor-- one-liners and smart ass remarks-- whenever possible, even if it's not a comedy.

                            I also do kinda what TwoBrad suggests: Make it so characters try to get what it is they want in each particular scene, w/o coming out & saying it. Their tactics might be subtle or not-so-subtle, depends on char & situation, but concentrating on each char's goal ramps up the drama & helps me come up with dialogue.
                            Last edited by Laura Reyna; 10-18-2007, 07:41 PM. Reason: Typos

                            "Trust your stuff." -- Dave Righetti, Pitching Coach

                            ( Formerly "stvnlra" )

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: On-the-Nose Dialogue

                              Originally posted by sasqits View Post
                              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.
                              You know, um, in my experience action lines are indeed skimmed.

                              Don't forget, readers have to read fast and they have to synopsize. Action lines - particularly a dense block, are often skimmed over in favor of dialogue.

                              Now: when your script gets to a serious level of consideration, of course more attention is paid to the details. That's a different game. But when you're trying to get a "consider" versus a "pass" it's true that action lines are speed read. So to speak.

                              UNLESS they rock - i.e., they are pithy, exciting, colorful, expertly and engagingly written.

                              Julie Gray



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