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Dialogue Package

Page history last edited by Jayson Yeagley 11 years, 8 months ago

Dialogue Packet


Jesus, you startled me. I wasn't expecting you here.

It's been a real day for expectations. Where were you? I've been waiting here for an hour. You didn't leave a note or---

I wasn't planning on going anywhere---

I can see that. Where's your coat?

I left the house in a hurry. I ... um ... my mother ...

The hospital reached you? God, I'm sorry. That's why---

The hospital?

They called me when they couldn't get you.

I don't understand.

Your mother. You said ---

I ran out to buy some flowers for her. She's been so down.

For three hours you've been buying flowers?

And then I drove around. I've had ... a lot on my mind. But I'm fine now. Fine.

You didn't go by the hospital?

No. Look, I'm freezing. Let's go inside. Why did the hospital call? Does the doctor need my signature for more tests?

We have to go to the hospital.

I've had a terrible---

We have to go to the hospital. Now. The rest of your family is already there.

Oh. Oh, God. Mom's all right, isn't she? Oh, Christ, she isn't. I'm being punished ... she's dead.


NOTE: He came home to tell her that the hospital called him because it couldn't reach her, to tell her that her mother died. She has been having an affair, and broke it off today. You'll notice that this has some awkward places in it, and some places that are already pretty good.



Lisa had just gotten out of the car and was heading around the corner of the garage when she ran into Brian. "Jesus, you startled me. I wasn't expecting you here." His face looked sort of pale and pinched. He's found out, she thought. I finally broke it off, but I was too late.

He said, "It's been a real day for expectations. Where were you? I've been waiting here for an hour. You didn't leave a note or---"

"I wasn't planning on going anywhere---" Which sounded like bullshit when she said it, and she knew it. She was wearing a navy dress with a fitted waist and a low neckline, which had been a gift from Kevin. Heels. Hose. Make-up. The last time Brian had seen her in make-up when they weren't on their way to church or a restaurant had been right after the second baby was born. Eight years ago? Yeah. About that.

He raised an eyebrow. "I can see that." Pure sarcasm. For a moment his face lost the pinched look, and she saw suspicion in his eyes. "Where's your coat?"

"I left the house in a hurry. I ... um ... my mother ..."

The pinched look was back around his eyes, and she stopped, suddenly frightened. He knew she hadn't been visiting her mother in the hospital. Maybe he'd hired a detective to follow her. The sound of her heart pounding roared in her ears. If he really knew, she would lose everything. The boys. Brian. Her home. Her friends.

But he was saying, "The hospital reached you? God, I'm sorry. That's why---"

Now the scared feeling was worse. Different. But worse. "The hospital?"

"They called me when they couldn't get you."

"I don't understand."

"Your mother. You said ---"

The lie came easily, easier than the lies that had preceded it over the last three months, pouring out of her mouth without any effort on her part. She shivered and rubbed her arms and said, "I ran out to buy some flowers for her. She's been so down." Breast cancer and a modified mastectomy at fifty-eight. Mom was in the hospital doing chemo, and she was coming through it like a trooper, but she really had been down. Not that Lisa had done much to cheer her up. She'd had her mind on ... other things. No more of that, though.

The suspicion was back in his eyes. "For three hours you've been buying flowers?"

"And then I drove around. I've had ... a lot on my mind. But I'm fine now. Fine."

He looked a little sick. "You didn't go by the hospital?"

"No." She'd been saving that for when she could look her mother in the eye again. No, mom, I'm not cheating on my husband. I'm not cheating on my family. I'm a good wife. A good mother. Now she could do that. "Look, I'm freezing. Let's go inside. Why did the hospital call? Does the doctor need to talk to me about more tests?"

He was shaking his head---no, no, no---and his eyes were as bleak as the day. "We have to go to the hospital."

Her mother was being demanding again. She couldn't face that right now. Not after the scene with Kevin. That had been ugly. Ugly. Never again, she promised herself. "I've had a terrible---"

He cut her off. "We have to go to the hospital. Now. The rest of your family is already there."

Everything shifted. He hadn't come home because he knew about the affair. He hadn't come home because the hospital had been trying to reach her about another of her mother's demanding snits. Everything she did to make things right, she had done too late. "Oh. Oh, God. Mom's all right, isn't she?" But the look on his face told her what she already knew. "Oh, Christ, she isn't. I'm being punished ... she's dead."


NOTES: In an additional edit of this, I think I might let Lisa tell her husband that she was at he hospital visiting her mother before he has a chance to say anything. Since he came home because the hospital couldn't reach her, that would not only dump her mother's death on her head at a terrible time, but would also let him know she was lying and maybe blow open the defunct affair. But those are all changes for later drafts. This at least gives you a look at a first draft and a second draft.


1.             Write a conversation between two liars. Give everything they say a double or triple meaning. Never state or indicate through outside description that these two people are lying. Let the reader figure it out strictly from the dialog. Try not to be obvious, such as having one person accuse the other of lying. That is too easy.

Write a conversation in which no character speaks more than three words per line of dialog. Again, avoid crutches such as explaining everything they say through narration. Use your narration to enhance the scene, not explain the dialog.


Combine The Two

Category: Writing Dialogue

There are two kinds of movie dialogue: Expository Dialogue & Action. Expository dialogue says something about your characters, and the who, what, why, how and where of the movie you’re writing. Action dialogue is what moves the plot forward. Your Task: Combine the two. Write a page of dialogue between two characters that exposes them and moves them to the next scene.

Tarrantino Exercise

Category: Writing Dialogue, Hal Ackerman

Written/Contributed by Hal Ackerman

1.Open the phone book Yellow Pages to two random pages, and select two businesses. Move two characters from Point A to Point B by whatever means you invent. Invent a good reason for the journey. Reveal that intent skillfully. If it?ǂ��s huge, understate it. If it?ǂ��s trivial, exaggerate.

2. Pick one of the following topics and write a dialogue scene between those two characters, exploring and disputing the topic fully.
a. Standard shift vs. automatic transmission
b. Leaf blowers
c. Teeth
d. Class seating on airplanes
e. Vegetarianism
f. Paying for cable TV
g. Burning CD?ǂ��s
h. Any other mundane topic in the world.

As in every good scene, use the interchange not only to explore the issue, but in doing so, reveal who the characters are, individually and in their relationship to each other.

3. Orchestrate part 2 into part 1 and write a sequence of scenes.


Category: Writing Dialogue

Expository dialogue builds our characters personality. It gives the audience a chance to learn more about who our character is. For example, in the movie “Adaptation,” much of the voice over that is used is built as an internal monologue that gives the audience an idea of the main character, Charlie’s intense inner critic. Your Task: Identify one scene in a movie where expository dialogue is used. Now, write your own 1-page scene that involves this kind of dialogue.

Advancing Action

Category: Writing Dialogue

Dialogue can be used as an exposition of character. It can also be used to advance action. Advancing action moves the plot forward from one scene to the next. Your task: Write a 2-page scene where dialogue is used to advance action.

What I Say

Category: Writing Dialogue

Writing dialogue is not only an exercise in writing about the way people talk. It includes writing why we say or don’t say the things we do. Your task: List the last 5 conversations you had. Answer these questions: Did I say everything I wanted to say? Why or why not? What did I leave out? What is my general attitude when I talk? How does it change depending on who I’m with? Now, write a 2-page scene with you as one of the characters. Repeat one of these conversations as if you had said everything you wanted to say.

The Way We Talk

Category: Writing Dialogue

What defines the way you talk? Do people see you differently because of it? Your task: Make a list of 3 things that define your characters personality. List 2 ways this personality reflects in the way they talk. Now, write a 1-page scene with dialogue that represents their personality.

Show, Don’t Tell

Category: Writing Dialogue

Good screenplays utilize a “show don’t tell” policy. Let’s practice this. Your task: Re-write these 5 statements as descriptive dialogue. Do not use the following statements in the dialogue you write.
1. I don’t trust you.
2. I love you.
3. Accept me for who I am.
4. We’re in danger.
5. I’m really excited.

The Meeting

Category: Writing Dialogue

Try this dialogue challenge. Your Task: Identify 5 of your favorite movie characters of all time. Further identify 3 characteristics you have in common with each one. Now, write 2 pages worth of dialogue for a scene where you meet one or two of these characters. For an added challenge, write the dialogue in consistency with the story style of the movie one of the characters comes from.

Remembering Conversation

Category: Writing Dialogue

Let’s focus on how we remember dialogue. Your Task: Tape a conversation between you and one other person. Now, put the tape away and wait 15 minutes to a half-an-hour. Meditating on this conversation, recreate this dialogue from memory. After you’re done, transcribe the original tape and compare.

Talk Natural

Category: Writing Dialogue

Many writer’s books and seminars push writers to create dialogue that’s more natural. There is, however, a big difference between screen dialogue and real life. Your Task: Tape 2 scenes worth of dialogue from a movie and transcribe it. Ask yourself, what attitude or tone is being portrayed? Now, find a real-life situation with the same attitude or tone and tape a conversation. Notice what’s different about each piece of dialogue.




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