” Instead, screenwriter Mario Puzo penned, “I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!
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It looks something like this: This sort of dialogue is “on the nose.” There are no surprises, and the reader drifts along with little interest.
While some direct response is fine, your dialogue will be stronger if you sidestep the obvious: I don’t really know what is going on in this scene (incidentally, I’ve written only these four lines of dialogue). The point is there are innumerable directions in which the sidestep technique can go. Look at a section of your dialogue and change some direct responses into off-center retorts.
He’ll keep at it until the engine sounds just the way he wants it to. When you write the first draft of a scene, let the dialogue flow. You’ll make it sparkle later, but first you must get it down on paper.
This technique will allow you to come up with lines you never would have thought of if you tried to get it right the first time.In fact, you can often come up with a dynamic scene by writing the dialogue first.Record what your characters are arguing about, stewing over, revealing. As you do, pay no attention to attributions (who said what). Once you get these on the page, you will have a good idea of what the scene is all about.All of Leonard’s dialogue contributes to characterization and story.Here is a standard exchange: It sounds so natural, yet is lean and meaningful.But I think you’ll agree this exchange is immediately more interesting and suggestive of currents beneath the surface than the first example. Like the old magic trick ads used to say, “You’ll be pleased and amazed.” A powerful variation on the sidestep is silence. “It’s really an awfully simple operation, Jig,” the man said. It’s just to let the air in.” The girl did not say anything.