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“We are all of us in His Kingdom.” Krebs felt embarrassed and resentful as always.“I’ve worried about you so much, Harold,” his mother went on. I have a somewhat arbitrary rule—one gem per quarter. When you polish your dialogue, find those opportunities in each quarter to polish a gem. Like a diamond cutter, you take what is rough and tap at it until it is perfect.” Instead, screenwriter Mario Puzo penned, “I made my bones when you were going out with cheerleaders!” (In his novel, Puzo wrote something a little racier).“I know the temptations you must have been exposed to. I know what your own dear grandfather, my own father, told us about the Civil War and I have prayed for you. In the movie , Moe Greene is angry that a young Michael Corleone is telling him what to do.I pray for you all day long, Harold.” Krebs looked at the bacon fat hardening on the plate. He might have said, “I made my bones when you were in high school!
Another twist on this technique: Do a scene between two well-known actors. Pit Lucille Ball against Bela Lugosi, or have Oprah Winfrey argue with Bette Davis. Each line responds directly to the previous line, often repeating a word or phrase (an “echo”).
By excising a single word here and there, he creates a feeling of verisimilitude in his dialogue.
It sounds like real speech, though it is really nothing of the sort.
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.