Writing Unforgettable Dialogue: Advice from Oscar-Winning Screenwriter William Monahan

What’s the secret to unforgettable dialogue? You got to get inside the character’s minds.


When it comes to writing good dialogue the bottom line is this: it’s harder than it sounds. So, how do you get good enough to have Jack Nicholson quote things that were once just a thought in your head? Below is a rundown of Oscar-winning William Monahan (The Departed,The Gambler) insightful interview with FastCompany about dialogue from its conception to the final draft – broken down into two categories: Listening and Interpreting.


“It’s not only politicians and advertisers and lawyers who shade the truth or have an agenda—it’s everybody.”

Simply listening to people will let you in on the two best lessons for writing dialogue: dialogue is used to reveal not what we want to say, but what we are trying to hide and people say the most entertaining things when they aren’t trying. The reality is people don’t talk in soliloquies and/or profound statements, which is great because you’re writing a script not a sermon. So, forget what your parents taught you— eavesdropping is the way to go. Learning colloquial speech is like learning a whole new language—become fluent.

Of course, then it’s also your job to pepper that language with motivation and revelations. Monahan also points out that natural dialogue is boring, “You’re sort of fumbling around for meaning, whereas in written drama, you have to get at it.” In other words, be natural but get to the point.

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The Hitchcock Gallery: A Compilation of Hitchcock’s Visual Imagery

This short video-essay examines various themes and techniques Alfred Hitchcock developed throughout his career. Using 40 titles, it includes every feature film Hitchcock made from 1934 right through to his retirement in 1976. Of the several themes on display here (falling, ascending and descending staircases, opening curtains, reading newspapers, poisoning drinks, women’s hairstyles, shoes, train compartments, sleeping and dreaming, pulling away from and dollying in on the action, overhead shots and characters looking directly into the camera), there are yet others for fellow essayists to examine further (looking through and climbing in and out of windows, nuns and clergymen, eating food, kissing in the countryside, women wearing glasses and people playing games such as tennis, hide-and-seek, fancy-dress and blindman’s bluff).


What is a Macro Extension Tube and how does it work?

Todd Wolfe explains what Macro Extension Tubes are and how they work.

Did you know what an extension tube is or how it can save you money over purchasing a Macro lens? Todd likes to call them tube extenders but whatever you call them they have been around a long time.

In most situations your non macro lenses wont allow you to get super close to your subject. So how do you get closer with the lenses you already own and not have to spend a lot of money on a macro lens? The simple answer are extension tubes.

Extension tubes are literally rings that attach to your camera body and lens to “extend” distance from the lens and the body. There is no glass involved whatsoever in the rings. As you can see from the video using an extension tube gives you the ability to get extremely close to your subject.

There are different size tubes which allow you to get closer or slightly further away from your subject.

You may be wondering why would anyone purchase a macro lens if these extension tubes are so inexpensive? The simple answer is true macro lenses are sharp edge to edge. When you use extension tubes your sharpest area will be in the center of the lens with the outer part of the image getting slightly out of focus.

Tubes can range from $100 and up.


Would You Take This Bet?

Psychological literature shows that we are more sensitive to small losses and than small gains, with most people valuing a loss around 1.5-2.5 times as much as a gain. This means that we often turn down reasonable opportunities for fear of the loss. However over the course of our lives we will be exposed to many risks and opportunities and this invariably means that taking every small reasonable bet will leave us better off than saying no to all of them.

NOTE: The video is not saying to accept every bet, only those with reasonable odds (preferably in your favour), and those which if you lose would not cause significant financial or other damage. In those cases it is wise to be loss averse!


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