A common flaw in fictional works, whether in prose or a script, is dialogue that is too “on the nose”: that is, the characters speak too literally or expositionally. This dialogue states too precisely what a character is feeling or thinking—or is too obviously mastered to convey some essential background or plot point.
This literal approach can make for stilted, unnatural-sounding verbal exchanges. And it ruins suspense, as the reader or audience is always being told exactly what is going on. In real life, people often express themselves obliquely, speaking in a way that plays down or only gestures to what they are really feeling or thinking. And, of course, speeches of detailed exposition are rarely necessary in real life. In this workshop, we’ll look at ways to take dialogue mostly off the nose, using exposition only surgically, and incorporating layers of subtext and meaning to create exchanges that are fuller and more life-like—and, most important, more interesting.