The Ultimate Guide to Writing Outstanding Dialogue with Daniel Calvisi

Welcome to our ultimate guide to writing outstanding dialogue! In this post, we are excited to share our expertise and insights on how to craft engaging and impactful conversations that will bring your story and characters to life. With the help of renowned screenwriter Daniel Calvisi, we will provide you with valuable tips and techniques to master the art of dialogue, regardless of whether you are a seasoned writer or just starting out. So, join us on this journey as we delve into the world of dialogue and uncover the secrets to creating authentic and captivating interactions for your readers.

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Outstanding Dialogue with Daniel Calvisi


Writing a screenplay involves many components, one of the most crucial being dialogue. Dialogue has the power to bring characters to life, advance the plot, and captivate the audience. However, not all dialogue is created equal. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the art of writing outstanding dialogue, with insights from Daniel Calvisi, a renowned Script Doctor, Writing Coach, and Author of Story Maps.

On-the-Nose Dialogue and Its Pitfalls

On-the-nose dialogue refers to dialogue that is generic and lacks subtlety. It is when characters explicitly state what is already evident in the scene or simply explain everything without leaving room for subtext. While occasionally necessary for orienting readers, on-the-nose dialogue can be detrimental to a screenplay.

The problem with on-the-nose dialogue is that it makes characters sound flat and unrealistic. It strips away their uniqueness and robs the audience of the opportunity to interpret the story in their own way. As Daniel Calvisi highlights, “Good dialogue is like a dance between characters, where what is said is just as important as what is left unsaid.”

Avoiding Inauthentic Dialogue Styles

In order to create compelling dialogue, it is crucial to ensure that all characters do not sound the same or have forced dialogue styles. Each character should have a distinct voice, reflecting their personality, background, and relationship dynamics. As Daniel Calvisi emphasizes, “The way characters speak should be an extension of who they are and what they want.”

To achieve this, it’s important to conduct thorough character analysis and consider the external and internal goals of each character. By understanding their motivations, desires, and conflicts, you can infuse their dialogue with authenticity and depth. This will make the audience feel truly engaged with the characters and their journey.

The Power of Subtext

One of the key elements of outstanding dialogue is subtext. Subtext refers to the underlying meaning and emotions that are conveyed indirectly through words, tone, and body language. It adds depth and complexity to the scene, allowing the audience to read between the lines and discover hidden truths.

When writing dialogue, strive to create a balance between what is explicitly stated and what is left unsaid. By incorporating subtext, you can create tension, intrigue, and emotional resonance. As Daniel Calvisi advises, “Think about what characters really want or fear, and consider how their words can reflect those desires without actually stating them outright.”

The Importance of Timing and Rhythm

In addition to crafting authentic and subtext-rich dialogue, it is essential to pay attention to timing and rhythm. Dialogue should flow naturally, mimicking the cadence of real-life conversations. Avoid lengthy monologues that can disrupt the pacing of the screenplay. Instead, aim for sharp and concise exchanges that build momentum and keep the audience engaged.

However, there are moments when monologues can be effective. When used sparingly and purposefully, they can provide powerful insights into a character’s thoughts, emotions, or backstory. Nevertheless, it is crucial to ensure that monologues seamlessly integrate into the story and enhance the overall narrative.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions):

  1. Q: How can I avoid on-the-nose dialogue in my screenplay?

    • A: To avoid on-the-nose dialogue, strive to show rather than tell. Trust your audience’s intelligence and allow them to interpret the story through actions, subtext, and visuals.
  2. Q: Can dialogue be a tool for character development?

    • A: Absolutely! Dialogue can reveal a character’s personality, values, and beliefs. It can also showcase their relationships, conflicts, and growth throughout the story.
  3. Q: Is it acceptable to use colloquialisms or idioms in dialogue?

    • A: Yes, using colloquialisms or idioms can add realism and authenticity to dialogue. However, be mindful of overusing them or using ones that may be unfamiliar to the audience.
  4. Q: Should all characters have distinct speech patterns?

    • A: Yes, giving each character a unique speech pattern helps to differentiate them and adds depth to their personalities. Be cautious of caricaturing or stereotyping, though.
  5. Q: How can I improve my dialogue writing skills?

    • A: Practice is key. Read scripts, watch movies, and listen to conversations around you. Pay attention to how people speak and try to capture the nuances and rhythms in your writing.


Mastering the art of writing outstanding dialogue is a process that requires patience, practice, and a deep understanding of your characters and story. By avoiding on-the-nose dialogue, infusing subtext, creating authentic voices, and paying attention to timing and rhythm, you can elevate your screenplay to new heights. As Daniel Calvisi reminds us, “Great dialogue allows your audience to experience the story, not just watch it.” So keep honing your skills and let your characters’ voices shine through the pages.

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