Busting The On-The-Nose Dialogue Myth – Shannan E. Johnson


Film Courage: What is on-the-nose dialogue? 

Writer/Instructor and Script Consultant Shannan E. Johnson (The Professional Pen): On-the-nose dialogue usually means your characters are saying everything that they’re thinking, there is no nuance, there is no subtext. This can possibly be because for me I’m a very forward person when I speak. Now all of my characters are being very forward but most people are not like that. Most people don’t say what they mean or mean what they say. Most people don’t speak directly, most people shut down instead of telling you what their feelings are, most people don’t know how to tell you what their feelings are in the first place. If you’ve got two characters in a scene and both of them can communicate effectively then your screenplay is over because now they’re not causing any problems for each other.

The other part of that is (I want to be careful when I say this) there’s a little bit of poetry to writing dialogue, there are puns and like a lot of the greatest dialogue that we think about are things that I probably would not have said that in real life. There is a little bit of that that happens and not everybody’s good at that and that’s fine. I’m not necessarily all that great at it unless I’m writing like old southern women or men, then I can give them all the poetry there is but that’s because I grew up around…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).









About Shannan:

After grad school I became a junior creative executive at NBCUniversal at the Syfy Channel. I was there for the rebrand. Remember Sci Fi? Yeah, not really. Anywho, it was my job to help writers and producers take their ideas from pitch to production. I co-exec’d on Alphas, Being Human, Haven, Sanctuary, Warehouse 13, and more Syfy dramedies. This is how I honed my skill in all stages of the screenwriting process…(read more here).


Advertisement – contains affiliate links 

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)


More affiliates:


Camera we use for interviews – https://buff.ly/3rWqrra

Editing system – https://goo.gl/56LnpM

Sound we use for interviews – https://amzn.to/2tbFlM9

Other books on Amazon that Film Courage recommends – https://buff.ly/3o0oE5o