Spice up your movie dialogue with the unexpected technique

Did you know that a flat movie dialogue is one of the Top 7 Deadly Flaws of a Bad Screenplay?

And it's one of the main reasons for a screenplay to get tossed instead of read ?

One of the 13 rules to write original dialogues talks about the use of dialogue techniques.

Today, the unexpected dialogue technique.

How it works, and when to use it.

Catherine Trammel from the screenplay Basic Instinct about the unexpected movie dialogue technique

Unexpected movie dialogue technique - 101

Whatascript interviews an expert to get to the bottom of this movie dialogue technique.

Meet "Love Hurts" author Catherine Trammel, one of the main characters of the screenplay Basic Instinct, written by Joe Eszterhas.

What a script!:
Ms Tramell, could you explain how this "unexpected response" movie dialogue technique works?

Ms Tramell:
Have you ever fucked with people's mind?

What a script!:
Uh... is this what this dialogue technique is about?

Ms Tramell:
Sometimes. Sometimes it's like a game.

You just tell people things they didn't see coming.

What a script!:

Ms Tramell:
For pleasure. The pleasure to see if you can get away with it. The pleasure to watch people caught off guard.

I like men and women who give me pleasure.

What a script!:
How did you learn this movie dialogue technique?

Ms Tramell:
I've got a degree in psych. It goes with the turf.

What a script!:
Blablator said you were a pro ...

Ms Tramell:
I'm an amateur - but I've got a vivid imagination. And I like experimenting ... new techniques.

What a script!:
Any rules you follow?

Ms Tramell:
Don't love me back!

What a script!:

Ms Tramell:
Blablator's movie dialogue rule # 11 - Don't love me back!. I just follow it.

Me, I don't make any rules. I go with the flow.

What a script!:
Any example?

Ms Tramell:
Shall I show you?

See, I've got a book with some examples of this movie dialogue technique so that you can ... practice.
You like to watch me when I tell you about this technique, don't you?"

The first example is with Nicky - I mean Detective Curran. He comes to see me after the murder of my friend Johnny Boz.

In this example I combine the unexpected response movie dialogue technique with the "telling like it is" technique. I like combinations ...

                                     NICK                         Let me ask you something, Ms.                         Tramell?  Are you sorry he's dead?            Catherine looks at him.                                      CATHERINE                         Yes.  I liked fucking him.                      

Another way I use this movie dialogue technique is by changing my tone unexpectedly.

I do this in this scene with Nicky's fellow detective Gus.

                                      CATHERINE                         I don't really feel like talking                          anymore.                                      GUS                         Listen, lady, we can do this                          downtown if you --                                      CATHERINE                         Read me my rights and arrest me                          and I'll go downtown.            She doesn't even look at them.                                      CATHERINE                                (quietly)                         Otherwise, get the fuck out of                          here.  Please.      
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Example 3 happens in the interrogation room with the prosecutor Corrigan, Nicky and Gus.

I mix this technique with another one, sarcasm. I like mixing things, do you?

           She [Catherine] sits down.  They sit around her.  Nick sits            directly across from her.  She lights up a cigarette.  They            watch her.              She is poised, cool, in complete command of herself.                                      CORRIGAN                         There is no smoking in this                          building, Ms. Tramell.                                      CATHERINE                         What are you going to do?  Charge                          me with smoking?     

Do you want to hear another example? I'm in the interrogation room with Nicky, Gus and police officer Harrigan.

                                     GUS                         Do you use drugs, Ms. Tramell?                                      CATHERINE                         Sometimes.                                      HARRIGAN                         Did you ever do drugs with Mr.                          Boz?                                      CATHERINE                         Sure.                                      GUS                         What kind of drugs?                                      CATHERINE                         Cocaine.            She looks directly at Nick.                                      CATHERINE                         Have you ever fucked on cocaine?                                (she smiles)                         It's nice.          

And my favorite example while being in the car with Nicky.

                                     NICK                         How do you know all this stuff                          about me?                                      CATHERINE                         You know all about me.                                      NICK                         I don't know anything that isn't                          police business.                                      CATHERINE                                (after a beat)                         You know I don't like to wear any                          underwear, don't you, Nick?     


What a script!:
Very. By the way, what's your new book about?

Ms Tramell:
A screenwriter. He falls for the wrong woman ...

Other movie dialogue techniques:

Don't miss these related articles:

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Picture and screenplay extracts:

-- "Basic Instinct" - Sharon Stone (Catherine), Michael Douglas (Nick); Joe Eszterhas (screenplay), Jan de Bont (cinematography), Paul Verhoeven (director)

Ah. Home.*:

Go from Unexpected response Movie Dialogue Technique to Whatascript! Home page

* My name is Khan, screenplay written by Shibani Bathija

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