Larry Brody’s TV Writing Tips & Tricks #18 – Does Your Dialog Pass the Morning After Test?

by Larry Brody

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One of the paradoxes of television writing is that although story is king, writers in television are judged by their dialog.

That’s because the plots for each series episode are usually constructed by the entire staff, with input from the stars, stunt co-ordinators, network personnel, and various assistants as well.

But the dialog as it first appears on the page is up to the writer…and, in subsequent versions, a possible rewriter. The way to make an impression and stay on the project is to write good–make that “great” — dialog.

In the context of a teleplay, good dialog means dialog that is concise, witty, and revealing of human character and emotion. It must be essential to the development of plot or “person” with nary an extraneous word. On the screen people always sound as though they’re saying more than they are while the writer is in fact making sure they say less.

Dialog should seem realistic, but the writers who rise to the top are those who know how to edit “reality” so that their characters are much more intense, much more clever and more expressive than real people usually are.

Know how sometimes after an emotional confrontation you wake up the next morning and think, “I should’ve said THIS instead of THAT?” Well, all your characters, especially your leads, should say what you would if second-guessing yourself.

Take your time and create exciting new turns of phrase, express things in a way you’ve never heard them expressed before. The pot of gold is there for you if you deliver.

Another in what I hope will be a long run of helpful hints for TV writers here on TVWriter™ every week. Which brings up a point: If you’d like to share some writing tips with your fellow TVWriter™ visitors, please get in touch with me at and we’ll try to make a guest post happen.

Author: LB

A legendary figure in the television writing and production world with a career going back to the late ’60s, Larry Brody has written and produced hundreds of hours of American and worldwide television and is a consultant to production companies and networks in the U.S. and abroad . Shows written or produced by Brody have won several awards including - yes, it's true - Emmys, Writers Guild Awards, and the Humanitas Award.

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