Screenwriting dialogue exercise

In the mid-90s I took a film writing class at Pittsburgh Filmmakers. One of the assignments we had was a dialogue exercise. Write a scene in which two people talk. This is what I wrote.

It’s not very long. The assignment may have been write five pages. I wouldn’t call it good either. And there is one really cringe worth line that looking back I can’t believe I actually wrote.

Olaf Italiano, mid-twenties, is waiting for a blind date. He is nervous, but is more anxious, with a kind of “I can’t wait” attitude. Handsome, but nothing remarkable, nothing extraordinary about him, but is still good looking. Not good looking enough to carry himself through life without having something else. Dressed nice but casually, nice but nothing too fancy.

HOSTESS: How many?
OLAF: Two…Italiano
HOSTESS: About twenty minutes

Olaf sits on a bench near the door. He leaves his coat on as it is winter and the air coming inside the door is cold. A little later, Olaf still waits on the bench looking anxiously at all those who enter. A woman enters. She is in her mid-twenties. Very pretty. Almost like a female Olaf, but a little more appealing. She is dressed casually also, but a little more expensively casual than Olaf.

WOMAN: Olaf?
OLAF: Yeah, Hi, Jackie?
JACKIE: Have you been waiting long?
OLAF: Just a few minutes. You wanna sit down?
JACKIE: Yes, that would be good.


Olaf and Jackie are seated at a booth in the back part of the restaurant. They are seated opposite each other, both enjoying the view across from them.

OLAF: Did you have any trouble finding the place?
JACKIE: I’ve been here before, was I late?
OLAF: No, no. You were on time. I was just wondering, with the roads, traffic, and everything.

Waitress approaches. Olaf looks at Jackie and waits for her to order.

JACKIE: I’ll have a rum and coke.
OLAF: (A little taken aback by Jackie’s order) Oh…ah…I’ll just have a Coke, please.

Waitress takes down their order and leaves.

JACKIE: So, Olaf, what do you do? What kind of name is Olaf, anyway?
OLAF: My dad was interested in Vikings. He was always reading books about them, walking around the house screaming and yelling like a Viking. I guess he thought it would be neat to give his kid a Viking name.
JACKIE: Aren’t you a little…
OLAF: (A touch annoyed. Knows what she is thinking and finishes for her) Short and dark for a Viking?
OLAF: I know you don’t see too many Italian Vikings running around, do you? Yeah, well believe me, I hear it all the time. People never let you forget when your parents give you an odd name
JACKIE: No, I like it. IT’s different. Most guys are named John or Jim or something dull like that.
OLAF: Jackie’s a pretty name. You don’t see too many of then running around either.
JACKIE: Girls named Jackie?
OLAF: No, girls as pretty as you.

Jackie likes the compliment, and it shows. Olaf is also smiling. But his is a smile that shows his increasing happiness and confidence. They both definitely are happy about being there. The waitress approaches.

WAITRESS: Are you ready to order?
JACKIE: I’ll have the Chicken Romano.
OLAF: The spinach casserole.

The waitress takes their menus and walks off.

OLAF: So, do you go on many blind dates?
JACKIE: Actually, this is my first.
OLAF: No kidding, so what you come on this one?
JACKIE: I’m not really seeing anyone right now. I didn’t think it could hurt. How about you?

Olaf, for the first time, notices the marks on Jackie’s face that she’s tried to cover up with makeup.

OLAF: I have kind of a hard time meeting girls myself, so I rely on friends setting me up. Beth has outdone herself this time.

The waitress brings the food.

JACKIE: How long have you know Beth?
OLAF: Since high school. We went together for a while. We sort of grew into friends instead. She kind acts like my surrogate mother, setting me up whenever she meets someone she thinks is right for me. How do you know Beth? I don’t think I ever heard her talk about you before.
JACKIE: We lived in the same dorm in college. After graduation, I moved back home to look for a job.
OLAF: How did you end up here?
JACKIE: About a year and a half ago, my boyfriend got transferred here and I moved out with him.
OLAF: So you have a boyfriend?
JACKIE: We broke up several months ago. I like it here, so i stayed.
OLAF: Do you still see him?
JACKIE: Occasionally, whenever I can’t avoid him. You know how guys are. They never know when to quit.

Olaf senses she has become uncomfortable and motions the waitress for the check.

OLAF: You ready?

Olaf and Jackie wipe of their mouths, get up, and walk out of the dining room towards the door.

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