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2024 – Feb 20 – What We Actually Say


Newsletter “3 in 1” by Albán Brothers

"Tell powerful and commercially successful stories with practical insights."

What We Actually Say

February 20, 2024

Writing Concept - What is it about? + What is it for?

  • What is it about?

"What we actually say" proposes breaking down the dialogues of a scene and attributing the thoughts that led the characters to vocalize what they are saying.

The goal is to decipher the implicit meanings behind the dialogues.

  • What is it for?

Breaking down dialogues is the secret to learning how to write them. My brother and I perform this exercise by reviewing each draft of our manuscripts to ensure that what our characters say sounds real, makes sense, and works well. It also helps us identify how we can improve it.

You'll notice that characters not only think before speaking but often reveal who they see themselves as, not who they really are.

Exercise & Practical Example – Difficulty: Intermediate.

In this instruction, you don't have to worry about writing good dialogues; all you have to do is:

  1. Read the scene 3 or 4 times.

  2. Make notes:

  • What are the characters saying?

  • Why are they saying it?

  • What do they really mean?

Here's an example of the exercise done by us: 

JACK REACHER directed by Christopher McQuarrie, 2012. Exercise by Albán Brothers.


Reacher sits alone in a booth. A YOUNG, PRETTY WAITRESS puts a beer and burger in front of him. He smiles politely, gets no wanton look. Damn. 

He sips his beer, chews his burger, thinks ... 

FLASH - in his mind he sees the crime scene, the parking garage, the overpass, the morning sun. 


Can I share your table?

FLASH - Reacher is pulled back to the sportsbar. 

A YOUNG WOMAN (BARELY 18) has her hands on the table, leaning in, showing cleavage and navel. The waitress was prettier, but SANDY is hotter. And she knows it.

Reacher says nothing. She sits. 

«This is the guy. Let's get through this quickly so we can go celebrate. I'll ask for his name to make sure.»


I'm Sandy. 

Sandy implicitly asked me for my name. Damn, she's charming. And she's experienced at this, at least for someone so young. I'll evade her question. Why? Maybe a defense mechanism. For now, she's a stranger, and I don't want trouble.»


So was I. Just last week. 

(off her confused look) 

On a beach, In Florida. 

«Poor fool about to get a beating. He must already be drunk.»


What's your name? 

«Sandy is insistent. If she just wanted to hook up with an older man at a bar, the last thing she'd care to know is the guy's name. What does she want? Maybe we can find out.»


Jimmy Reese. 

Sandy blinks as if surprised, recovers. 

«Wasn't it Reacher? He's definitely the pervert they told me about. I can't be wrong. Is he trying to mess with me? Flirt?»


You don't look like a Jimmy. 

«Not the name you expected, huh?»


What do I look like? 

«Well, that's enough. I don't care what this guy's called. I have to get him out of here. Asking him out, he'll fall for it quickly.»


I dunno. Not a Jimmy. You're new in town, aren't you? 

«How much do you know, Sandy? Why did you sit at my table, that of an older man, and why are you asking me out? A well-dressed girl like you? With a scruffy guy like me?»



«Reacher, you're a weirdo. You're wasting my time. He's drunk and already had the chance to look at me, but probably not as much as he would like. I'll make a proposal to get out of here, and I'll wait for Jeb and the others to deal with this Reacher guy.»


What- It's loud in here. Want to go someplace quieter? I've got a car. 

«What are you getting into, Sandy? At your age, you could be my daughter. I already have too many problems to get into another one.»


You're old enough to drive? 

«Idiot. I'm not a child.»


I'm old enough to do lots of things. 

«It's over. Whatever Sandy is looking for or whatever she's involved in, I don't care, and it's not in my interest. It's not worth the risk.»


I'm on a budget, Sandy. 

«What the hell does that mean? Did he just call me a prostitute?»



«If I insult her, maybe she'll give up and leave me alone. She won't like it anyway; she brought it upon herself.»


I can't afford you. 

«I'm not just a slut. Seducing him doesn't mean I'll sleep with him. I'm a troublemaker. That's all.»


I'm not a hooker. 

«I know you're not a prostitute. If you were, you wouldn't have sought me out. You sat here, waiting for a name and inviting me outside, where someone surely awaits to rob me and whatnot.»


Then I really can't afford you. 

«You're scaring her off, Sandy. I have to prove that I'm not just some whore.»


Seriously. I work at the auto parts store. 

«At the auto shop? Not at Carlos Parts or Jimenez Automobiles? Just: The auto parts store. It must be the biggest in the city then. Sandy, I know where to find you. You don't play this game well, Sandy.»


What I mean is the cheapest woman tends to be the one

you pay for. 

«Son of a bitch. Plan B.»

She slaps Reacher's face and stands, making a show. 

«I’m calling Jeb.»



«Oh, Sandy. Why do you draw so much attention? They'll think I'm just some pervert at a bar flirting with girls.»


No. A hooker would get the joke. 

She grabs his beer to pour it on him. He grabs her wrist and shakes the beer loose. «She's making a scene, and it will leave me in a mess.» Then a wall of muscle fills the frame behind her. Reacher is looking up at FIVE GUYS, ranging in size from big to massive. «Damn it. I always have to get into trouble.»

The BIGGEST GUY is JEB (24). 

«I have to do everything, huh, Sandy? You couldn't seduce him with those legs.»


What's this? 

«Hit him in the face, Jeb. Make mashed potatoes out of him. Let's finish this.»


He called me a whore. 

Reacher stands calmly, measuring eye to eye with Jeb. Jeb is a little surprised, but committed. 

«I can't wait to break this guy's face and go for some beers, and maybe, why not, for Sandy. Maybe after breaking a leg tonight, she'll pay attention to me. She looks beautiful… And hot. Beautifully-hot.»


That true? 

«How do I explain to a couple of bullies Sandy's lack of sense of humor? Tonight keeps getting better and better. Don’t they?»


No one said whore. She inferred hooker. I meant slut. 

«Son of a bitch. Jeb hit him.»

«Not personal, Reacher. It's just a job.»


That's our sister. 

«Sister? 5 men, arriving to assist a damsel maybe too quickly. Were they looking for trouble? Were they after Sandy? No. Impossible. They were after me. They share no traits, aren't related, they're working together. Are they trying to rob me? Sandy gave me too little information to jump to conclusions. What do they want? Or who are they working for?»


Is that a good kisser? 

«I can already feel my fists on your face.»



«It's not in your best interest. None of you.»


Pay your check, first. 

«Really? There are too many of us. You can't avoid this.»


I'll pay later. 

«Last warning, champ. They're just kids; they don't know what they're getting into. This isn't my first rodeo.»


You won't be able to.

«Are you mocking me? How stupid can you be?»


You think? 

«You're dumber than you look, Jeb. Just an animal with too much testosterone and an overdose of creatine.»


All the time. You should try it.

«We don't have all night. Stupid old man.»


Outside or right here. 

«Not here; I'll just make a mess, ruin the night for a lot of people, and have the police called. I'll probably spend one or two nights in jail.»




«Reacher earned himself some extra attention. You don't want to see this, Sandy.»


Stay here, Sandy. 

«And miss the beating you're going to give this pervert? I'll go. To spit on him and have him look at my face before losing consciousness. For treating me like a prude.»


I don't mind the sight of blood. 

«Still too young. Hot. But too young»


When it means you're not pregnant, anyway.


You can perform the "What We Really Say" exercise with the following scene:

Extracted from the original text - The Dark Knight directed by Christopher Nolan, 2005.


Fox is at his desk. Reese enters. 


What can I do for you, Mr. Reese? 


You asked me to do the diligence on the L.S.I.Holdings deal again.

I found irregularities. 


Their CEO is in police custody. 


Not with their numbers. With yours. A whole division of Wayne

Industries disappeared, overnight. So I went down to the archives

and started pulling old files. 

He pulls out a folded blueprint. Slides it across the desk. 


My kids love the Batman. I thought he was pretty cool, too.

Out there, kicking some ass. 

Fox picks up the piece of paper. Unfolds it. It's an old BLUEPRINT. The image is unmistakable: THE TUMBLER. 


Changes things when you know it's just a rich kid playing dress up. 

Reese points to the approval box in the corner of the page. 


Your project. Don't tell me you didn't recognize your baby pancaking

cop cars on the evening news. Now you're getting sloppy. Applied

Sciences was a small, dead department who'd notice? But now you've

got the entire R and D department burning cash, claiming it's related

to cell phones for the army. What are you building him now? A rocket ship?

I want ten million a year. For the rest of my life. 

Fox looks at him. Even. Folds up the blueprint. 


Let me get this straight. You think that your client, one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world, is secretly a vigilante who spends his nights beating criminals to a pulp with his bare hands... 


And now your plan is to blackmail this person? 

Reese stares at Fox. Who smiles. And slides the blueprint across the desk. 


Good luck. 

Reese looks at it. Then at Fox. Swallows. Slides it back.


Movie Recommendation.

  • Jack Reacher, 2012. One morning, in an ordinary city, five people die in a seemingly random sniper attack. All evidence points to a suspect: a former military sniper who is quickly apprehended. The man's interrogation yields a statement: contact Jack Reacher.

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Until next week,

Albán Brothers

Authors of ORDER.

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