Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It's All In The Words

A writer with some heavy hitting TV credits graciously allowed me to read one of their prized unmade projects the other day and it was an educational read. It's easy as a writer to get wrapped up in the every day slog of getting your stuff read by agents or production companies, and forget what matters most... a damn good read.

Words are our business so they should be the most important thing. If our words aren't up to scratch then it doesn't matter how hard we work to get people to read our work, all our efforts are be wasted.

So I looked again at my scripts again and realised in my eagerness to tighten my scene description I'd inadvertently removed what made the scripts good in the first place. Here's an example of a scene from one of my scripts.
"ROSE DARC (63) answers. It takes her a second to register Dan before she launches herself at him in a ferocious attack."
It's tight but it's also flat. It doesn't drop the reader in the scene, involve them, engage them. So I've rewritten it to prove my point.
"ROSE DARC (63) answers. She should recognise Dan, but struggles to make the connection. Then she does, and reacts with horror, hatred, rage. Rose launches herself at him in a ferocious attack, fists swinging wildly, spittle flying."
Much better isn't it? You get a better sense of Rose's rage towards Dan. It could still do with a little tweaking, but the essence of what I want to put across is there. And it's interesting, not flat.

Sometimes you have to look past the so called rules of writing and write what you feel. If you can get those feelings and emotions onto the page, you've won half the battle.


Oli said...

I agree. I think there's a tendency amongst us Spec Monkeys to take the standard advice of 'keep it lean' and just end up with something that might work on screen but is very dull to read.

People will argue the 'screenplay is a blueprint' bit - but that's a shooting screenplay. Spec screenplays have a little more licence, as they have to entertain the reader, now the viewer.

Not that we should get overly novelistic, of course.

Lucy said...

I disagree. It's totally possible to be both lean AND involving. The best scripts I read can pull this off - why use ten words when you can use one? Dominic's completely right when he says words are our business, but as a reader I would argue that's it's totally a "less is more" thing when it comes to the reader being "drawn in" to your story. Economy is everything.

Phill Barron said...

I try and avoid words like 'then' or 'before' - but I can't really explain why.

I think it has something to do with making anything which happens prior seem inconsequential. I guess in the permanent present of the script it's already a given that one action happens, then another.

In regards to the description lengths - I think I'd pick a middle ground. The sentence:

"Then she does, and reacts with horror, hatred, rage."

Doesn't really say anything to me. I'd probably replace it with:

"It clicks."

And ... actually, I'm going to stop. Sorry.

I think there's a middle ground. That'll do.