Click here for Done Deal Pro home page
Done Deal Pro Home Page

Loading

Go Back   Done Deal Pro Forums > About the Craft > Screenwriting
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 12-11-2016, 02:34 AM   #1
slopnik
Regular
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 221
Question Reader's comment

I just received readers’ comments from one of the biggest screenplay competitions. One of TV drama pilots got to the second round; others got some encouraging comments:

“The writer has created a humorous and entertaining world here that needs only minor revision to succeed.”

“Most of the time, the dialogue worked and moved the story forward. Just a little tightening would take it to the next level. Overall, it was an easy read.”

“This is a strong pilot. I am hard pressed to think of a scene that does not advance the plot or reveal character.”

So, this tightening (I am not from USA, have my limitations when it comes to Hollywood jargon) Do they mean to cut out something. I stayed with my TV pilots between 55-60 pages.

Another thing is my English. My writing style is my own, developed through the last couple of years. These comments mention twice grammatical mistakes:

“Another round of proofreading would be useful in fixing up a lot of typos, especially late in the script, where they were numerous enough to distract from the dialogue.”

And this one, which is more specific:

“It also might help to have a copy editor give this a quick look, because some of the articles ("a" and "the") are missing throughout (e.g., "Call ambulance!").

This one is from a sitcom and even more important from dialogue. Somehow, I always believed that dialogue should be punchy, original, short, and most importantly nothing like 100% correct grammatics.

People usually do not speak in full sentences, so cutting into them while leaving their meaning untouched seemed logical to me.

In this scene a police chief has just been battered to the ground by a kangaroo, right after the mayor crashed his car for which his wife will most probably castrate him (the police chief, not the kangaroo).

So, the chief is on the ground, winces in pain, one of his officers asks him “Should I arrest him?” – Meaning the kangaroo. What would be the appropriate response from a man who lies in pain on the ground:

“Oh, yeah, please do. And since you’re here, would you call me an ambulance?”

Or simply: “Screw him. Call ambulance!”

This same script in a much worse condition managed to get into the second round in 2015 in another big screenplay competition.

Are these “a, an, the” really so important in dialogue? I leave them in if the dialogue does not sound logical to me without them, and cut them out if it sounds sharper, faster, punchier without them – and save a line or two on the page by that.
slopnik is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-11-2016, 05:37 AM   #2
manfredlopez
User
 
manfredlopez's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
Posts: 170
Default Re: Reader's comment

If your Police Chief is on the ground in pain just having lost to a kangaroo, then I would go for:

OFFICER
Should I arrest him?

CHIEF
Call... ambulance...

That way you have a sense of timing and also choppiness to go along with his physical state. By the way, the "Screw him" is in my opinion redundant as it's already implied in the example above.

As far as the notes you got, I can completely relate. I used to be in that same boat. All I can say is that while the idea is to make the writing punchy as you say, it should not be at the expense of grammar and basic clarity.

Speakers of a language have specific patterns in which they understand it and communicate it. This includes which words one can skip and which ones not. So if you deviate from any of these social conventions then your word choice will stand out and become distracting. "Call ambulance" is not common enough in real life, so to a native speaker it might begin to sound a bit too caveman-like.
__________________
Manfred Lopez Grem
Writer - Director

REEL - IMDB

Last edited by manfredlopez : 12-11-2016 at 05:47 AM.
manfredlopez is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-11-2016, 12:09 PM   #3
Mpimentel
Regular
 
Mpimentel's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2015
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 433
Default Re: Reader's comment

Quote:
Originally Posted by slopnik View Post
What would be the appropriate response from a man who lies in pain on the ground:

“Oh, yeah, please do. And since you’re here, would you call me an ambulance?”

Or simply: “Screw him. Call ambulance!”

This same script in a much worse condition managed to get into the second round in 2015 in another big screenplay competition.

Are these “a, an, the” really so important in dialogue? I leave them in if the dialogue does not sound logical to me without them, and cut them out if it sounds sharper, faster, punchier without them – and save a line or two on the page by that.
I agree with the post above, if he is really in pain and can only muster a couple of words, then "Call... ambulance" OR just "Ambulance" as a reply work fine.

However, if he is in pain, but can still speak enough to say "Screw him" first, then it would follow he would not shorten the next thing he says from the pain. "Screw him. Call ambulance" sounds forced or wrong.

That said, if it's dialogue and that's how your character speaks then, so be it. Stick to it. But I gather from the bit of information you gave me that you probably made the same mistakes outside of the dialogue through your script, and perhaps that was just an easy example for the reader to point out.

Either way, congrats, sounds like you have a great one in your hands. Just make it better, take the feedback that makes sense to you, and ignore the feedback that doesn't.
__________________
"We're going to be rich!" - 1/2 hr COMEDY written/directed/edited by me, I also act in it.
SUBTITLED
Episode 1 (Beef pills)
Episode 2 (African commercial)
Episode 3 (Brenda's rescue)
Mpimentel is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-12-2016, 12:56 AM   #4
slopnik
Regular
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 221
Default Re: Reader's comment

Quote:
Originally Posted by manfredlopez View Post
All I can say is that while the idea is to make the writing punchy as you say, it should not be at the expense of grammar and basic clarity.
And I thought this was one of “worth to listen” advices I got from other writers’ sites, namely to play with dialogue; make it different and so.

Well, I will have to go through another correction of my screenplays.

Any advice about, which is the best grammar checker for someone who is a couple of 1000 miles away from the USA?
I use the Word spell checker and Ginger online. I know, they are not perfect, but together with me, they do at least a half-decent job.
slopnik is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-12-2016, 01:07 AM   #5
slopnik
Regular
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 221
Default Re: Reader's comment

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mpimentel View Post
But I gather from the bit of information you gave me that you probably made the same mistakes outside of the dialogue through your script, and perhaps that was just an easy example for the reader to point out.
About that. Somehow, I believe both comments from script readers aimed mostly at the dialogue.

I use the Word spell checker and Ginger and I freely admit that I have ignored countless warnings for "a, an, the…" from both of them, but only in dialogue, because I found on different articles on internet that dialogue is one’s own creation.

The fact that four readers had no complaints or comments about the dialogue or grammar makes the whole thing even more complicated.
I use the same approach when I correct my finished work on all my projects – Word – Ginger – and an extra check on the finished PDF.

I guess I will have to make another run with spell checkers through my screenplays, this time applying all the suggested corrections.

Any suggestions what is the best spell checker for someone on the other side of the ocean?
Your next First Lady (we sincerely apologize for all the stupidities she did and definitely will do in the upcoming years) and I are both from the same country.
slopnik is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-12-2016, 10:47 AM   #6
Ronaldinho
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 2,288
Default Re: Reader's comment

So you're asking us to do something here which is kind of unfair: you're asking us to comment on his notes without reading the full notes in context or reading the script he made those notes on.

While it is possible there's a situation where someone would say "Call ambulance," that's just simply not how people generally talk. Your example with the chief on the ground in pain doesn't read to me like the exception.

Are those articles so important in dialog? Often, yes. Again, the challenge here is that you're trying to write colloquially in a language that isn't your first, and that's really hard, but yes, there's a way people speak, in dialog, and they usually use articles.

That the other people didn't comment on this doesn't mean it wasn't a problem for them. It just means that they chose other things to talk about. Sometimes you have lots and lots of stuff you could talk about, as a note-giver, and you have to pick your battles.

I will say, yes, get somebody who is a native speaker to look over this for you. English articles are challenging, and I actually think that, for some reason, they're particularly challenging for people from your part of the world. (I wrote a script set there, and one of the best ways to make the characters sound like English was their second language was the judicious inappropriate dropping of an article or two.)

As far as "tightening" - that usually means that your scenes have a little fluff - you spend more time on most scenes than it deserves. So it doesn't usually mean remove sub-plots or scene, it means make everything happen faster. And this is why talking about your page count isn't relevant - a script feels tight relative to its content. If you have 45 pages of story and 50 pages of script, then you're not going to feel tight, even if it's a pilot and most pilots run 55+ pages.
Ronaldinho is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2016, 04:20 AM   #7
slopnik
Regular
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 221
Default Re: Reader's comment

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronaldinho View Post
English articles are challenging, and I actually think that, for some reason, they're particularly challenging for people from your part of the world. (I wrote a script set there, and one of the best ways to make the characters sound like English was their second language was the judicious inappropriate dropping of an article or two.)
I absolutely agree with that, for the simple reason that we do not use articles in most circumstances at all.

While you would write, “He picked a chair, moved it to the left,” we simply say, and write “He picked chair, moved it right and,” it might sound ridiculous but it works in our language.

I have started to re-apply this rule to my rewriting and came across another situation that I often use in dialogue.

Is it wrong to cut out, or into a sentence as some suggest?

MIKE
Where do you get them?

SIMONE
What? You mean these days? On Facebook. A simple ad and you’ll get fifty of them in no time.

Or the cut version:

SIMONE
These days? Facebook. An ad and you’ll get them in dozens.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

PETE
Did you see him anywhere?

Shorter:

PETE
You seen him anywhere?
------------------------------------------------------------------
IVY
Do you know him?

IVY
You know him?

The reader comments for TV drama and sitcom pilots, if you are interested:

“Comments: The series has a different take on how zombies came into existence. The base of the story is good. There is also a full series worth of content. There is even opportunity for more stories. However, it could use a bit of tightening to take it to the next level. As I found myself wanting to know more about the USB on Zoe, I feel that some of the supporting characters could use some more depth. There are some areas that you could infuse a bit of subtext with the dialogue to convey what
the character is feeling / thinking. Most of the time, the dialogue worked and moved the story forward. Just a little tightening would take it to the next level. Overall, it was an easy read.”

“Comments: This is a very entertaining script that could use some polishing throughout. The world created by the narrative is enticing and would benefit from further exploration in order to make it a more tangible place. The concept is fresh and lends itself to a full series worth of content. Though the protagonists are thoroughly described, some of the supporting characters could use an increase in the depth of their identities. The writer has created a humorous and entertaining world here that needs only minor revision to succeed.”

“Comments: This is a unique script with a multitude of humorous moments that suffer only to self-imposed limitations. In writing a script so absurd in nature-- featuring a crude, all-knowing, talking parrot and a sex-crazed, talking orangutan--the jokes must embody that sharpness and originality. The protagonist is entertaining, but further explanation of her goals and motivations would help to sustain viewer interest. The dialogue is integral in creating the comedic tone of the narrative and underscores the personalities of each of the characters. It also might help to have a copy editor give this a quick look, because some of the articles ("a" and "the") are missing throughout (e.g., "Call ambulance!").,”
slopnik is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2016, 09:23 AM   #8
Ronaldinho
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 2,288
Default Re: Reader's comment

In all three of those cases I probably like the shorter version in a void, but it's hard to say in abstract, because, of course, it also depends on the specific characters and situations.
Ronaldinho is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2016, 09:28 AM   #9
carcar
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 1,597
Default Re: Reader's comment

If you're worried about brevity, why not "Call 911!"
carcar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 12-13-2016, 12:23 PM   #10
omjs
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 501
Default Re: Reader's comment

In general, the most important thing with dialogue is that it suits the character, not the writer. I think you may be misunderstanding something you've read, in that sense. Different characters will make different choices about shortening sentences, dropping words, etc., and each choice you make will communicate something different about who they are.

Is there a way you can partner with a native English speaker? It sounds like you'll keep running into these issues in dialogue without someone to help you understand what sounds right and what doesn't. Colloquial English has some odd rules around word order and articles that are very difficult to state concretely - you sort of know them intuitively when you hear them. I don't know of a free resource that gets into that level of linguistic depth.
omjs is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 05:53 PM.


Powered by vBulletin Version 3.6.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Done Deal Pro

eXTReMe Tracker