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Old 06-28-2018, 10:50 AM   #1
UneducatedFan
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Default Truncated, incomplete sentences. Bad grammar or good staccato?

In rewriting a feature script and in an effort to quicken the pace of the action lines, I've found myself writing condensed action items where in an attempt to remove "-ing" words or "-ed" words in favor of active action, I end up with run-ons (I don't think this is a problem) or just tail end truncated sentences.

Here are a few examples:

Quote:
Surly Bartender pours a shot. Mayor Hatch snatches it as soon as it's full, downs it, slaps the empty glass on the bar. Nods at the bartender.
Should I make "Nods at the bartender" just another after comma addition or am I alright to keep it as it's own incomplete sentence?

Quote:
Mayor Hatch pours another shot, turns from the bar, tips the shot back, savors it, A SIGH.
Instead of:

Quote:
Mayor Hatch pours another shot. Turning from the bar, he tips it back. A savoring SIGH escapes his lips.
A couple of others:

Quote:
Mayor Hatch tries to pour another shot. Nothing. He squints into the bottle's bore. Empty.
Or should I even cut it more?

Quote:
Mayor Hatch tries to pour another shot. Nothing. Squints into the bottle's bore. Empty.
I guess my question ends up being in an effort to trim from:

Quote:
Mayor Hatch tries pouring another shot. Nothing comes out. He squints into the bottle's bore. It's Empty.
Am I going too far by creating truncated or incomplete sentences, grammatically speaking.
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Old 06-28-2018, 11:00 AM   #2
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Default Re: Truncated, incomplete sentences. Bad grammar or good staccato?

Quote:
...Surly Bartender pours a shot. Mayor Hatch snatches it as soon as it's full, downs it, slaps the empty glass on the bar. Nods at the bartender...
Well, I'm the guy who condenses stuff to get rid of the widows/orphans, right? I won't edit them all, but here's #1:

Quote:
Surly Bartender pours a shot. Hatch snatches it when it's full, downs it, slaps the empty on the bar. Nods for more.
FYI, it's now 2 lines instead of 3.
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Old 06-28-2018, 12:07 PM   #3
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Default Re: Truncated, incomplete sentences. Bad grammar or good staccato?

Quote:
Originally Posted by catcon View Post
Well, I'm the guy who condenses stuff to get rid of the widows/orphans, right? I won't edit them all, but here's #1:

FYI, it's now 2 lines instead of 3.
That's exactly what I was looking for and it's even better. Thanks!
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Old 06-28-2018, 12:31 PM   #4
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Default Re: Truncated, incomplete sentences. Bad grammar or good staccato?

I was going to add, since you were worried about "perfect" grammar and run-on: In fact, referring to the same example, in my own writing I'd usually tack that last fragment onto the compound sentence. Thus,

Quote:
Surly Bartender pours a shot. Hatch snatches it when it's full, downs it, slaps the empty on the bar. Nods for more.
Could be:

Quote:
Surly Bartender pours a shot. Hatch snatches it when it's full, downs it, slaps the empty on the bar, nods for more.
That's only a mere ONE CHARACTER less, but as I've indicated if it means pulling "more." back from line #3 to line #2, I'd do it.

Now, some will say there're a lot of (small) actions in that one sentence, but it's really not that big a deal since it's just a contained scene at a bar. If it involved BIG actions across a room, or was an outdoor set piece, different issue altogether. A SERIES OF SHOTS or one SLUGLINE-per-line would probably be better.

I'm not trying to preach some mandatory method of doing things, only to help you balance meaning vs. length through this one example.

But imagine applying this kind of thinking across an entire script. Even in this one case, if you saved one line per page, you'd save an entire page of script length overall.
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Old 06-28-2018, 01:34 PM   #5
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Default Re: Truncated, incomplete sentences. Bad grammar or good staccato?

Quote:
Originally Posted by catcon View Post
I'm not trying to preach some mandatory method of doing things, only to help you balance meaning vs. length through this one example.

But imagine applying this kind of thinking across an entire script. Even in this one case, if you saved one line per page, you'd save an entire page of script length overall.
You captured exactly what I am attempting in my rewrite (with the hope to someday be adept enough to do it while writing the first draft). The current finished script was a whopping 140 pages when I began the rewrite. 40 pages in and I've shaved it down to 134 by trimming dialogue, condensing action and attempting what you described above. I even was able to insert a whole new flashback scene that didn't exist in the 140 page 1st draft (it was a tell, not show dialogue block before).

If I take the 6 page trim every 40 pages of original draft then according to my bad math I should be able to get it down to 116. I think I may be able to get it down even more but I am simultaneously trying to address strengthening up some weak spots with the main protag that may add a couple of pages of length back in.

All I know is that the rewrite is much more time consuming than the original draft was (probably because my first drafts are a blitz of getting the ideas to page and getting it complete to the end) as it's more analyzing each scene and approaching the text from different perspectives. I.e. "How can I make that 2 page scene provide the same info, voice, movement forward in a page and a half or even just one page."

I have a feeling that after this rewrite, I will probably do one more passthrough and tweak even a bit more.

Many thanks for your suggestions and providing guidance to what I was intending but needing someone to kind of show me the way.

Now that synapse is connected, I'm gonna ride that sucker to death!
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Old 06-28-2018, 03:25 PM   #6
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Default Re: Truncated, incomplete sentences. Bad grammar or good staccato?

Surly Bartender pours a shot. Hatch snatches it when it's full, downs it, slaps the empty on the bar. Nods for more.


--Technically, you don't have to say "when it's full" because "pours a shot" implies that he's poured a shot. Not half a shot. Or a fourth of a shot.

So you could write it like:

Surly Bartender pours a shot. Hatch snatches it. Downs it. Slaps it on the bar. Nods for more.

You don't have to say "the empty" because then you're saying the shot glass is empty twice -- once when he's downed it and a second time when it's referred to as the empty. What other shot glass would he be slamming down, except the one he just drank?
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Old 06-28-2018, 03:38 PM   #7
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Default Re: Truncated, incomplete sentences. Bad grammar or good staccato?

Quote:
Originally Posted by figment View Post
Surly Bartender pours a shot. Hatch snatches it when it's full, downs it, slaps the empty on the bar. Nods for more.


--Technically, you don't have to say "when it's full" because "pours a shot" implies that he's poured a shot. Not half a shot. Or a fourth of a shot.

So you could write it like:

Surly Bartender pours a shot. Hatch snatches it. Downs it. Slaps it on the bar. Nods for more.

You don't have to say "the empty" because then you're saying the shot glass is empty twice -- once when he's downed it and a second time when it's referred to as the empty. What other shot glass would he be slamming down, except the one he just drank?
Bingo! Yep, you're right.
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Old 06-28-2018, 04:04 PM   #8
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Default Re: Truncated, incomplete sentences. Bad grammar or good staccato?

From this, it's evident that you're not a big outliner before you dive into your first drafts.

No problem, different strokes for different etc. A 140-page first draft is a great accomplishment, no matter how it came to be.

But I'm sure if you outlined first, or at least outlined a bit more heavily, then the initial work on your script could be termed "polishing" rather than "rewriting". (Of course, you can't avoid "rewriting" once others, especially and hopefully your big-time buyers, introduce their criticisms later on.)

For instance, if you outline (more), you'll have maybe only 20, 30 or 40 pages of thoughts to rearrange and edit, instead of 140. And that 140 is only when/if you finish; I'd hate to be 80 or 90 pages into the middle of Act 2, without an outline, only to find out I'm really lost.

For those who are simply too eager to get onto that first draft of their masterpiece, as a result of some wonderful adrenaline overdose that's happening inside, I'd still encourage you to start with an outline, instead of hitting the ground from a blank page 1.

Not only do you get to see more of your story "out of the ether and onto the page", more quickly, you'll probably pinpoint problems faster, and contemplate solutions more promptly, instead of procrastinating till after you've reached "THE END". There's even a risk you'll forget to solve some of these little logic buggaroos, if you leave them behind. But of course they'll always how up later on.

Incidentally, outlining shouldn't put a damper on your creativity. As you produce a fast and general outline, you can expect to encounter opportunities for even more great scenes and stuff that were in your head at first. Except for the research part of most scripts, which I'll admit is a real drag since I reserve it exclusively for my outlining stage, that "exploration and discovery" stuff that so excites us as writers can go on big-time during outlining.

I've never personally felt hindered, creatively, by outlining first.

For instance, if you have a great dialogue scene that just has to come out, you can reward yourself and write it in near-fullness in the outline. Some of my outlines are exactly that detailed, but only in places, before I move on. Outlining requires discipline, for sure.

Mostly importantly, there's the big reward: As I've written before, after I have a super-organized, super-bug free outline, I paste it into my script template and the process of breaking its prose and bullet points into scene headings, description and dialogue is almost paint-by-numbers easy. For one thing, you're already starting with 20, 30, 40 (my longest outline was 70 pages) pages of a script, which makes the whole "where am I gonna find 100+ pages" worry a lot less onerous.

As before, I'm not selling you a success serum for $19.99, or claiming my methods guarantee any sort of financial success - I've not yet had any.

But with 50 screenplays in 8 years, surely I can claim that the hurdles I do encounter are more along the business-access variety, which most of us have, and not the writer's block or writing/organizational type, which most of us don't have to have.

Those latter, technical difficulties are mostly under our control, yet they can prevent writers from getting very far into a piece or, even worse, frustrate us so much that after we start something promising we might give it up part-way through.

There's nothing sadder than creativity lost, or cut off at the knees.

PS. In my prior "life", as a computer programmer, we worked under a theory called R.A.D. (rapid application development). It was all about getting the thing out there for the client to see, ugly screens and all with basic functionality and all, before gussying it up later. That's probably why I've used a similar approach to writing, from the very beginning. This may explain to some of you why I do things the way I do. "Development Hell?" that ain't a writer-only concept, folks. You should have seen those software development meetings! Anyway, I recognize that outlining, etc. is not for everyone. To each their own, and g'luck to all.
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Old 06-28-2018, 04:05 PM   #9
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Default Re: Truncated, incomplete sentences. Bad grammar or good staccato?

thumbs up to Figment's stuff
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Old 06-28-2018, 04:08 PM   #10
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Default Re: Truncated, incomplete sentences. Bad grammar or good staccato?

For God's sake, stop worrying so much.

Write in a way that seems natural to you and do not try to follow some kind of prescription about how to do that.

Shorter and telegraphic are not necessarily better. But still do what seems to work for you.

By the way ...

Quote:
... to keep it as it's own incomplete sentence?
contains a common spelling error. The word *it's* is only a contraction for *it is* or *it has*. When you want the possessive, the spelling is *its*.
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