Awesome Landscape Descriptions

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Bono View Post

    But when you have to write action or horror or you are set in a place that isn't what normal world like The Matrix -- then you do have to set up a ton more than a Western in my opinion.

    This is important too. If the setting is in the future or even distant past, more description is required.

    I struggled with how I opened my future-set script. The first instinct -- describing Brooklyn NY 60 years into the future, flooded by global warming -- was to start macro with sweeping views.

    It was just too much. Too much to read. Too much to write. I was getting lost in the prose confusing myself.

    Then I tried it by starting super micro. Close on a tattoo gun finishing a tat. Then pull back. Show enough to communicate the future. Then intro character. Short dialogue. Then protag goes outside. Describe flooded street. Then intro another main character with more touches of "world" description. And so on and so on.

    Essentially I described the physical world over the first 10 pages in between character, dialogue and plot. But I must have polished those 10 pages a couple hundred times to describe just enough without falling into too much.

    Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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    • #17
      That sounds cool. But this is always where you can get away with something like

      EXT. NYC - DAY

      Everything looks the same for the most part. But then a flying car goes past us. Other signs that this isn't the present. Maybe it's 20 years in the future? 25. Can't be sure. But someone from today would have no trouble fitting in.

      Or you can just write

      EXT. NYC - 2050

      It looks just like the director hired to do this sees it.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Bono View Post
        That sounds cool. But this is always where you can get away with something like

        EXT. NYC - DAY

        Everything looks the same for the most part. But then a flying car goes past us. Other signs that this isn't the present. Maybe it's 20 years in the future? 25. Can't be sure. But someone from today would have no trouble fitting in.

        Or you can just write

        EXT. NYC - 2050

        It looks just like the director hired to do this sees it.
        Nope. Sorry. Neither would work with the theme or tone I needed to establish.

        Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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        • #19
          I didn't mean that specific piece of yours which I have not seen -- I mean in general maybe people could do this... But yeah I did not write Blade Runner there...

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          • #20
            Originally posted by sc111 View Post

            To clarify, you're saying, Bono's "Epic mountains" is not enough description for a script?

            Just a note: with your description, IMO the second clause isn't necessary. You've told us the peaks pierce the sky. Which is a cool image. Then you tell us the peaks reach

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            • #21
              Congrats.
              Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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              • #22
                Personal taste, but I often describe the effect rather than the details. If your character is walking into a mansion, instead of describing the stairs and the mantels and the architecture, just say "Old money, and lots of it." Or if you're describing an apartment of a lonely bachelor, let the reader know what they're supposed to gather from how it looks: "No art on the walls, no decoration - just a few pieces of utilitarian furniture. He doesn't expect guests."

                To answer the landscape question, I'd go with what you want the reader/viewer to think of it: "The train passes through snow covered mountains that look like an advertisement for Switzerland." "The car drives through a dark forest that looks like the kind of place parents warn their children not to go into."

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                • #23
                  Jeff says it better than I can -- but to me the point of less is more is many things -- but also to NOT take away the reader's vision of what they see in their head. If you give too much detail, you are going to lose readers along the way.

                  But if you do what Jeff says in "place parents warn their children about..." I mean that's great. We all might not see the same thing, but we see basically the same thing. I see Scooby Doo and you may see the mansion from your childhood growing up. You know?

                  But if you write too specifically then I may not see Scooby Doo -- I may not see what you see at all... and not get into the read.

                  Being a part of the writer's movie they see in their head is the goal right. But we will never see the same movie in our head. We don't even see the same movie when it's finished.

                  Make us feel something vs reading a manual.

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                  • #24
                    Agree 100%. Also, Chekhov's Gun comes into play - if I take time to describe something, the reader will fairly assume that it will be important later. If you fill their head with a bunch of elements that don't matter, that's not great.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                      Agree 100%. Also, Chekhov's Gun comes into play - if I take time to describe something, the reader will fairly assume that it will be important later. If you fill their head with a bunch of elements that don't matter, that's not great.
                      That's another very important point. If I'm reading a lot of descriptive details about a setting, they'd better have something to do with the story or character. Otherwise I get cranky.
                      Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                        Agree 100%. Also, Chekhov's Gun comes into play - if I take time to describe something, the reader will fairly assume that it will be important later. If you fill their head with a bunch of elements that don't matter, that's not great.
                        Yes!

                        When I read all the action in a screenplay -- that isn't my own -- I know the written has done their job very well.

                        There is no doubt it in my mind reps/readers skim action. They just don't have the time. And I think more people skim it then even realize they are doing it. It's very human thing to do. Especially if you have 10 specs to read in 1 wkd for your boss.

                        I try to think of the poor reader or manager who may have to give me notes on this and not bore them to death or confuse them to death.

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                        • #27
                          https://johnaugust.com/2021/screenwriting-in-color

                          Some good talk about this subject in color -- the phrase "crimson sky" came up...

                          Also 3 page challenge was really good this week.

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                          • #28
                            These are the kinds of threads I like on this forum, people sharing ideas that I'd never would've come up with on my own. And where appropriate, I get an opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge with others rather than just keeping it to myself.

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                            • #29
                              Originally posted by socalwriter1 View Post
                              These are the kinds of threads I like on this forum, people sharing ideas that I'd never would've come up with on my own. And where appropriate, I get an opportunity to share my experiences and knowledge with others rather than just keeping it to myself.
                              This is what I try to do all the time. I don't know if that comes out -- but between the dicks joke -- this is a teaching hospital.

                              I love it too.

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                              • #30
                                Really depends on the tone -- check out THE ROAD for something apocalyptic. Or LIFE OF PI for more fantasy/magical realism world building and great shots a director would jump at. If you're writing comedy I think it's important for the description to be light and loose, even a bit funny.

                                In a serious or elevated adventure film, the setting often becomes an actual character in the work. So the wording matters of course.

                                If you're writing a B popcorn action movie or a light hearted comedy, I probably don't need to know what the landscape looks like. The setting isn't really a character in those types of movies.

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