Style Points

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  • Style Points

    Quick question. I don't know if there's like the generally accepted way of doing this but need your feedback.

    When you write action (or in my case, non-dialogue), do you want to be as simple as possible or as descriptive as possible?

    For example. I usually write. "She cried."

    Whereas someone might write "Her tears ran down like a monsoon."

    I try to avoid the latter as much as possible. Is the descriptive part where I should flex my writing muscle?

    Any thoughts?

  • #2
    "She cries." You could say HOW she cries... if it's just a few tears or if she breaks down sobbing... but ALWAYS write in the present tense and keep it as simple as you can without sacrificing any IMPORTANT details [you'll quickly learn which details are important and which ones aren't] you're trying to get across.

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    • #3
      Whoops, I meant "she cries."

      I do everything in present tense. I'm so worried about the dialogue right now, that the description doesn't seem as important. Perhaps, that will come on my 10th re-write and by the time I start by 7th script...which should be tomorrow. LOL

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      • #4
        Parrot,

        The key is to be specific without getting bogged down in verbose description. Choose words that have PUNCH; strong verbs... verbs that are accurate and give a reader a vivid picture in his/her mind...

        "Cries" is kind of vague/weak... What exactly does she do in this situation? Does she wail, moan, sob, bawl, squall, blubber, whimper, mewl, pule, howl...? Use strong, descriptive, specific and accurate verbs with punch! That way you can keep those sentences short and sweet but visual and full of impact.

        Tony

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        • #5
          Make it your own...

          Forgive me if I've posted this on this particular forum at some point, but I want to mention that the #1 mistake writers make is in not TELLING the story; specifically, they forget that voice is a very important part of screenwriting and in getting the reader to respond to your work. So often writers simply "report" what happens, forgetting this IS a story and it's okay to put a little of your personality in there and show you have control over what you're writing. It's okay to have fun!

          Hope this helps.

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          • #6
            The script for <!--EZCODE ITALIC START--> Highlander<!--EZCODE ITALIC END--> had this action description:

            "McLeod goes to garage. Meets Fasiel. They fight. He takes Fasiel's head."

            This translated into about 10 minutes of action on the screen, the work of the director, the actors and the fight choreographer.

            Keep it simple. Don't try to do the director's work for him. Nor the choreographer's, the production designer or the location scout.

            Describe what happens on screen in the simplest terms possible. You can wax poetic in the dialog, or when you write your novel.

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            • #7
              Re: Make it your own...

              My main concern in being too descriptive is this...

              I know that many readers kinda gloss over the description to read the dialogue. Sometimes, I feel that the effort to provide a vivid description seems like you are taking more control from the director.

              I'm not at a stage where this is an issue yet, but it also seems like it is counter-productive sometimes.

              I think that we all have been guilty of skipping descriptive paragraphs and lengthy action portions just to read the dialogue.

              If I am grossly wrong, let me know so that I can run out and buy a very thick thesaurus.

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              • #8
                Re: Make it your own...

                The only time readers skip over narrative/description is when it isn't important (as in, it shouldn't be included in the first place) or it's overwritten. If it's engaging and essential to the story, no one will skip--they won't be able to...

                Likewise, if your story is all talk and no action, there is no reason for anyone to read anything but the dialogue.

                Another thing--dialogue should be added last. Tell the story first, and then use dialogue to augment characterizations and move the story forward.

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                • #9
                  Re: Make it your own...

                  "Sometimes, I feel that the effort to provide a vivid description seems like you are
                  taking more control from the director."

                  If you write this:

                  CLOSE ON Jacob, who stumbles through the living room, drunk.

                  Jacob's POV: everything is blurry. Disjointed.

                  ANGLE ON the delicate, glass vase sitting on the end table as Jacob heads right for it in SLOW MOTION...



                  That's doing the director's job.
                  ---------------------
                  If you write this:

                  A drunk Jacob makes his way through the living room. He heads for the vase that sits on the end table.



                  That's boring. Short and simple, yes. But drab.
                  ----------------------

                  Try for something like this:

                  Jacob lurches through the living room, drunk. Tries to focus. Everything's hazy...

                  He stammers towards...

                  A delicate, GLASS VASE on the end table. Momentum carries him closer... closer still...


                  That's not over directing. That's describing your movie to a reader. You're suggesting what the camera will see without saying "shoot it like THIS". What you don't want to do is get so vivid that your actor becomes a marionette... eg "Jacob stumbles over his feet, his head darting to and fro, his eyes fogging... he tries to focus... opens his eyes as wide as he can, swings one arm out to balance himself as he stammers into the middle of the living room with a scowl on his face, etc., etc..." That's too much.

                  However, to say that describing vividly, specifically and accurately (while keeping it short and sweet) what's going on in a scene is doing someone else's job sounds a little dubious to me. After all, you're writing a movie. You want to make your movie come alive in your reader's mind. You do that by describing visuals specifically (and by picking and choosing exactly which visuals you MUST describe to tell the story...) while maintaining an easy, fast read that doesn't get bogged down in the descriptions... Don't be vague, but don't be verbose. Include visuals that tell your story, show us something about your characters, express your themes, etc... Don't include visuals that don't further the story in some manner.

                  And, yes, buy that thesaurus.

                  And read as many scripts of produced movies as you can get your hands on. Preferably not shooting scripts. Try for early drafts. You'll see all sorts of discrepancies and as many different ways of doing things as there are screenwriters. Then you'll get good and confused. But you WILL eventually notice the things that they are ALL doing pretty much the same way, despite individual styles (and having an individual style is one of those things). That is the key.

                  Good luck...

                  Tony

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                  • #10
                    I'd follow what TonyR says: read as many produced screenplays as possible. Find Scenario Magazine, for they put in three scripts an issue, and not always the last one before shooting.
                    A guy who writes in a very simple, but fun and energetic style is Richard Price, who wrote "The Color of Money" and " Sea of Love". Both screenplays rock, even if you don't like the end movie.

                    I agree with what was posted earlier: have fun, don't get so cut and dry that it becomes boring for anyone who reads your script. It's a movie, not a book report, which is something that I, and my brother AndyG, sometimes forget!
                    Best to you,
                    Seph

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                    • #11
                      Re: Make it your own...

                      Tony,

                      You get me depressed with your examples because they are too damn good. But very effective points.

                      I will mention you during my academy award acceptance speech.

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                      • #12
                        here parrot. need need to go buy one

                        www.m-w.com/dictionary.htm

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