Why do you use BOLD in an action description?



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  • Why do you use BOLD in an action description?

    ....It is to highlight keys items needed to visualize?


    I've taken everyone's advise and read 4 scripts in 2 days, with a goal to read 30 this month before I get stuck into writing much. I've also found it useful to write notes regarding how to structure some of my scene while reading other screenplays. I have been saving these script pages as separate word files to reference later.

    My first attempt for an action scene, (not really but notes on what happens):


    Richard pushes aside the YELLOW NICOTINE stained ceiling
    tile to carefully, without making a sound, tuck the shoulder bag onto the SUB-CEILING structure.

    He is paranoid and earful that no one approaches the bathroom and risk spotting him. When the tile is slide back into its frame he steps down from the toilette bowel, sweating but relieved. With one foot on the dirty floor his CHUNKY SATELLITE PHONE rings. He sits down on the filthy public TOILETTE to answer the phone.



    I was trying to keep in mind that I want people to ask
    themselves why is he putting a bag in the ceiling of a public toilette? What is in it? (A bomb, money, etc.), but also to
    give a concise visual picture of setting and action. Is this
    what I should be thinking about when reading scripts.


    I think type of note keeping will help me to structure scenes in my mind's eye, when otherwise....I still only have an inkling on how to do this.


  • #2
    People use it for a lot of different reasons.

    Some say there's no reason at all. It does nothing for your read, but I've read a lot of good scripts that use it to heighten that last word of a sentence before the exclamation points get thrown around.

    I also have seen people cap the occasional camera direction in spec scripts. Or the occasional flashback command or dream sequence command get's bold letters.

    Some people do it for sound effects like phones, or dogs barking or whatever.

    Some people also use it to specify an extreme close shot of a particular item, or object important to the scene, without having to call it camera shot.

    It really depends on your style. What you should do is decide what value it has for your style and be consistent with it from there.


    • #3
      For centuries, writers have written great stories without using caps to emphasize points.

      As a reader who covers 8 to 12 (sometimes more) scripts a week I find caps distracting. It often feels like the writer either doesnâ€TMt trust that the writing is clear enough, or the reader isnâ€TMt smart enough.

      If the writing is good and the story compelling, caps arenâ€TMt needed.


      • #4
        Yeah it's a style thing... sometimes good:

                AN EXPLOSION OF BLOOD beneath the sheet covering her
                chest!  Ripley stares at the SHAPE RISING UNDER THE
                SHEET.  Tearing itself out of her.
                HER P.O.V. as the sheet rises.  A GLIMPSE OF the
        and sometimes unnecessary - as per your example.

        If you overemphasize everything then the caps usage isn't as effective as it could be when used for dramatic effect or surprise (as per the ALIENS example).

        Oh and on a side note when looking at scripts you may want to make notes on the economy of words used by writers to provide a single image and perhaps strive for that yourself. Your example paragraph could be cut in half without losing anything at all.

        Richard pushes the nicotine stained ceiling
        panel aside. Tucks the shoulder bag onto the SUB-CEILING
        structure and slides the panel back into its frame.
        He steps down from the toilet bowl. Wipes his brow.
        A phone rings. He pulls out a cellphone. Answers.
        *shrug* just an example...

        hope my incessant rambling helps

        (oh and i assume you meant caps not bold)


        • #5
          I never use bold. I sometimes underline a word in dialogue just in case the emphasis isn't clear for the reader. But maybe once or twice in a script.

          "He sits down on the filthy public TOILETTE to answer the phone."

          Why on earth would you capitalize that? Is there something about the toilet that makes it special? If there is a convention, it's to capitalize sounds. Sometimes I'll capitalize important actions. "John SMASHES Bill in the face." That sorta dealy.


          • #6
            Your work either has the emotional impact it needs or it doesn't. Playing tricks with the font size won't help you. CAP a character the first time they appear in the script and that's it.

            As for your sample? You're telling waaaaaay to much. Give actions that show emtion, don't tell us emotoins. Is he nervouse? give actions that portray that emotion, don't tell us. Any dork can do that.

            The art of storytelling comes in showing the emotion through action- not flat out telling.


            • #7
              I always feel the reader isn't smart enough.

              I cap one or two words per script (outside the requisite caps) because I feel like it, and I underline one or two phrases per scipt that I don't want the reader to skim.


              • #8
                The same as you would anywhere else. A point of emphasis. See also: PipeWriter's post.


                • #9
                  Oops. I meant CAPS, not bold.

                  Thanks for the quick edit,

                  I gotta read A Nightmare on Elm street before bed. Maybe eat some cheese and hope to have a few nightmares myself? :x



                  • #10
                    I don't see anything wrong with bolding here and there for emphasis. But it should be used very little. It helps with high actions scenes. I try to look at it like this...it's an easier way for me to show that something is prominent in a beat then saying ANGLE ON or something.

                    Just don't over do it. You don't need it for simple, uncomplicated action.



                    • #11
                      Do they seriously call the alien a "chittering horror?"


                      • #12
                        I got some of the best advice on this board when I started my 2nd script. I posted my first 3 (or 10, can't remember) pp. on the appropriate bb and someone, can't recall who, but thanks, whoever it was, said at the top of their post:

                        "Wendy, I don't need all the caps. It disrupts the read."

                        And I, like you, was trying to go by what I'd read in a handful of scripts, and a few how-to books. Now I only use them when introducing a character for the first time, or when I feel that I will burst if I don't use it - (most often for a vital SOUND, or plot-critical OBJECT).

                        Use sparingly; I pass the torch of subtle CAPS on to you, Little Grasshopper.


                        • #13
                          I read advice once and it looked like this:

                          "You don't NEED to capitalize anything. People will use CAPS for everything and anything, but is it IMPORTANT? Well, it ISN'T. Trust me."

                          The author was totally unaware of what she had done.


                          • #14
                             EXT. SPACESHIP - DAY
                            Ripley gasps.  The chittering horror BURSTS from her chest, blood SPLATTERS across the spaceship floor.
                            She stammers back.  The creature SCREECHES and looks up at her.
                                             Beware!  I am death!


                            • #15
                              for sound effects: 'bang, snap', etc. otherwise, best to avoid. makes script look tacky. the words should convey meaning - not the way they are typed. weak writing can't be made better by changing its presentation on the page. if that were the case all you'd have to do would be write in giant font, red, underlined, etc

                              this isn't the case