Action and Description

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  • Action and Description

    In writing a spec screenplay, is it more important to convey the message of the action (or description) line(s) with simple English and forego the flowery language, or try and be clever and creative (not necessarily overboard) with those descriptions? What is considered a good balance?

    Thanks.

  • #2
    There is another thread on this board called "Questions about Action" or something to that effect. There is good advice there as well as some links to some excellent articles on the subject.

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    • #3
      Orinoco -

      Read dozens, scratch that, hundreds of spec screenplays (early drafts are best). As many as you can get your hands on. Read scripts by all of the noteworthy screenwriters.

      You'll notice that each screenwriter has his/her own style, but every one of their screenplays reads like a screenplay (well, okay, there are exceptions).

      Think "flow" (appropriate username, btw). Think momentum. Think movement. You want your readers' experience of your script to mimic what their experience of watching the movie would be. That's your major goal. You want them to "see" your movie in their heads.

      Keeping all of that in mind (at least on a subconscious level), just write, using whatever style comes naturally to you. Don't TRY to do anything one way or the other.

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      • #4
        To my knowledge, no one has ever won an award for flowery prose in a screenplay. Flowers are for gardens and dead people. Keep it simple but use powerful action verbs. Keep it tight.

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        • #5
          orinoco flow

          are you an enya fan? that's a damned good question. use plain, direct, very succinct descriptions when possible. use layered, artistic language only when appropriate and only if that is within your ability - if not, use plain talk. above all, keep it short no matter what kind of language you use

          knowing when more subtle writing is appropriate is an innate ability. however, the ability may be there and you're not aware of it - only time will tell

          good question. post more


          zilla

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          • #6
            I'm with TonyRob.




            (his sig, I mean)



            (also, his advice)

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            • #7
              Kojled -

              Thanks for the comments. Believe me, Iâ€TMve got tons of questions. Iâ€TMve also learned a lot about the genesis of movies from script to screen and certainly have a new respect for the process. Itâ€TMs also very confusing. For example, I still wonder how a lot of movies (read â€-The Alamo,â€TM â€-The Flight of the Phoenix,â€TM â€-Alexander,â€TM etc.) ever make it to the big screen when the screenplays seemingly violate every convention a new screenwriter is told not to violate. Or, it may be a well-written screenplay, but why would anyone ever go see this thing to begin with. That aside, I enjoy this new found passion of writing. I may never sell a screenplay (I intend on trying) but, I can also read a six hundred page novel and not make any money at it either. If you enjoy it, why not do it?

              And yes, I am an Enja fan. Very relaxing. I am a private investigator and reserve cop in my real life, so her music helps me stand down with a nice cold hefe weizen.

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              • #8
                Lots of good answers so far.

                I think narrative or action is most effective when it is impressionistic - like poetry, but not abstract - like poetry

                You don't want to clutter the narrative with details that don't delineate character and advance story, but you also don't want to exclude those details which will do it.

                You want to create a "filmic" experience in the reader by using a style that is concise, clear, evocative and highly readable to create the appropriate sense of tone, movement, tension, pacing and cinematic style for the scene and the overall story.

                My 2 cents.

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                • #9
                  You want to create a "filmic" experience in the reader by using a style that is concise, clear, evocative and highly readable to create the appropriate sense of tone, movement, tension, pacing and cinematic style for the scene and the overall story.
                  I second this. When I write comedy, I try to be funny and clever in the action lines, to an appropriate degree. For my thriller, my action descriptions were not at all funny. They were cold, and they helped to create the tension in scenes.

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                  • #10
                    orinoco flow

                    you're a pi? you already have something lacking in most scripts - life experience you can use to infuse your stories with.

                    hefe weizen (with a lime) is good but i like a full amber ale


                    z

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                    • #11
                      Kojled -

                      The PI business is certainly different, but Hollywood makes the PI field a lot more exciting than it is. For example, most of the PI TV shows (old and new) have their PI (Magnum, Mannix, Rockford, etc.) commit at least three felonies per episode. Makes for fun episodes, but in real life, you'll be sharing a cell with Tyrone.

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                      • #12
                        of

                        yeah, knew that. still. much more than most kids slapping together scripts have. i heard a story on 'this american life' where they followed a pi for a few days (meaning nights). man, lots of sitting (and sitting) in parked cars watching doorways


                        z

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                        • #13

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