breaking bread



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  • breaking bread

    lord knows i'm as big of an offender as the next guy, and in most cases the worst offender of excessively piling on in scriptpages and other screenwriting related subjects. i put vinegar on flesh wounds.

    one of the things that sets me off is opinions. one would ask, "why get so worked up about what someone thinks on a message board." cause it's about writing. it's about people chiming in on topics and thinking they know what they are talking about, propogating ideas, bad ones, and this is how it gets spread.

    well, for the most part, it's what and how things are done within scripts that really sets me off. bare with me here.

    if a hundred people post their opinons on peoples writing you might get 200 different theories on what to do. but it is safe to say that you will get a large portion of those people saying the same thing about what not to do. here we go again.


    but i'm not going to talk so much about rules as i'm going to talk about how important it is to read scripts. i can not stress it enough. there is no substitute.

    i probably read three produced scripts a week, on average, that's not staggering, but spread that out over 4 years and you got a pretty good control group. (to those i've not gotten to on done deal, my apologies, i swear i'm getting to them), and what i noticed was a reacuring theme of what we discuss here on done deal, alive in well in scripts.

    it happens all the time. last week i posted a script, produced one that had we sees, and other 'don'ts' you get from this board.

    today, i'm reading the script MOONSTRUCK, and i suggest any and all read it, especially the novice and rule aholics. It has no less then 10, count them ten, we sees in the first five pages. i never use them, or hardly due becasue i tried to write without them, and i'm able to do it. but everybody does it.

    the script has boring stuff. it has a room described as ordinary. it has redundant prose then dialogue, explaining the same thing.

    what i got out of it, is that the constant bangering and rules i though i needed to know made me a better writer.

    i tried to be perfect. I don't use the rules that i think don't work, and use the ones i do think do work; and it occured to me, i haven't read a script in a long time where i can say this guy is better writer than me.

    i used to be able to read scripts all the time and be like, shitt, how am i going to write like that. what i've come to realize is that scripts aren't really well written. they're not.

    nobody follows the rules. to the people who say there are rules, you're fooling yourself. look in the mirror and say, how many scripts have i really read? the fact is, most of you haven't read 30. maybe less. they want there to be rules so they can say they know, that they are informed, i think whiskey said that.

    read the first five pages of moonstruck and then talk to me. read scripts, find what works in repetition and take advantage of some good people around you that share the same work ethic and vision.


  • #2
    Yes, I've read 30+ produced scripts - - some of which were specs which sold - - and I also noted how the rules were broken left and right. In fact, I'm sure if some scenes were posted here before they sold, they would be ripped to shreds for all their rule-breaking.

    However, the reason they sold is clear: solid stories that targeted a particular market. The kind of story that can be verbally pitched in two minutes even before the first draft is finished.

    Now, it's difficult to judge an entire story by five pages posted on Done Deal. However, I often see posted critiques which zero in on the secondary stuff like the 'we sees' or using adverbs like 'walking' vs. action verbs like 'walks.' This stuff doesn't end up on the screen. Dialog and story ends up on the screen. I try to judge the pages on that.

    Conversely, I've seen pages complimented as 'great' because the action lines were tight even though the story-line and dialog was recycled from other films we've seen. No matter how technically tight a script may be, if the story is ho-hum it won't sell.

    Coming off on what you said about comparing your pages to produced pages, I guess I can say that I feel my descriptive technique and dialog is on par with produced scripts.

    However, I will say I've read pro scripts where the stories blew me away and I'm in awe in how they came up with the concept. I do wonder if my stories can ever be as good.

    In my opinion, story is the first priority. If you were to walk in and verbally pitch a story to someone, the fact that you can write action lines free of 'we sees' and adverbs means absolutely nothing.

    I wish we would have more conversations on Done Deal about story. Because, from what I see, this is the biggest hurdle in terms of selling. And HW is now more market-oriented than ever before because money is tight, inflation is up, and no one is going to buy a seen-it-before story with very little present-day market appeal . . . no matter how tight the action lines are written.


    • #3
      I doubt whether I'd have even noticed 10 "we sees" spread over 5 pages -- that doesn't strike me as excessive. But when "we see" appears in just about every paragraph on the page then I do tend to notice and it becomes a distracting irritatant -- like you'd maybe notice if a writer leaned too heavily on parentheticals to continually hit you with (lovingly) (shocked) (smiling) (angry) (jokingly) etc. etc. instead of, maybe, showing feelings and delivery via a more clever choice of actions and dialogue.

      Nothing is forbidden to my mind but over-use of something that just doesn't add anything to the script seems pointless. Writing, not just screenwriting, has more impact if stronger verbs are used and redundant words and phrases are removed. But you know that already, so what's your beef?

      My Web Page - naked women, bestial sex, and whopping big lies.


      • #4
        Vig says, "today, I'm reading the script MOONSTRUCK, and I suggest any and all read it ... It has no less then 10, count them ten, we sees in the first five pages. ... the script has boring stuff. it has a room described as ordinary. it has redundant prose then dialogue, explaining the same thing.

        -- "Boring stuff"? "Redundant prose"? "Repetitive phrases"?

        What's your point?

        Are you implying if someone points out boring stuff and suggests it could be cut or written in a more interesting way; points out redundant prose; points out repetitive phrases that might bore and annoy the reader are somebody who wants there to be rules just so they can say they know, that they are informed, and not that they're pointing out these things because they honestly feel it'll help improve the read and the story?

        Vig, I understand, as most writers do that story is king, but there's no need to get upset if someone points out a repetitive phrase or redundancy. They're just doing their job as a reviewer.

        I don't believe if you gave your script to someone to review that they would just point out the minor editing stuff and not also give their analysis on the major stuff such as: concept, character development, structure, theme, pacing, etc.

        If you're upset because you posted a few pages and someone only pointed out a repetitive phrase or spelling errors, yeah, it's not a very thorough breakdown of the pages, but you didn't pay for it. Maybe this person would be an excellent choice to proof your script.

        Reviewers have their areas of strengths and weaknesses and that's one of the reasons why a writer would need to send their work out to different reviewers.

        No need to berate a reviewer for not being detailed or thorough enough unless you paid good money for it, or you've spent a lot of time and effort on their script in an agreed swap, giving them 10-15 pages of feedback on every element and they gave you a quick one page overview on what they liked and didn't like.

        This is my opinion on -- opinions.


        • #5
          joe, as usually, you don't get. i point redundant stuff in scripts. i point out all the things moonstruck did and say, this isn't good. it doens't work.

          the point is nobody cares in hollywood. scripts aren't well written, it's about the story.



          • #6
            Not every script is perfect and they're ultimately not meant to be read, they're meant to be filmed. But if you're just looking to get it READ at this point then it better be well written. JEEZ.

            We're writers. If you're gonna make it yourself you can probably do whatever you want as long as it's clear. But if you want someone else to make it, write it as best you can. Or else why bother?


            • #7
              Vig, I mentioned in my post that we all know story is king.

              You say, "one of the things that sets me off is opinions." You mentioned how you want the "novice and rule aholics" to read "Moonstruck" and how it breaks so called rules, such as: redundancies, boring stuff, etc.

              Yes, Hollywood wants great stories, and yes, if a great story has a ton of parentheses, blocks of black, redundancies, boring verbs, etc. the script won't get rejected because this is minor stuff. Not the major elements that affect the story.

              So, again, what's your point?

              You say, "the point is nobody cares in hollywood. scripts aren't well written, it's about the story."

              Scripts like "Moonstruck" are well written. That's why it got produced.

              Hollywood doesn't care if you have ten "we see" phrases or a hundred, if you have redundancies, blocks of black, etc. as long as the story keeps their interest, though I'm sure it'll annoy some readers, but nevertheless, they'll do their job and inform the decision makers it's a great story.

              Hollywood does care if the characters are well rounded and fleshed out; themes are weaved well throughout the story, structure done well, if it's a comedy that it's funny, etc.

              But, just because Hollywood might ignore redundancies, blocks of black, overuse of parentheses, repetitive words or phrases, etc. doesn't mean a writer should skip over this stuff or be annoyed if a reviewer points it out in their critique.

              A non-pro striving to break into the business isn't under any deadlines like pros are, so why not make every aspect of a script as strong as possible.

              Not just the major elements that make up the story, but also the minor details that would make the read clear, fast and enjoyable for the reader.

              I remember a member posted some pages and his spelling was bad. Everybody ignored giving feedback on the story aspect and mentioned how he should correct the spelling before he posts the pages.

              He got offended and complained, "It's STORY that matters. If it's a great story, Hollywood isn't going to reject it because of spelling."

              To back this up he directed a post to creativexec and asked about this.

              creativexec told him that grammar and spelling errors don't transfer to the screen: STORY IS KING.

              So, as a big "F" you to everyone that tried to instill in this writer about being professional and respecting his readers, he posted ce's quote at the bottom of every one of his future posts.

              By the way, unless this writer changed his board name, he's no longer around.


              • #8

                Maybe this poster you refer to sold a script in spite of his bad spelling and that's why he's not around? It could happen.

                What I get from Vig's original post is a desire for DDer's to move beyond critiques of spelling, 'we sees,' etc., and go deeper with their feedback in order for us to make better use of each other on this site. And I agree.

                However, maybe it isn't possible with a limit of 5-6 pages per post.


                I disagree with your comments about parentheticals, etc. When the story is good, fresh, compelling, I get pulled into the world of the story as I read and don't even notice those things. The only time I do notice them is when the story is a complete yawn and my mind starts wandering.

                Which brings us back to STORY. I have a notebook filled with story ideas, I have written the first five-ten pages of several stories which I wrote to get out of my system but never intend to finish because I know the STORY's market is too small. I put my time to stories that may have a better chance of hooking a buyer because they're more marketable.

                If I ever do make money on a commercial script which enables me to opt out of my day job, then maybe I'll indulge myself in these small stories, maybe even expand them into novels.

                This is a business first and foremost. We're all aspiring to create a product that must sell. Story is the product. If there's no market for the product, I'd advise writers to put their time toward a story that DOES have a market.

                Example from recent personal experience:

                I sent a query with 4 of my loglines to about a half dozen people. Two scripts feature a male protag, the other two, a female protag.

                Four people got back to me to request scripts. Great, right? Someone wants to read my work. Okey, dokey.

                But there was an obvious trend in these requests - - they all wanted to read the scripts featuring a male protag.

                Now, this bugs me because, being female, I enjoy writing stories from a woman's perspective. But I also want to sell. So, you can bet your booty my next scripts will feature male protags.

                These are the factors we should be discussing rather than wasting band-width on pointing out every spelling error and waxing on about the evils of parentheticals. And I think we'd be more helpful to each other if the discussions went deeper into story.

                I think, at some time, we aspiring screenwriters have to look ourselves in the mirror and ask: "Am I a diletante who enjoys dabbling in this medium or am I serious about becoming a screenwriter?"


                • #9
                  Story is gold. Spelling and grammar mistakes detract from the focus on the story; so if one is to fix those first- the script is easier to read. Consequently, the story is easier to analyze and digest.

                  I do agree we should help more with story but other issues should not be left by the wayside either.

                  Interesting thread. :b


                  • #10
                    sometimes i have problem in regular writing, not script format on expressing myself. I, me, i've tried so hard to watch my style, and what not to do, and what to do, that i think my writing at it's final draft is more meticulous then produced scripts.

                    it's like somene else said a while back and i think it was 'v-cases' is that the pros just write, they don't get bogged down on learning every single axiom and take it to heart. that's why their script look like they do.

                    i'm happy that i got so anal that i tried to be perfect in not saying to much, not using we see, etc.. etc.. but when it comes down to it, 99% of the script that have been produced circa 2002 and their abouts aren't even as close to anal as I am.

                    i think it's important cause i think it works, but we give readers and execs too much mind control over us.

                    i'm not really trying to make a point as much as i'm saying I think i finally got it. i think my obsessing is silly. i read other scritps and say, hey, wait, all that other stuff i wanted to put in my script in prose they did, and they did, and they did, so what the hell, i'm not going to try to be perfect in the prose. i'm gonna still be me, but i'm not going to go nutso on people about things i see everyday in scritps.

                    who the ****kk knows if you guys got me, i just know that i know what i said.

                    one last thing, scripts aren't well written.



                    • #11
                      I disagree with your comments about parentheticals, etc. When the story is good, fresh, compelling, I get pulled into the world of the story as I read and don't even notice those things. The only time I do notice them is when the story is a complete yawn and my mind starts wandering.
                      Let's focus on what vig's talking about here besides "story is king" which everyone's repeating like it's some holy mantra vig just thought of. He's talking about the advice people offer to other writers who post in Script Pages. He's saying it's not important that this kind of advice gets offered. But when's the last time you encountered, in Script Pages, one of those wonderful scripts you're talking about whose great story sucks you in so you don't notice the "we sees" or murderous overuse of parentheticals? More likely the samples in Script Pages have been of considerably lower story and writing quality than pro scripts. More likely the advice vig thinks is trivial is actually a perfectly reasonable attempt to improve writing quality levels by making writers aware of the value of better choice of words, of style, of delivery. That's all part of the craft, isn't it? Sure, there's absolutely no comparison when you stack the trivial little things alongside the huge big STORY IS KING thing, one outweighs the other by far! But arguing that the trivial little things just plain don't matter, when they can accumulate to cause distraction and spoil the reading experience, seems pointless. Especially when you're talking about unsold writers who, unlike pro writers, must gain the trust of readers and prove they can write as well as delivering a good story.

                      That's not to say I disagree with you, you understand. But I can't see why you'd disagree with what I'm saying.

                      My Web Page - naked women, bestial sex, and whopping big lies.


                      • #12
                        okay, hold on. i'm not saying those things aren't important, the minutia of screenwriting, cause they are. and i said i followed those rules pretty much to the letter of the law and what came from the ashes was my writing style and voice.

                        the irony of it all is that you dp, commit more of the trivial nonsesnse and the very things that slow the script down more than anyone, of the actual good script pages on the board. you would benefit the most from locking down and instituiting them. i do fanatically.

                        the pros obviously don't give a shitt and weren't as nuerotic as i was about leaving them out, cause every scirpt i read has a gadzillion of the bs things we aren't supposed to do.



                        • #13
                          vig says, "i think my obsessing is silly."

                          -- I don't have the same angst as you.

                          Yes, the minor editing stuff that you've mentioned won't get a script rejected, because story is king, but I feel once I get the major elements as strong as can be, I'm not wasting time, energy or being "silly" to move on and make sure every word does vital work and expresses necessary information to the reader.

                          That redundancy, repetitions, weak verbs, any unnecessary details, adjectives, adverbs, etc. are dealt with, so the read will be clear, lean and fast as possible for the reader.

                          I don't care if a professional script has redundancies, camera angles, transitions, we see, weak verbs, etc. because that's not why I'm looking at a pro script.

                          I look at a pro script to see how they handled character development, pacing, structure, dialogue, etc.


                          • #14
                            D-Pat - -

                            Oh, yes, I remember a prime example - - the only pages of Captain Bligh I had a chance to read on Done Deal, close to two years ago, after I first got the bug to drop novel-writing & explore scriptwriting.

                            Bligh wrote his opening so well it imprinted an image in my mind as if I HAD seen it on the screen. I was blown away and, now that I know he can do a first draft in two weeks, I'm even more impressed.

                            And guess what? He was criticized for being too descriptive,
                            for directing and for breaking a couple of other rules. It became a long debate as I recall. But the tribe had spoken - - Bligh must cut-cut-cut. It was the worst advice I had seen given to a solid writer ever (and Bligh didn't listen to this advice, either).

                            I have seen other impressive pages by posters who came to DD and quickly left. I think I know why they left. The quality of the critiques was so gawd-awful these writers - - who obviously knew something about writing, judging by the quality of their pages - - probably moved on to greener feedback pastures.

                            In the years since I've been here I feel, on average, the overall quality of the pages has been going downhill. And I have a hunch it's because the critiques have gone downhill, too. Critiques reveal just as much about the writing skills
                            of the critic as they do about the pages being analyzed.

                            Edited to add: Another example - - Hamboogal's pages, he uses 'we see' and occasional directions with not a hint of guilt or shame, either. I think we can agree Ham can write damn good pages, no?

                            Also, I recall reading some pages about 3-4 months ago by a new poster. These were pages which pulled me in and also created a vivid image in my mind - - it opened with a violent scene then cut to a man and woman in bed having one of the intimate silly conversations lovers have, so 'real' that it was like peeking into a real person's bedroom.

                            But the writer was pounded on his spelling and grammar. I didn't even notice the grammar errors. And the spelling errors looked more like typing transpositions to me which would be picked up by spellcheck. Oh, yeah, and this writer also disappeared from DD.

                            I think that developing a healthy appreciation of solid pages written by another, even if their style is vastly different than one's own, can only serve to make our own writing better.


                            • #15
                              sc says, "the writer was pounded on his spelling and grammar. ... Oh, yeah, and this writer also disappeared from DD."

                              -- I don't agree that we should ignore bad spelling and grammar and just focus on giving the analysis of story.

                              When someone requests that we review his or her pages, bad spelling and grammar shows no respect to the reviewers and it's not professional.

                              sc, misplaced pronouns can wreck havoc on a reader.

                              I could give pages of examples of spelling and grammar mistakes that'll stop a reader cold, which is the last thing that a writer wants to do: confuse the reader, slowing him down as he tries to figure out the writer's correct intentions.

                              What's frustrated me the most during my years at DD -- besides members using multiple board names -- is the attitude about the importance of minor editing.

                              Yes, if we are only given a choice to focus on the major elements or the minor elements, you'd choose the major elements, but we're not being forced to make that choice.

                              We have all the time in the world to make sure the script we're using to break into the industry with is strong and perfect as possible.

                              Take vig's argument: He always felt minor editing was important, and he thoroughly scrutinized his pages in order to make them as strong and perfect as possible before he sends it out, but after reading "Moonstruck" and other pro scripts -- he had an epiphany.

                              He realized repetitive words or phrases, redundancies, camera angles, etc. aren't as important as story. The pro scripts got sold because of story.

                              "It's about the story," he informs us.

                              So, he's decided not to try to be so perfect in the prose, or point out this type of stuff in other people's pages because he saw that pros obviously didn't give a sh*t.

                              If someone decides to look at pages to review in the script pages forum, but they're short on time, by all means, focus on the major elements, but if you have the time, point out redundancies, repetition, boring description, unnecessary words, details and explain why they're unnecessary to help keep a new writer from overwriting.

                              This would not only help make his pages stronger, but he can apply this advice to the rest of his script and all future scripts.

                              Failing to give good advice on minor details that'll help make a new writer's story a clear, concise and strong read just because pros didn't bother with editing some of these things, doesn't make sense to me when DD is a site about gaining knowledge.