Expressing Character's Thoughts

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  • Expressing Character's Thoughts

    Sorry to create a whole thread for this but maybe it will turn into a good discussion or help someone else. Should you ever state a character's thoughts outloud? Is it ever good to do this?

    Such as...

    Chris doesn't respond. He realizes that he shouldn't be ****ing with this guy.

    or

    Susie walks away mad. She realizes John is a douchebag.
    The Best Impersonation of Christian Bale Freak Out!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fd5631H6KuE

  • #2
    Re: Expressing Character's Thoughts

    Nothing wrong with that. If done right, it can improve the read dramatically.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Expressing Character's Thoughts

      The key is if the internalization is something that could be expressed on-screen by the actor. A character could reasonably show through body language/expression that he knows "not to f*** with this guy" as long as it's in the context of on-screen action.

      The second example doesn't really work, or at least there's much better ways to express it.

      I'm hardly an expert so maybe I'm wrong, just what I've extrapolated from reading pro scripts.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Expressing Character's Thoughts

        Can-o-worms.

        Here goes: I think example #1 is fine, because it explains an action (or non-action in this case) and can be played. When you are qualifying an action, I think you are okay. The example I used a couple of times before was a woman smelling the shirt of her husband who split, and adding that she misses him. You don't want the reader to think she's smelling it thinking that it needs to be washed. There are different ways to smell something - which an actor can play - and you don't want the reader to be confused as to which type of smelling is being done. Those things can show up on screen.

        Example #2 is a little iffy for me. It can be played, but I'm not sure a viewer will get "douchebag" just from walking away. That's borderline, and if you either use too many borderline "thoughts" or "emotions" without turning them into specific actions with a specific meaning ("walks away" is generic), or just throw in thoughts without actions you may end up with a lot of stuff that doesn't stick to the screen, and when she walks away in this scene and then treats John like crap in a later scene we think that *she's a bitch* instead of thinking that John is a douchebag. All of this depends on what John does to make her walk away, obviously. So this example may be fine, too... but I need more context.

        It's always about context.

        But the reason why those gurus all say "don't write thoughts" is that many new writers tend to novelize and huge chunks of critical information never leave the page. The script may read well, but can not be made into a movie that works - because the thoughts or emotions are never dramatized or turned into actions that we can see. I think it's a good plan to limit this stuff by turning them into specific actions that will stick to the screen. Foster good habits.

        - Bill
        Free Script Tips:
        http://www.scriptsecrets.net

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Expressing Character's Thoughts

          Originally posted by ATB View Post
          Nothing wrong with that. If done right, it can improve the read dramatically.
          Agree.

          At some point you gotta have a sense of what works or doesn't. If you're a writer you should know this kinda sh!t.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Expressing Character's Thoughts

            I basically agree with Bill's post.

            It's funny, I was speaking to an actor about this the other day and he mentioned what a long and frustrating process it can be to have to interpret emotion and subtext into every line of action in a screenplay. My reaction, while sympathetic, was "Well, isn't that kinda your (and the director's) job?".

            That said, sometimes I watch a film and then read the script afterwards and marvel at the talent of actors and directors to turn superficial words on a page into tangible moments of emotion.

            Because films are collaborative projects, sometimes a line of action that you threw down and thought of as essentially just getting the script from A to B can end up being interpreted as incredibly significant by a reader.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Expressing Character's Thoughts

              Originally posted by BattleDolphinZero View Post
              At some point you gotta have a sense of what works or doesn't. If you're a writer you should know this kinda sh!t.
              Agree. I read scripts by people who've been given all these rules about what not to do... and they're soulless. No voice. So almost no chance for a writer to stand out.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Expressing Character's Thoughts

                Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                Agree. I read scripts by people who've been given all these rules about what not to do... and they're soulless. No voice. So almost no chance for a writer to stand out.
                I think about it like a ghost story told around a crackling fire. Just entertain me, don't worry about the rest.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Expressing Character's Thoughts

                  Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                  Agree. I read scripts by people who've been given all these rules about what not to do... and they're soulless. No voice. So almost no chance for a writer to stand out.
                  Definitely. And when you try to tell these writers that their stuff is bland and soulless, they glom on to these cherished rules for dear life. I remember when I first tried writing screenplays, I got a few compliments for writing style and flow -- then I tried to get serious and really follow the "rules" (*never* use "ing" verbs for example) -- my stuff started coming out contorted, forced and bland. Finally got set straight by some pro writers on the misc.writing.screenplays newsgroup. Then I found more good stuff here by pros who were selling their stuff. And then I started reading spec scripts by pros who had actually sold (like Rossio). It didn't take long for it became clear to me that slavishly following these "rules" is probably the worst possible thing you can do. I see how some of them got started as guidelines to keep people from writing a novel and calling it a screenplay, but somewhere along the line it became "Thou Shalt Never..." and a whole cult -- including a self-anointed priesthood -- built up around them.

                  Sorry for rambling. I just wanted to thank you and the other pros who keep trying to hammer home how detrimental these "THOU SHALT NOT" rules can really be.
                  Last edited by Centos; 01-15-2012, 06:01 PM.
                  STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Expressing Character's Thoughts

                    Originally posted by BattleDolphinZero View Post
                    At some point you gotta have a sense of what works or doesn't. If you're a writer you should know this kinda sh!t.
                    That's exactly right.

                    Comment

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