"Don't chew the reader's food for him."

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  • "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

    This phrase from Craig really stuck with me, and I realized it perfectly encapsulated something that I have been struggling with recently.

    How do you balance the need to clearly communicate what is happening while still leaving something for the reader to put together?

    Like Craig is saying -- I don't want to chew the reader's food for them, but I do want to make sure that the food is appetizingly laid out in front of them.

  • #2
    Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

    Reading scripts.
    Writing.

    No magic pill or formula.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

      It would bug the crap out of me when some hack would explain how I need to explain every little detail. E.G. Man sits in a chair "How big is the chair? What colour is the chair? Could you add more personality to the chair?". Cretins. Keep it basic and simple when it comes to description.

      Then comes the clarity of the story beats. I get the impression that a lot of people get lazy with screenplays and need spoonfeeding. If you keep things clear and simple it shouldn't be too hard to keep the reader following what's going on.

      I have too many annoyances when it comes to this but my brain's mush at the moment so I'll leave it to the others to offer much more helpful, insightful answers.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

        Sometimes the details matter. Sometimes they don't.

        I wrote a scene that had a tour guide. The whole purpose of the scene was just exposition, with the tour guide providing it. I left the description open because it didn't matter. Black, white, short, tall, man, woman, young, old, you could put any actor in that tour guide role and it would not change the movie one iota. Since all that mattered was the existance of the tour guide and the fifteen seconds of expository dialogue coming from said tour guide's lips, why would I go out of my way to fill in blanks for something so trivial?

        Sometimes I need to lavishly describe something or someone. Sometimes I just need to be economical when it comes to description, especially when space is an issue. Sometimes it really doesn't matter and can be mentioned in passing. If I have my character Bob entering a building for a job interview, it might matter what kind of a building it is. Is it a soulless glass and steel skyscraper? Is it a strip mall? Is it a big box retailer? That makes a difference. Describing the receptionist, not so much.

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        • #5
          Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

          Most of the notes I've been getting are in reference to the reader being confused as to what is going on in my scripts. I'm trying to keep things simple, but also not spoon-feed everything to the reader. Perhaps I'm being too wordy in my descriptions? Or not wordy enough? I sense I'm overwriting and it's coming off as being needlessly complicated. (like this post)

          Or maybe I'm just misunderstanding what "Don't chew the reader's food for him" means?

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          • #6
            Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

            No, you're touching on a very important dilemma... one of a number that we consistently face when writing screenplays.

            How much is too much? How little is too little?

            A very GENERAL rule of thumb (general! doesn't always apply!) is this:

            Make plot and logic info crystal clear for the audience, so they're not confused or disconnected with the characters and their actions.

            Make drama, emotion, conflict and character more of a discovery for the audience.

            Just make sure that if you create a mini mystery or trail of breadcrumbs for the audience to follow that you provide a satisfying, logical answer at the end of the puzzle, right?

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

              Originally posted by tavis sarmento View Post
              Most of the notes I've been getting are in reference to the reader being confused as to what is going on in my scripts. I'm trying to keep things simple, but also not spoon-feed everything to the reader. Perhaps I'm being too wordy in my descriptions? Or not wordy enough? I sense I'm overwriting and it's coming off as being needlessly complicated. (like this post)

              Or maybe I'm just misunderstanding what "Don't chew the reader's food for him" means?
              You could always post an excerpt for feedback? You may even receive it from Craig himself.
              @MacBullitt

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

                Originally posted by Craig Mazin View Post
                No, you're touching on a very important dilemma... one of a number that we consistently face when writing screenplays.

                How much is too much? How little is too little?

                A very GENERAL rule of thumb (general! doesn't always apply!) is this:

                Make plot and logic info crystal clear for the audience, so they're not confused or disconnected with the characters and their actions.

                Make drama, emotion, conflict and character more of a discovery for the audience.

                Just make sure that if you create a mini mystery or trail of breadcrumbs for the audience to follow that you provide a satisfying, logical answer at the end of the puzzle, right?
                Craig, question on your personal working method: do you work on your descriptive passages after you've completed your vomit draft or do you try to be as precise as you can straight off the bat?

                Thanks.
                @MacBullitt

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

                  Originally posted by Craig Mazin View Post
                  Make plot and logic info crystal clear for the audience, so they're not confused or disconnected with the characters and their actions.

                  Make drama, emotion, conflict and character more of a discovery for the audience.
                  Excellent. This is the type of info I was digging for. Thanks.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

                    Originally posted by Twofingeredtypist View Post
                    Craig, question on your personal working method: do you work on your descriptive passages after you've completed your vomit draft or do you try to be as precise as you can straight off the bat?

                    Thanks.
                    I don't do vomit drafts. I've never done a vomit draft. Probably couldn't if you put a gun to my head. I write very deliberately. When I type "The End", my goal is to have something that's more like a second draft than a first draft.

                    I write each page like someone has to shoot it that day. They don't, and I then go back and revise and revise, but I am very, very deliberate and specific.

                    I can't say "follow that method" to you. I can only say, "Follow the method that gets you to the best script you can write."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

                      there is a difference between "spoon feeding" and "hand holding".
                      to this day, the studio notes i get in my first draft (which is also like a second draft for i, too, am a bleeder, as opposed to a barfer) are -
                      - where exactly are we here? how many days have passed from that scene?
                      - exactly how much time does it take between this happening and that happening? where are we here?
                      etc. general plot, fine, general characters, fine. its never that.
                      its the stuff i forget about because i know the story so well. the first time reader wants to have a comfortable ride. frankly, its the stuff that will probably get cut out of a produced and edited cut of the thing. but i think a lot about a script as a first time ride out to the country. you need to really hold their hand. the first time you take a ride to the country, you're thinking - can this guy drive? how long is it? i have to pee? will we get lunch? there is the anxiety of a first time journey.
                      the second time you take the SAME trip - it feels half as long. you are PSYCHED to stop at the custard stand. look at those beautiful cows!
                      i always think because execs have bought my pitch and read my outline they're going to the country for the second time. they're not. first draft, first time.
                      Last edited by holly; 06-30-2012, 09:27 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

                        Originally posted by Craig Mazin View Post
                        I don't do vomit drafts. I've never done a vomit draft. Probably couldn't if you put a gun to my head. I write very deliberately. When I type "The End", my goal is to have something that's more like a second draft than a first draft.

                        I write each page like someone has to shoot it that day. They don't, and I then go back and revise and revise, but I am very, very deliberate and specific.
                        I write like this too, but it's a double-edged sword. I know I'm not as efficient as I should be.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

                          All you really have to worry about is being as efficient as you *can* be.

                          We are all different. I tend to analogize everything to baseball, so indulge me...

                          Some of us are starters. Some are closers. Some are power hitters, some hit for average...

                          Know your strengths, and stick to them. There is no "should." I'd rather write one great script a year than ten so-so scripts.

                          I'll end up getting paid more in the long run as well.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

                            Originally posted by Craig Mazin View Post
                            I don't do vomit drafts. I've never done a vomit draft. Probably couldn't if you put a gun to my head. I write very deliberately. When I type "The End", my goal is to have something that's more like a second draft than a first draft.

                            I write each page like someone has to shoot it that day. They don't, and I then go back and revise and revise, but I am very, very deliberate and specific.

                            I can't say "follow that method" to you. I can only say, "Follow the method that gets you to the best script you can write."
                            GREAT posts Craig. Thank you.

                            Bookmark this tyro DDers.
                            #writinginaStarbucks #re-thinkingmyexistence #notanotherweaklogline #thinkingwhatwouldWilldo

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: "Don't chew the reader's food for him."

                              Originally posted by Craig Mazin View Post
                              I don't do vomit drafts. I've never done a vomit draft. Probably couldn't if you put a gun to my head. I write very deliberately. When I type "The End", my goal is to have something that's more like a second draft than a first draft.

                              I write each page like someone has to shoot it that day. They don't, and I then go back and revise and revise, but I am very, very deliberate and specific.

                              I can't say "follow that method" to you. I can only say, "Follow the method that gets you to the best script you can write."
                              Absolutely. I know a number of pros who write vomit drafts (for themselves) and then revise before handing it in and I was just curious about your approach, so thanks for that.

                              I personally write longhand (hence my screen name) in a notebook and then revise as needed when I type it up.
                              @MacBullitt

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