Posts Tagged ‘advice’

Skinny up, Pardner

Posted: January 26, 2011 in screenwriting
Tags: , ,

I recently discovered the most amazing, most effective diet in the world. Severe mouth pain. When your mouth hurts bad enough, you look at every morsel of food before you put it in your mouth and you ask yourself, is this worth it? You have to be REALLY hungry for the answer to be yes.

You might only get a couple of bites into something, and the answer will change.  Suddenly and decisively to NO!

And as I looked at a bottle of water and debated taking another painful sip or risking dehydration, I thought, this is like writing.

Or I should say, writing should be more like this.

It’s a bad habit a lot of screenwriters in particular have. Because we know that the dialog is the part of the script that will ultimately get the most attention, because we have heard that producers won’t read anything else, because the dialog might actually come out of someone’s mouth exactly the way we write it, our dialog ends up bloated and fat.

Take for example, the typical love scene. In the script, the boy and the girl gaze into each other’s eyes.


You are the most amazing woman I ever met.


You are also amazing and I love you like a butterfly loves to flutter. Like the moon lives to shine. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to sit near you when you watch football. I want to wake up to you. I want to be two old people walking through the park holding hands.


You are so beautiful. I want our children to look like you. But I’m worried that the terrorists might find us hiding in this cabin. I don’t care if they kill me, but I couldn’t stand it if anything happened to you.

Yes, this movie is a romantic action film. Of course.

In my real life experience, romantic encounters are all about what isn’t being said. In my experience, some of that internal monologue is internal because I am worried that I might say the wrong thing. So must everyone else. Some of that internal monologue is, “I like him. Does he like me? I don’t want to say anything, I don’t want him to feel pressured. Maybe I could say this…NO! That sounds desperate, even in my head. Ok, maybe I’ll just smile. Yeah. Smiling. There’s the ticket.” Also, to get a guy to even admit he has emotions requires supernatural forces.

The fact is that real people don’t say everything they think. And those that do are always getting into fights and then they have to go back and apologize for what they said or explain that they didn’t mean it how the words seemed to be, but this other, more acceptable way.

Movie dialog is of course, not real speech. It is heightened speech. But it could benefit from the things that are NOT said as much as the things that are.

What if I wrote a love scene that went more like this:





(after a long moment of silence) I guess yeah.



He busies himself shaking out a blanket and draping it around her shoulder. He is very careful to get it securely around her.





They look into each other’s eyes.  His hands are still on her shoulders.


It’s cold.



They lean closer together.



(he clears his throat)

It must be a cold front.

They kiss.

See? Wasn’t that nice? Fewer words, more space for atmosphere and feeling. It’s ok to leave your audience and your characters and yourself not quite stuffed to the gills with words.

Also, I know that I failed to use proper screenplay formatting. The blog doesn’t have the tools to do it, and I don’t have the time to count spaces, so deal with it. You knew what I meant, anyhow.