Moral of the Story: Write Tight


Over the weekend in my screenwriting class we had a really awesome day. Our instructor brought in a guest director and four actors (two men, two women) to perform scenes from our screenplay in front of the class. I banged out a bit of banter between hero and heroine and was actually rather proud of my effort.

Until the actors read it.

Now, the beginning mostly worked. The most banter-y of the banter stuff. And the ending (I’m told) worked well. But the middle. Oy. The director did a really smart thing and had the actors read the scene through once in a monotone. Basically making it so the writing had to stand on its own.

It is AMAZING how clear it becomes whether dialogue is working or not as soon as you have real live people reading it. There was so much fat in the scene, so much stuff that did not need to be there, or could be done more subtly. I also noticed that a lot of the middle section was too on-the-nose. It’s more interesting when you go roundabout to get to the same point.

Which brings us to the moral of the story: Write tight. Prune the stuff you don’t need. Less is more. It really, really, REALLY is. (See how well I’ve learned my lesson with all those extraneous ‘really’s? ;P). Also, addendum, whenever you can, have other people read your stuff back to you. It makes a difference.

Anyway, lots to think about and a very cool day. 😀

February 27, 2013

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N.G. Davis - February 27, 2013

Wow. Sounds like a very cool and helpful exercise. Glad you got so much out of it!

There’s a book called “Write Tight” that I picked up from a used bookstore. I don’t know if it’s still in print, but I did find it really helpful. Although it’s not screenwriting specific, it certainly applies. If you can find it, it may be worth a look.

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