Wednesday, October 01, 2008

5 Things to Watch Out For When Writing

ScriptXRay, an online resource dedicated to the exploration of and craft of screenwriting, recently posted an article on “TIPS: 5 Things Not to Include in Your Screenplay.” Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but the five things listed are either going out of fashion or instantly mark a writer as an amateur. According to cj Rice and the gang over at ScriptXRay, writers should do everything they can to avoid:

1. Inserts
2. Micro-description
3. Capitalizing sound
4. Music
5. Camera direction

I won’t spend too much time breaking each of the five down, since you can read all about them here. However, I’d like to talk about a few of them as they relate to my own experience. The article defines micro-description as follows:

“You’ve heard of micromanagement, right? Not fun is it? Well screenwriters have their own form of this, and it’s called micro-description, and it forms when a screenwriter describes each and every movement, beat by beat, moment by moment, scene by scene.”
I’ll admit, I’ve been very guilty of this in the past, especially during the first and even second draft of my comic book style spec. At one point, I’d devoted an entire page to what would have amounted to maybe a ten second fight – if that. BIG no no. What was worse was that when I tried to address the issue, I went too far toward the other extreme, I guess what you could call “under-description” (from the term 'under management'). I remember actually writing, at one point during a fight scene, “He punches and kicks, is kicked and punched,” or something like that. AAAAGH!

I think that draft has been burned. Needless to say, I don’t do that anymore, either.

Finally, I just want to touch on capitalizing sound, since that’s something that’s been on my mind a lot recently. More and more, I read about how the industry, especially producers, is turning away from this practice. I still do it, not because I’m a rebel or I’m wedded to it, but because it’s what I was taught to do. It’s only been relatively recently that I’ve seen this brought up as a red flag – maybe it’s been discussed for years, only I just started hearing about it. I’d like to think that a perfect script would still get produced, even with capitalized SOUND. Have any of you readers heard more about the debate or experienced the impact of the trend? I’d be curious to know.

Again, check out the full article from ScriptXRay here.


CJ said...

Thanks for checking it out! Awesome site! Keep up the good work.


DOA said...

I don't know if I agree with all 5 points. Obviously, with the example he's given, "Halloween" is not needed as insert since there're thousands of extremely apparent ways to show it's Halloween. But say you're writing a script about 9/11. If you open up with a clear sunny morning with an insert of "September 11, 2001", it makes a huge difference comparing to just putting it in ( ) in the scene heading.

Also, I personally am a fan of cap sounds when I read a script...if anything, I feel it pulls me deeper in the script and give me a better idea of how it would feel if I was SEEING it rather than reading it. It's something that could definitely be over used though.

I do agree whole heartedly about music and camera directions though, especially since they depend so much on the director and copyright issue.

I'm also guilty of micro-description. Perhaps even more Cake Man. On the other hand, how much description is suitable for an action script? That's something I'm always curious about.

Zombie said...

I'm extremely guilty on both the music and CAPITALIZED SOUND rules. The sound thing I only do when a noise is part of the story - when it's as essential as dialogue (or more so) to a scene.

The music... I'm working on getting better at that, I swear. I'm a music whore, and I think that's shown worked its way to the surface in everything I've written. My most recent script is extremely guilty of this, with all sorts of references to Britpop bands and the Wu Tang Clan. BUT - the main character is a big music fan, and maybe I can get away with it, because it informs us about her?