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Tuesday, March 06, 2007


There's a saying or quote, I don't know who came up with it, but it's definitely true:

Easy reading is damn hard writing.

There are very few specs out there that are "easy" to read. As a Reader, this does not mean these specs make me go blind, mental or that they are full of typos or format errors. Often, they have poetic scene direction and a good "feel" of their arena: they offer witticisms, asides that can even make me laugh (that's hard, since my husband is fond of telling me I have had a sense of humour bypass, especially when it comes to South Park) and can even paint a vivid picture of what's going on, in every minute detail.

Rewind there.

Every minute detail.

Therein lies the problem.

Not enough "white on the page" is what makes specs hard to read. Too much detail can actually obfuscate what's going on. Why? Because you bamboozle your reader with so many details, they're not always sure which is the most important one. This is why the impact of certain character motivations, instances of something set up to pay off, dialogue etc etc can sometimes be "missed" when you get your coverage back.

I love that phrase. "You missed this in my screenplay which reveals why so-and-so did this or that or the other." I read hundreds of scripts a year, possibly thousands if you include those I read for fun (yes, it's a Busman's holiday but I really do read scripts when I'm not working as well! Have I lost my mind?? Possibly.) So, how can I miss something when I am so attuned to picking this kind of stuff up?

The answer?

You're not going to like it...

...It's your fault.

Detail is needed only to feed into character motivation that feeds into PLOT. Everything else - and I mean everything - is surplus to requirement. Yes, you need to give an insight to your arena as well, but should it overtake those two notions of character motivation and plot?

The short answer: no.

I'm not immune: I wrote what I thought were clever character motivations recently that fed into a nice, simple plot that didn't have too much black... Yet my coverage came back with "predictable" and "risible" written on it. Ouch. But you know what? The Reader was right. That's not to say I didn't think FIRST, "Oh but I put this in...Or that in..." because I did. But instead of emailing the Reader and saying, "I guess you missed..." I went back and looked instead...

...And there was only one person who'd missed ANYTHING.


So I went back to page 1. I re-designed the entire thing from scratch. Now, much better. Still only a second-first-draft but I'm back on track. But I'm not finished yet. Easy reading is damn hard writing and I've got a long way to go yet with this project.


Lucy said...

Check out David's post on this very subject:Vicious Imagery: Proof that less is usually more

Good Dog said...

Not enough "white on the page"

Lucy, I've decided to print my scripts using white ink to enhance the amount of white.

Does that make me a pioneer or a complete dick?

Lucy said...

Hmmm. Methinks you are extracting the Michael my canine friend, so for that you are definitely the latter...

Good Dog said...

Thought so.

Lucy said...

I still love you tho, GD *mwah*