The 10-Page Torture Test
July 18, 2018, 03:58 PM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: Read: Screenwriting News from around the web (live)
 
   Home   Help Search Chat Login Register  
Pages: [1]   To Page Bottom
  Print  
Author Topic: Signs of overwriting  (Read 1436 times)
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
Pitchpatch
Rollercoaster on fire
Administrator
Mugwump
*****
Offline Offline

Posts: 748



« on: February 25, 2013, 03:35 AM »

I'll show you a short passage from a recent spec and demonstrate why to me the script feels overwritten.  The red flags are the page count (137) and the plentiful long paragraphs.  Plus too much minutia.  Just my opinion, of course.  If you disagree speak up and tell me why.  This site is all about surfacing the thought process behind language choices.

Quote
EXT. THEBES PALACE GARDENS - DAY

A slave girl whispers, her hand cupped to the side of
Tiye’s head. Tiye’s eyes widen with astonishment. She
turns to face the girl.

TIYE
Where?

The girl points to the maze in the centre of the huge
gardens. Tiye nods. The girl bows and quickly walks
away. Tiye starts to move towards and enters the large
maze. For a few moments she wanders around, clearly
lost. Then, she hears giggling. She stops. The voices
fade, so she starts moving again. Again she hears
voices. She is so focussed that she suddenly rounds a
corner, and walks into a small group of doves resting
there. They rise up in to the air. Tiye herself screams
in fright, then quickly regains her composure.

Suddenly, the voices have stopped. She curses herself,
then starts to slowly hedge around the maze. She turns
yet another corner, when suddenly, standing there alone
is Tutankhamen. He looks at her questioningly.

Could be sliced down to:

Quote
EXT. THEBES PALACE GARDENS - DAY

A slave girl whispers into Tiye's ear.
Tiye's eyes widen with astonishment.

TIYE
Where?

The girl points to the large central maze in the
huge gardens. With a nod, Tiye dismisses her
and starts toward the maze.

She wanders its paths, clearly lost. Then:
GIGGLING.

She listens. The voices fade. She moves on.
More VOICES.

As she rounds a corner, startled doves take wing
in a noisy, gusty flurry. Tiye screams.

She curses, calms herself. The voices have stopped.
She begins to hedge around the maze. Turns another
corner --

And there stands Tutankhamen. He regards her with
suspicion.

Note, there's a missing 'INT. MAZE' (or a sub-locational 'MAZE') that logically falls here:

Quote
Tiye starts to move towards and enters the large
maze.

IN THE MAZE

For a few moments she wanders around, clearly
lost.

Let's break down the stats*:

ELEMENT: BEFORE | AFTER

Lines: 24 | 27
Paragraphs: 4 | 8
Sentences: 21 | 19
Words: 163 | 105
Syllables: 190 | 130
Avg Words Per Sentence: 8 | 6
Avg Sentences Per Paragraph: 5| 2
Avg Words Per Paragraph: 41 | 13
Avg Syllables Per Paragraph: 47 | 16

Those stats strongly suggest improved readability.  The line count blew out by three, but the restored white space is worth it.

The context now carries the narrative.  "A slave girl whispers into Tiye's ear" -- the cupped hand is an unimportant detail we might imagine anyway.

"Tiye’s eyes widen with astonishment" -- still feels wordy to me.  "Tiye's eyes flash astonishment."  Technically correct but still clunky.  It's the abstract noun "astonishment" I'd like to remove;  "-ment" abstract nouns should be switched with simpler word forms where possible.  Maybe: "Astonished, Tiye's eyes widen."  Or "Tiye's eyes flash, astonished."  Or letting context do all the heavy lifting: "Tiye's eyes go wide."  Action, reaction.  Trust the reader to connect the dots without unnecessary hand-holding.

"She turns to face the girl."  Remove it.  Review.  Any meaning, mood, emotion lost?  No.  That sentence does nothing but eat precious white space.  Kill it.

"The girl bows and quickly walks away" -- don't give your minor characters the same attention as your majors.  That's why they're minor characters.  Get them on and off screen without fuss.

"She is so focussed that she suddenly rounds a corner, and walks into a small group of doves resting there. They rise up in to the air."  Large group, small group -- not important.  What's important is Tiye (and the audience) getting startled.  So focus on that.  The suddenness has to be on the page, and "rise up into the air" is way too languid to provoke shock.

"He looks at her questioningly" -- okay, but what emotion does that suggest?  Curiosity?  Amusement?  Outrage?  We don't know.  It's too vague.

Mantra time: give 'em two plus two, not four.



* Subsequently I made minor tweaks to the revised text.  The original stats will be slightly off now.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2013, 10:13 AM by Pitchpatch » Logged

NTSF:SD:SUV::
Pages: [1]   Back To Top
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF | SMF © Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!
Page created in 0.124 secs [21]