Screenwriting : Belated Epiphany by Leah Waller

Leah Waller

Belated Epiphany

Hi all! I thought I would share something I've recently discovered that has helped my writing immensely. One of my biggest challenges when writing is the action and character descriptions. There are sooo many rules, so many don'ts: Use active words, not passive, don't use “is” or “are”, say it in no more then 3-5 sentences max, BUT be creative and make it interesting! Would you like me rub my stomach and pat my head while walking a tight rope while I'm at it? Perhaps I can conjure a unicorn for you too?! Ok, I'm going to come down off my soap box and get to the point before this goes to far. Anyway – so I was having trouble sleeping a few nights ago and I decided to use my old remedy – an audio book of Agatha Christie's Poirot. (I'm unashamed to admit I'm deeply in love with Poirot and no one is allowed to portray him except David Suchet. While I'm at it, I love Peter Capaldi as The Doctor.) I usually fall asleep so fast to the soothing sound of Huge Fraser's voice, I don't even make it to the murder. (I know you are wondering where the point is, it's coming, I promise.) Well the other night, not even old Huge could put me out and for the first time, I listened, really listened to the book. Then it hit me - their action descriptions are PERFECT!! He can describe a room in full detail, with no “is” or “are”, in less then 3 sentences. His description of people and characters is so spot on that you know the character immediately – but he doesn't use a single physical description (unless it's pertinent – like raven black tresses to describe a girl who would later be described as looking like a witch.) I've taken classes and seminars, but never have the pieces fallen quite so into place. As an exercise, I transcribed some of the book. Now I'm working on another new feature script and I can tell such a difference. My writing was solid before, but it's so much better now (and it's getting easier to write!!).

Phil Parker

Thanks for the helpful suggestion. Good find!

Jennifer Norton

Clever you! Thank you for sharing :-)

Memi Koupa


Terry Hayman

That and reading good scripts for how the writer handles particular elements like description. So much a matter of style and voice. E.g. from Shawshank Redemption - "...a .38 revolver. Oily, black, evil." vs., say, What Lies Beneath - "Claire traces a finger along a small but noticeable SCAR above her left eye, then slowly drops the hand to her cheek, as if confirming her existence."

Jorge J Prieto

Thanks Steven, great tips.

Lynn P. H. Adrian

Nice thread. Thank you.

Leah Waller

Thank you guys for all your comments and tips. This turned into a very informative trend, thanks to you guys! :)

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