Screenwriting : Need input from fellow screenwriters please... by Stacey Chehardy

Need input from fellow screenwriters please...

I've been told by my agent that you can not use 'ing' words in descriptions - I got that...except... what about in scene set up? For example.... I want to say that a man is standing in the jury box, holding a sheet of paper. if I change it to a man stands in the jury box with a sheet of paper in hand, it makes it sounds like an action. It sounds as if he was seated and he stands instead of already standing. What do you think?

Norman Welthagen

Rules, rules, rules!! I have read a thousand screenplays that have been produced by massive production companies, that were directed by the best and hosted A list actors. Those screenplays written by the very people we look up to. Their screenplays are littered with "ing" words, so I'm sure you can get away with a few if it moves the narrative forward.

D Marcus

Does it change your story if the director chooses to show the action (standing) rather than starting the shot with him already on his feet (stands)? Jim's example is perfect. I think your agent is to concerned over unnecessary "rules". If you feel it is essential to the story (not the way you see the scene shot) the the audience not see the man move from a seated position to a standing position then you need to make that very clear. I suggest it doesn't make a difference to your story which the director chooses. Use Jim's example.

Steven P Baer

I agree with what D MARCUS said. Let the director sweat the details. Keep your narrative brief as possible.

Chip Street

That form is called present progressive, and IMHO it's fine if used properly. Some will say that it's tantamount to passive voice, but it's not particularly. That has more to do with sentence structure. Assuming you're writing a spec, you need to keep the reader (not the director) in the story, and not ever ever confuse them in a way that makes them wonder (for instance) "Wait, was he already standing, or did he just stand up?" If present progressive makes things clear, use it. See these discussions over at John August... And this more recent transcript of a podcast ... scroll down for the discussion of present progressive. I'll let you read it to see what John and Craig really think about people who push this "rule" of "ings"... ;)

Marvin Willson

I agree with the Agent. The craft of screenwriting is clear to see on the page. Action is always in the PRESENT, because it's what the characters are doing in the scene, when it's filmed. Thus, a man STANDS in the jury box, a woman CRIES, a boy RUNS, etc. It's one of the small details that shows a skilled writer. @Norman - A director may change it to, RUNNING, but most directors are not screenwriter's and the script you read is most likely not the script that was sold. Once you make it as a writer, and your services are in demand, you can write how you like, but if you are trying to sell something, you need to prove, in your writing, that you have the skills. Listen to your Agent, they are the ones trying to sell your work.

Erik N. Harper

I think the ing is the same as periods and commas. You need them but you wish you didn't. I think whatever an agent or studio wants you to do to better your chances of selling what you are writing you should seriously consider. I don't have either, but if I did, if they thought writing in crayon would get my screenplay sold I would ask what colors are best. If your agent wants it, it's probably best to do it. That is if you trust your agent. And if you don't why are they your agent.

Stacey Chehardy

Thank you all for the input!

Irina Schmedes

of course you can use them. Just open any produced screenplay and you will see that they are there. Just use them sparingly, that's all.

David John Jones

Hi Stacey, Your agent is right, words ending in "ing" need to be avoided unless the words need to have "ing" on the end, such as parking lot, carving knife etc. I've learnt to do this and it improves my action blocks and makes the read better. I've also been advised to not use the following words in action blocks: of, starts, starts to, begins, begins to, we see, we hear, is, and are. Again, by taking these out, my action blocks are concise and the prose flows, which is what is required. Of course, all of the above can be used in dialogue, as people use them in day to day speech. I have a cheat sheet that i've built up over a number of years from advice from people who are active in Hollywood. The list really isn't suitable for a post, so I'll send you a message.

Victor Stapelberg

Hi David...Do I dare ask if I can have a peek at that "cheat sheet" also. Have read several books about screenwriting but haven't come across of that particular advise. I am only dabbling in scripts till now learn how to write them have installed software etc..Thank you. Good to be connected. One learns something new each time. Thank you. Vic

Victor Stapelberg

David your are "IN" as in "A la mode"

Robert Edgar Seay

David John Jones, Thanx for the invite friend. People who bring laughter to this world are blessed. Keep it up and good luck David....Robert Seay

Patrick Hampton

When writing action statements you want to do it in present tense. Remember you showing the reader what they are seeing not telling them. Always stay away from -ing's when you can! Its screenwriting 101.

Patrick Hampton

I have taught workshops and won multiple awards in screenwriting.

Stacey Chehardy

Thank you all again for the amazing input, it is greatly appreciated!

Other topics in Screenwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In