Screenwriting : To Parenthetical or Not To Parenthetical. That, is the question. by Bill Lonero

Bill Lonero

To Parenthetical or Not To Parenthetical. That, is the question.

I have heard both that it is not good to use parenthesis and I have heard it is good to use parenthesis when writing a script. I have heard to use them sparingly when using them to describe action such as:

                                                                         Michael

                                                                       (picks up glass and throws it)

So what do you think? Good or not? Leave the direction for the working script or use it however you want?

Here is a script of "Thirteen Ghosts" and there are parentheticals all over it. http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/thirteen_ghosts.pdf

Pierre Langenegger

It's okay to use them sparingly and when the intent of the dialogue is not clear but DON'T use them for action.

Bill Lonero

Pierre Langenegger Yeah that seems to be what the consensus is. Yet, when I see scripts like this: http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/thirteen_ghosts.pdf that are loaded with parantheticals it gets confusing. Maybe this is a working script?

Pierre Langenegger

The short answer Bill is that you are writing a spec script but Thirteen Ghosts was not a spec script.

It might seem a little unfair but there is a big difference between someone writing a spec script to break-in and someone writing an assignment. Assignment writers don't need to worry so much about sticking to the guidelines of a standard script but those trying to break-in should demonstrate their knowledge and ability to follow screenplay standards before doing their own thing.

I'm not sure if that's clear but it's best not to use production scripts as a guide. You'll notice this script also contains titles and scene numbering.

Bill Lonero

Pierre Langenegger totally clear. Thank you. That’s what I figured that this was a production/working script and that’s why the parentheticals made sense but just wanted to double-check.

Bill Lonero

Laura Scheiner Thank you. When I said “consensus” I was referring to other forums as well. Not just Stage32. Thank you for the detailed explanation.

Joleene DesRosiers

I like Laura Scheiner 's post that addresses questions like this:

https://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting/Craft-Talk-Does-Your-1st-Page-Make-Us-Want-to-Read-the-2ndhttps://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting/Craft-Talk-Does-Your-1st-Page-Make-Us-Want-to-Read-the-2nd

John Iannucci

A person I respect said I overused parentheticals. And that was a very common problem. He answer was simple - if you question you should use one don’t as the actions in the parenthesis should flow.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

I generally use them for one or two word descriptions. Personally, I don't like the look of long sentence parentheticals that are more suited to regular action narrative. However, I've heard the parenthetical police were recently disbanded.

Shara Maude

For something like (picks up a glass and throws it) I wouldn't. Other than that, I think it's alright. Just needs to be slightly shorter and things like (she glares) or something like that. Anyway, that's how I use them most of the time.

Dan Guardino

I don't like using them for action. I do use them when I don't think the actor will be able to figure out how to say their line without them.

John Iannucci

Was just reading goodfellas script - paratheticals all over it. Understand it’s a shooting script but these are normal actions.

Tracy Lea Carnes

It's an action so I wouldn't put that in parentheses. "A Parenthetical remark can be an attitude, verbal direction or action direction for the actor who is speaking the part. Parentheticals should be short, to the point, descriptive, and only used when absolutely necessary.A Parenthetical remark can be an attitude, verbal direction or action direction for the actor who is speaking the part. Parentheticals should be short, to the point, descriptive, and only used when absolutely necessary."

Doug Nelson

Parentheticals are placed directly beneath the character name but above the actual dialog; for a reason. (To indicate how the writer thinks the line should be delivered. Many actors think the writers are idiots and will ignore the parentheticals.) They are NOT action! Action is a VERB and goes in the action text block. The parenthetical is an descriptive ADVERB. So there, Grampa has spoken.

Dan MaxXx

I used to do all that nonsense stuff - parenthenticals, camera directions, novel prose until I did my first professional table read. Embarrassing to hear.

actors returned pages with parententicals black sharpie crossed off. the director crossed off camera directions. Then the money guy, the dude paying for everything, pulled me to side and said I was fired.

Dan Guardino

I agree with Doug and that is how I learned to do it. Too many (actor directions) is sign that the screenwriter might be an amateur.

Dan Guardino

Dan M. That is how it usually works out when screenwriters try to do other people's jobs.

John Iannucci

If it's a two way line that is delivered (i.e. serious or sarcastic) and one way sets up the rest of the scene - then yes use it.

Dan Guardino

Why do you think a screenwriter needs to say their lines?

Doug Nelson

Dan M; and rightly so too. That's what I like to call a teachable moment.

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