Screenwriting : Today's Wish and Creative Tip by Laurie Ashbourne

Laurie Ashbourne

Today's Wish and Creative Tip

Land Lines The Hollywood Reporter recently put out an issue featuring the best 100 lines in movie dialogue as ranked by various producers, actors etc. This came about just after I finished giving a note to a writer about their moments needing the space to land. A note, I’ve been giving far too often lately. The image is an excerpt from the article, that features a line that certainly made the list. Looking at the famous, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” see how the second line was scratched out? That let’s Marlon’s line not only land, but stick the landing. And it’s not just with dialogue that this sort of editing is crucial. All too often, important actions (as well as good lines of speech) get buried in way too many lines of unnecessary text. Undermining the impact. Give your moments the breath they need on the page, and they will garner the attention needed to land and become memorable. And may your writing get an offer you can’t refuse.

Owen Mowatt

Do you have a link to that article, Laurie? Also, this tip strikes me more of an editing or directing choice? Sometimes no matter how hard you analyses your word choices, the lines can easily become redundant once you actually filming the moment.

Laurie Ashbourne

It shouldn't be an editing choice -- but a good editor can fix a poorly executed scene. Which is why many 'end up on the cutting room floor.' Dialogue lines are tweaked for performance during read throughs and rehearsals all the time, but you don't want to be a writer who has to have his work rewritten on set. When I do work as a script supervisor, I often have directors ask me to work with actors to come up with more impactful lines and with 9 out of 10, it's just a matter of streamlining the delivery. A writer who has a strong voice, knows how to do this so it doesn't become a problem for someone else down the line. It really is in the top 5 of my most given notes of the countless scripts I read. Where the writer has done a decent enough job that I can tell this is a big moment (whether it be a funny joke or poignant theme or suspensful reveal) but the moment is buried knee deep in too much inconsequential action verbiage or a character not knowing when to shut up. I actually read the physical article, but here is a link that I believe covers it:

Fiona Faith Ross

More valuable advice from Laurie. I never thought of that. Thanks a million.

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