Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Confusion = Bad

When you write a script, you are writing it for the READER. The reader is not the producer or the director, your mom or your dad. The reader is the one who holds the power. Why? Because they give coverage on your script with the ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ to move it along TO the producer or director.


Yes, it’s an actual job. It’s thankless and overwhelming and time consuming. I know this will be a shocker, but they WILL toss your script into the doomed circular file if:

1.) they get confused
2.) they hate your script or
3.) your script isn’t properly formatted

Don’t blame me, I don’t make the rules! I’m going to break this down in the next few blogs for you. So, let’s take Number 1.

How can a reader get confused?

Besides a poorly constructed script, I’m going to focus on the most recent and one of the most pertinent errors to cause confusion in a script: NAMES.

I recently read a man’s script which was pretty good, however, he had three characters that all started with the same first letter. To make matters worse, he had a dialogue with all three of them. I was completely lost and if I wasn’t critiquing it for the guy the script would have been deep sixed. It was extremely hard to follow.

Jesse, Jessup, and Justice.

Sweet Lord, people. Don’t give your characters the same first letter. You have an entire alphabet at your disposal. Please use it. There are baby names books that can help if you get stuck!

Another note: try to change the syllables of the names.

Your goal is to make it as easy as possible for the reader to intake the information, keep up as they speed read, and give you a good mark. Don’t have Bob and Tom. Have Bobby and Tom. Or Bob and Tommy. Bonnie and Annie should become Bonnie and Ann. Make it easy.

Don’t have rhyming characters. Kelly and Shelly. Mindy and Cindy. Craig and Greg.

Let me try to break it down a bit better for you.

Imagine an office. Desk. Fluorescent lights. Office supplies. Starbucks.

Now imagine the desk with stacks upon stacks of 110-115 page scripts. You can’t see the office supplies. You can’t see the desk. There are scripts in stacks on the floor. Two things can be made out in this room. The chair and the rather large wastebasket. And your script is in the stack.

The reader picks up a script. Not one with an embellished covering or title page. Those reek of amateurism and are immediately tossed into the dream eating can. She looks at the title page. If it looks good, she flips it open.

A reader will know by page 10 whether he or she will continue. It’s not that he or she doesn’t like you. It’s not that he or she doesn’t like your idea. It’s the fact that he or she has to understand what you’re trying to say. What takes us an hour or so to read will take them thirty minutes. They’re speed reading demons!

Why wouldn’t you want to make it easy for them? If you make it easy for them, you make it easy for them to give you great coverage and move your script along.

“Now, hold on a minute!” you say. “I’ve seen movies where there are rhyming names, and people start with the same first letter!”

Yes, that’s true. Most of those movies were written by the producers or already had money behind them.

Let’s take Twilight, New Moon, and Eclipse for example.
Two of the characters names are Jacob and Jasper. I have heard countless people get Jacob and Jasper confused. Even more so with the folks who read the book. Did it hinder the success of the movies? Nope! But Stephenie Meyer was approached to make her book into a movie and had a screenwriter adapt her work. This wasn’t a script she sent in.

You can do what you want. Take my advice or leave it, it’s up to you. I’m just trying to give you some insight to offer you the best possible chance to get your work up on that coveted silver screen.

Why make it harder for the reader?

Why make it harder for yourself?

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