Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Airing a screenwriting argument

Sharing scenes last night spaked off an interesting argument. I had written: "She was happy to be surprised." The debate that followed is the ye old "only write what you can see". There were, as always, two sides.

In one corner: the only-write-what-you-can-see, only write actions or dialogue. This discipline will force you to create meaning through subtext, so that the reader imposes only the meaning that the writer wants. This is something I aspire to.

In the other corner: those who believe that you can write certain emotions into a text because (a) an actor can play those emotions and (b) it provides the reader with a tone and feeling in as little as one word that could otherwise be missed.

For example, it would be alright to say "He held out his hands reluctantly" because no matter what subtext has been created by the actions, the way a character holds out their hands could be in contrast (signally a beat change or turning point) to the existing flow of the scene.

However, we were all agreed that "She looks out the window praying to all deities that this Sunday would end" is not playable and not appropriate.

The example I used that sparked the debate was:

Joshua, unmoved, waits for the point.

What do you think? Unplayable? Possibly. But is it acceptable in a script to use lines such as this to create feeling in the reader? I personally prefer it to:

Joshua does nothing.

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