Here’s a guest post by the lovely Michelle Goode of Writesofluid – helping you write so fluidly!
Since launching proofreading services alongside script reading services, I’ve begun to appreciate format and style on a whole new level. It’s about more than just spotting a few typos and correcting a few misplaced apostrophes; proofreading your script can highlight some really interesting issues.Repetition. For example, you may not be aware that you are repeating words or phrases throughout your entire script. Your characters may have a penchant for picking up their bag or sitting down. Sure, picking up a bag may be essential to an individual who is off out shopping and sitting down is something we all do. But do they inform the plot? The fact is that, unless that bag is going to end up being used to kill someone or sitting down has an emotional impact; such as it may after a bereavement, they’re useless pieces of information.
Raising the game. The more scripts I read, the more impressed I become with the standard of format and style these days. With such great advice so widely available in books and on the internet, there really is no excuse. Now, however, it’s a case of raising the game; are your descriptions and dialogues a cut above the rest? More to the point, will your style get you noticed?
Fluidity. Cut out the simple movement descriptions (those pesky obvious ones like opening doors and walking across a room), bland – unless essential to plot – character descriptions (height, colour of jumper) and eliminate any repetitions. You should be left with short, snappy, essential action descriptions… But are they fluid to read?
Visualisations. Some of the best descriptions I’ve read combine essential info with glorious visualisations, quirky character descriptions and the occasional inner-character thoughts, too. We’re talking descriptions which paint the mood of the setting, such as “chalk-like smog drawing a trail across the sky”. Descriptions that tell us character X approaches the job centre, “shoulders hunched with the weight of a poverty-stricken family”. Descriptions that strike a chord or make us laugh/stress along with the characters.
Economising. Put thought into your descriptions; economising needn’t mean lifeless sentences but ones which are rich with clues about the location, the ambiance and the characters. However, it is important to remember that interesting descriptions should contribute tone and add to the reader’s understanding of the character/situation. They’re not a substitute for showing/conveying information – if X has a poor family we’ll likely need to see them or at least have a clear understanding through active representation.
Slush pile gunk. Time and time again I read scripts of 120 pages (or more!) with unnecessarily lengthy descriptions, dialogue exchanges and even whole scenes which don’t help to progress the plot. Whilst it can be tempting to leave a script as it is after writing, a ruthless cull of any unessential elements will help you sift the gold from the gunk.
Daunting task. It’s not easy; much like clearing out well-loved clothes or sentimental objects can be a daunting task for those emotionally attached. Sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes to look over your work and to highlight the issues. Writesofluid offers an annotation service for this; I correct those spelling/grammatical errors and spot those repetitions and unnecessary additions for you.
Dressing the story. Story/plot is our golden element and good style dresses a story in its finest. You’ll often hear people say that “as long as the idea is good, it doesn’t matter what it’s written like”. But it does. Story is king, but unless you’re being commissioned on the off and have an editor perching on the edge of their seat in anticipation, you’ll have to get past the king’s guards first.
The gatekeepers. Readers, like directors and producers, will need to be sucked into the world you have created and taken on a journey; a journey to a fulfilling destination. We want that journey to be pleasant with plenty to see and entertain us, but we don’t want boring views or delays. Any sign of traffic congestion and the the vehicle – the script – may just run out of momentum.
Don’t let your script end up on the scrap heap!
ABOUT MICHELLE: Michelle Goode is a writer, script reader & editor. Michelle reads for the London Screenwriter’s Festival, Girls on Film, New Writing South, Screenplayreaders and private clients via her Writesofluid script reading and editing service. Trained in proofreading and copy-editing by Chapterhouse Publishing, Michelle now offers a range of script and manuscript proofreading services alongside critiquing services. CHECK OUT HER WEBSITE HERE.
That is really good advice, it highlighted something I was unsure about.
I'm off to take a red pen to my current project. I can already think of three places where I committed the 'picks up/puts down the bag' sin.