If we can get the reader to see the images and feel the emotions, we can transmit our enthusiasm and excitement for the project to them.
Put simply, writing vertically refers to making choices that push the reader's eyes DOWN the page more often than they go ACROSS the page.
I want to discuss little visual actions we didn't intend to be emotional, but could. These tend to be discoveries and can be a lot of fun. In these cases, it's not whether the line of action takes up too much space, but whether it takes up ENOUGH space to really work, and therefore be worth keeping.
One of the primary principles of my rewriting is the question, "What is the emotion I want to evoke here?" It's a simple question. I wrote a line. Either dialogue or an action line. There should be no useless words, so I ask myself, what is this line's purpose?
The goal of the screenplay is to evoke the emotional experience of seeing the movie. Anything that gets in the way of that, I avoid. I want the reader to envision the film and react emotionally rather than engage with the script as some technical document.
This week I want to talk about when to describe a character you just introduced. How we describe them is an excellent topic, too, but well covered by others. I’ll save my take on it for another time. Today is about WHEN.
Many people repeat, "Don't direct your screenplay," when they should just be saying, "Don't use camera angles." But you should be directing on the page.
Let's give a few folks the benefit of the doubt, and maybe they don't understand what they're saying. What they actually mean is, “Don’t use camera angles” and they’re just kind of repeating what they’re told as, "don't direct the script."
How it goes is that one incident of the silliness I'm about to talk about doesn’t really matter. Like the use of gerunds. One time? No big deal. Even a couple times, who cares?
A student asked me about what to do with a script that had a lot of young kids running around as supporting players. Twelve to be exact. She wanted to know how to introduce them, how to help the reader keep track of them, etc…
Many young writers struggle to be decisive in the moments that populate their screenplays. They find it challenging to openly declare and dramatize what a single moment is about.
So I did that “passion polish.” I didn’t change any dialogue, I didn’t change the structure, or what happened in scenes. I just polished the action lines. That was it. It took me maybe a few days.