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Archive for March, 2012

Screenwriting Basics: The Importance of Sentence Variety Mar 29

Matrix Word Cloud

I’ve decided to do a few posts geared towards newer screenwriters. So if you’ve been screenwriting for a while, feel free to ignore the posts, review them as refreshers, or read them so you can cackle maniacally at how far you’ve come.

Great Beginnings

Remember back in school when your teacher would correct you for starting every sentence with the word “The”? Well things haven’t changed. It’s still bad form.

One thing that I’ve been noticing a lot lately, on the amateur scripts I’ve been reading, is the repetition of sentences that begin with a character’s name or a pronoun (he/she).

Let me give you an example of great sentence variety.

Here’s an excerpt from the THE MATRIX script:

INT. HEART O’ THE CITY HOTEL

The Big Cop flicks out his cuffs, the other cops holding a bead. They’ve done this a hundred times, they know they’ve got her, until the Big Cop reaches with the cuffs and Trinity moves --

It almost doesn’t register, so smooth and fast, inhumanly fast.

The eye blinks and Trinity’s palm snaps up and the nose explodes, blood erupting. Her leg kicks with the force of a wrecking ball and he flies back, a two-hundred-fifty pound sack of limp meat and bone that slams into the cop farthest from her.

Trinity moves again, BULLETS RAKING the walls, flashlights sweeping with panic as the remaining cops try to stop a leather-clad ghost.

A GUN still in the cop’s hand is snatched, twisted, and FIRED. There is a final violent exchange of GUNFIRE and when it’s over, Trinity is the only one standing.

Terrific stuff, right?

Now here’s that same excerpt, but amateurised. Check it out:

INT. HEART O’ THE CITY HOTEL

The Big Cop flicks out his cuffs, the other cops holding a bead. The Cops have done this a hundred times. The Cops know they’ve got her, until the Big Cop reaches with the cuffs --

Trinity moves so smooth and fast, inhumanly fast. It almost doesn’t register.

Trinity’s palm snaps up and the nose explodes, blood erupting. Her leg kicks with the force of a wrecking ball and he flies back, a two-hundred-fifty pound sack of limp meat and bone that slams into the cop farthest from her.

Trinity moves again, BULLETS RAKING the walls, flashlights sweeping with panic as the remaining cops try to stop a leather-clad ghost.

She snatches A GUN in the cop’s hand, twists, and FIRES.

She is the only one standing after a final violent exchange of GUNFIRE.

See what I’m sayin’? Virtually the same action lines, but one screams PROFESSIONAL and the other screams AMATEUR.

Don’t be an amateur. Mix it up. Sentence variety is the spice of professional scripts.

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