Subscribe to feed via email:
Subscribe RSS

Archive for the Category "Words"

The Importance of Active Verbs Dec 20

Dude, aren’t all verbs active?Are you using active verbs?

Good question, smartass!

The truth is, there are passive and active forms of verbs. The active form (without the “ing”) is almost always the best one to use.

For example, I often see a variation of the following sentence:

Jack is sitting at his desk.

It’s grammatically correct, but it’s passive. Consider this version:

Jack sits at his desk.

Now we have something that not only uses the more active tense but is also shorter (which you should know by now is a good thing in screenwriting).

So things are better, but “sits” doesn’t tell us a whole lot about what Jack is really doing or feeling. It’s something of a wasted verb, because if he’s at his desk, he’s obviously sitting.

What about?

Jack pores over his research at his desk. / Jack fumes at his desk. / Jack types frantically on his computer.

Get the idea? Much more descriptive and interesting.

It gets worse

I’ll often come across something like this sentence after a master scene heading.

Katy on the ship’s deck.

Now you’re not even trying. Sure, it tells us who we’re looking at and where she is (and it’s brief), but again, it doesn’t provide us with any action or context.

What about?

Katy grips the rail of the ship’s deck, eyes burning.

A seasick Katy slouches against a crate on the ship’s deck.

Katy scrutinizes her crew on the ship’s deck.

You get the idea. Don’t be lazy. Use a more descriptive verb, put us in the mindset of your character and make us feel something.

Note: In the first of the three sentences above, I actually use an “ing” form of the verb in the second half of the sentence. That’s perfectly acceptable.

Do you have any writing questions? Let me know!

Category: Style, Words, Writing  | Leave a Comment
10 Page Torture Test – Open To Submissions Jun 11

10 Page Torture TestThere are many writing achievements that I’m proud to have accomplished: placing in/winning script competitions… having my first script optioned… getting my first paid writing gig…

And now I’ve been asked to be the first guest script reviewer for the 10 Page Torture Test!

While my previous achievements were grand, I can say without hyperbole that this one is at least a billion times better than the others. 😉

What is the 10 Page Torture Test?

It’s a site where a mysterious and talented guy, who goes by “Pitchpatch,” takes the first 10 pages of mostly amateur scripts, and digs deep into their nooks and crannies. In doing so, he offers fantastic (and hilarious) insight into what works, and what doesn’t, complete with suggestions for improvement.

And what’s more, he does it for free! All for the love of screenwriting, and the recognition of the importance of the first 10 pages of a script. As you should know, if your first 10 pages don’t impress, the reader will likely have permanently checked out by page 11.

How good is this guy, Pitchpatch? Here’s a hint: Guess who I beg for notes when I need one of my scripts critiqued?

Send me your scripts!

For the next edition of the 10 Page Torture test, I’m going to take the reins and provide the feedback.

But I only get to choose one script. So if you’d like the first 10 pages of your script critiqued publicly, FOR FREE, send it to me, with its associated logline, by Friday, June 20th at Midnight.

I’ll be choosing the script based on two things:

  1. The intrigue of the logline. (Is the concept compelling? Is the movie marketable?)
  2. The potential for readers to learn from my notes. (Are there things the writer has done really well? Are there common mistakes to point out?)

It should hopefully go without saying by now, but any constructive criticism will be provided with an aim to enlighten — not embarrass.

So send me your script (and logline) for consideration!!!

Do you have sprachgefühl? May 31


George Dubya

Not even an ounce of sprachgefühl.

Some of the coolest words that have permeated the English language are German in origin: schadenfreude… zeitgeist… doppelgänger… And they’re fun to say too!

My new favorite word? Sprachgefühl.

Why? For years I’ve been talking about there being two types of people — those who instinctively care about grammar and spelling. And those who don’t.

Well, I now have a word for what people like me are afflicted with:

sprachgefühl (noun): an intuitive sense of what is linguistically appropriate. (source: Merriam-Webster)

sprachgefühl (noun): A feeling for language; an ear for the idiomatically correct or appropriate. (source: The Free Dictionary)

The 10-Page Torture Test

You know who’s dripping with succulent sprachgefühl? The guy who runs the 10-Page Torture Test.

Recently I posted one of my scripts to as part of a contest to win a free pass to The Great American Pitchfest coming up this weekend.

Long story short — a Talentville member downloaded the 10 page preview of my script and was so jazzed about what he saw that he wanted to put it through his site’s “torture test.”

Here’s a guy who cares so deeply about the craft of screenwriting, and the importance of a great first impression, that he set up a site to critique the first 10 pages of scripts for willing screenwriters.

From his home page:

What’s a 10-page torture test?

The 10PTT concept stands on two key ideas:

* If you’re not rewriting over and over, you’re not really writing.

* First impressions count. If your screenplay doesn’t wow the reader by page ten, forget about it. On the other hand, ten terrific pages can earn the reader’s goodwill. If your next ten pages sag, the reader will let it slide and hope for a return to form instead of hurling your script across the room.

At 10PTT.COM we yank and slash and pound your words until your first ten pages snarl, ripple, and glisten like a jungle puma leaping with jaws wide to clamp down on your reader’s soft, salty throat.

Something like that.

We’ll trim the fat off your pages and inject what’s left with 150 ccs of AWESOME.

This is not a paid reading service. It’s done purely for the love of words on the page. Anyone who loves language can participate.

Seeing as how I recently critiqued someone else’s script in a similar manner, how could I say no? Head on over to the site to check out his comprehensive, funny and insightful notes for my first ten pages. Then join the discussion and get your sprachgefühl on!

Category: Words, Writing  | One Comment
Laboring over words Jun 23
Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin (just a dude)

I watched The Social Network again last night, but this time with the audio commentary by Aaron Sorkin and various cast members.

Given Aaron Sorkin’s successes and accolades, it’s easy to forget that he’s just a dude with the same writing challenges we face. Sure, he now has unparalleled access to people who can get his scripts made (and he’s probably a supergenius), but he starts with a blank page, just like the rest of us do.

A couple of things popped out at me while listening to the commentary.

1. He says that the hardest part of the process for him is just starting to write.

What? Really? How can that be the case for such a prolific, experienced writer? Yet, it’s true. I was too lazy engaged in the commentary to copy down what he said verbatim, but basically after he spends months researching a project, it’s very hard for him to start the script.

He struggles to figure out his way in to the story. For him, that’s the hardest part.

2. He labors over his words

The dialogue in The Social Network is so smart, snappy and authentic that I sometimes picture Aaron Sorkin writing stream of consciousness, as fast as his little hands can type.

So it was encouraging to hear him talk about scenes that gave him a peculiar amount of trouble.

For example, there’s this scene that takes place after Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) has just launched the first version of (the)Facebook:

MARK is staring at the computer...



MARK doesn’t hear him. We just see MARK’s head from the back and it’s ever so slightly bobbing back and forth...





Are you praying?

Well apparently Aaron Sorkin “labored” over the word, “praying.” He wasn’t sure (and still isn’t sure) if he should have used “davening” instead.

I’m not sure what I found more interesting — the fact that he labored over that decision, or that I had no idea what the hell “davening” meant.1

It’s a common issue. You have a word that might be “perfect,” but it’s likely to lose a portion of your audience that isn’t familiar with it.

Sometimes it’s just comforting to know that even Aaron Sorkin grapples with these ridiculous writing problems.

Want me to read your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

  1. davening means “To recite Jewish liturgical prayers” (and, in some dictionaries, “to sway or rock lightly”).
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...