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Archive for the Category "Words"

Do you have sprachgefühl? May 31

Spra-what?

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 Talentville.com 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...

EDUARDO

Mark?

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

EDUARDO

(pause)

Mark?

(beat)

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”).
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