View Full Version : The Details
07-15-2005, 12:46 AM
I was just wondering how much detail should I put in the action of a script. I'm pretty new to writing and film-making so I find myself either going too much into detail about things (like specific little actor moves and expressions) or just not writing enough about something.
Would there be a book or website you would recommend for a new screenwriter.
07-15-2005, 03:47 AM
triggerstreet.com is ok..but...
But, generally speaking, if you're writing the screenplay for yourself as a shooting script, put in anything you want/need.
If you're writing a spec script to try to sell: BARE MINIMUM to get the necessary points across.
Another trap first-timers fall into: writing what the character is feeling/thinking.
Show, don't tell. The only thing that should go on the page is what the audience can see and hear.
07-15-2005, 06:23 AM
Check out http://www.wordplayer.com
As far as details go Stephen King put it nicely in his article "Imagery and the Third Eye". The article's on wordplayer here.
And for all you people too lazy to read what Stephen says:
"Good description produces imagery, then. The next question that always comes is, "How do I know what details to include and which to leave out?" The answer to the question is simply stated but more difficult to apply: Leave in the details that impress you the most strongly; leave in the details you see the most clearly; leave everything else out."
You may want to check out Stephens book called, "On Writing". I found what he wrote pretty applicable to all creative types of writing.
07-15-2005, 07:02 AM
The answer you seek is in reading lots of screenplays and seeing how pro writers do it, and learn from them.
Some writers add more detail than others, some use alot less. You need to find your own middle ground. But a good rule of thumb is often: less is more.
07-15-2005, 10:35 AM
Thanks guys, I checked out the websites and I think this is really gonna help me with writing a couple of ideas i've been kicking around for a while. Thanks
07-15-2005, 11:49 AM
Elmore Leonard used to say he streamlined his writing by leaving out the boring parts that everyone skips. That's probably why so many of his novels have been made into movies. They're full of action and dialogue, and light on expository writing.
07-15-2005, 12:44 PM
Has Elmore Leonard written any of the screenplays adapted from his books. I'd like to see the difference in his writing of the two.
07-16-2005, 02:33 AM
When I was struggling with this same topic I one day came to an epiphany which I documented in the following message (was posted to another board):
I think I finally get it!! Those of you who have read my recent posts are aware that I have been struggling with how to best write the description blocks in my scripts (e.g. how much is too much, not enough, etc).
Well, this weekend while watching a couple movies I had a sudden realization - when writing the action description I simply need to write it as though I was telling the story to someone who hadn't seen the movie. This instantly freed me from getting bogged down in too many details, yet still made it quickly clear how many details to include. The rest I can leave for the director to figure out.
When the epiphany hit I was trying to figure out how to write a particular scene I was watching. Then I realized I didn't need all those details, the director would put those in.
For example, if the scene looks like:
A large old world city with tall stone buildings all around. Between the buildings are narrow cobble stone streets. This scene is in an intersection of sorts where multiple roads come together in a mini-town square. There are large crowds of people pressing in from many different directions, all dressed in typical "old-world" dress.
The main character rides in from the right of the screen on horseback, causes the horse to slow as they look from side to side. Then they spot who they are looking for and knee the horse while yelling, "hi-yaa" and rides quickly off the left side of the screen. Several of the people near the rider turn to see what the commotion is, and a couple of them stumble back as they are nearly trampled by the horse.
etc., etc., etc.
if I was telling someone what happened in the movie (story) I wouldn't tell them all those details. Instead, I would say something like:
Then he rides through this old crowded town looking for "so-and-so".
Am I on the right track here? Or am I chasing down a wrong turn again?
Thanks for all your help,
and this was a follow up message I posted after receiving some comments on the above:
What I have come to understand is that most of those details will be worked out based on the context of the story. What the building(s) and costumes look like will depend on time and location, which will be made clear by the story. For example, if my story is about Robin Hood, then the dress will be equivalent to what most people think of when they think Robin Hood. I don't need to spell out what each person is wearing, unless it helps the story (for example, if Robin Hood puts on a hooded robe in order to disguise himself as a friar, etc). Additionally, the cities will be walled, with buildings made primarily of stone and cobbled streets - fitting with the period of the story and I wouldn't have to detail it out. The Director and Art Director would be able to come up with the right look based on the context of the story.
These are the kinds of details I was always struggling with, trying to determine which ones to include and how much to say about them. Obviously, if the details aren't made clear by the context of the story, then they need to be spelled out - but IMHO that is the only time they should be spelled out.
I hope this helps give more clarity to my explanation of my epiphany, and I can appreciate that not everyone will agree with everything I have said. And I can also appreciate that I have not "arrived" and so there may be more lurking around each corner that I need to learn and understand.
Hope this helps,
07-17-2005, 07:59 AM
Elmore Leonard wrote a few screenplays earlier in his career but he doesn't do it anymore. I've heard him say in interviews that he doesn't enjoy screenwriting. Even though his books adapt well to the screen, they still have to cut a lot out of the novels during the adaptation. But i know that some of the screenwriters, particularly Scott Frank, consult Leonard. I think Frank did the Out of Sight screenplay. The movie was different from the book, but I thought both were great.