Do I Contradict Myself? Very Well Then, I Contradict Myself - Complications Ensue
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Monday, January 07, 2008

On p. 129 of CRAFTY SCREENWRITING, you advise that the writer “avoid adjectives, adverbs and subordinate clauses when you write the action.” Yet, on p. 101, “TOMMY works frantically . . . .” and “NANCY stares nervously . . . .” The adverbs are useful here, and I would be tempted to use them, but they are adverbs.
Well, yes.

Any of the advice you get here or in my books is just that, advice. You have to choose what works for you, and where to apply it.

In general I think it's an excellent idea to write as simply as possible, Hemingway-style, in the action. Avoid adverbs where possible. Don't write "walks briskly" when you can write "strides." The goal in writing action is for the image and sound to go into the reader's brain with as little interpretation as possible.

For another example, avoid subordinate clauses where possible. I almost always rewrite "while he does this, she does this" to "she does this, as he does this." The "while" construction requires the reader to keep a mental slot open for something that's going to happen that she doesn't know about yet. The "as" construction lets the reader absorb the first bit, then the second bit. Smaller bites of information go down more smoothly, to my mind, even within a sentence.

But ignore all the rules if you need to break them to convey the tone and image you want In the screenplay I wrote over the holidays, I have some characters "doing a happy little dance." I dunno how you'd do that without adverbs.



Long ago i purged using the words "starts to," "begins to" or "attempts to" from even getting typed on rough copy.

Under the theory that no one "begins to kiss her, attempts to run, starts to hit, etc."

Merely, "he kisses, runs, or hits, etc."

But I've read in A-list screenwriter's scripts occasionally even the pro's do it.

Proving again - an exception to every "don't-do-this" theory.

The occasional adverb/adjective gives color, a little salt and pepper, to a dish which would've just been bland without it.

If it paints a better picture, without extraneous intrusion...

why the hell not...instead of "why not?"

By Blogger iconix, at 1:00 AM  

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