Describe Me a River - Complications Ensue
Complications Ensue:
The Crafty TV and Screenwriting Blog




Baby Name Voyager graphs baby name frequency by decade.

Social Security Administration: Most popular names by year.

Name Trends: Uniquely popular names by year.

Reverse Dictionary Search: "What's that word that means....?"

Facebook Name Trees Match first names with last names.


Archives

April 2004

May 2004

June 2004

July 2004

August 2004

September 2004

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

November 2005

December 2005

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010

April 2010

May 2010

June 2010

July 2010

August 2010

September 2010

October 2010

November 2010

December 2010

January 2011

February 2011

March 2011

April 2011

May 2011

June 2011

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011

October 2011

November 2011

December 2011

January 2012

February 2012

March 2012

April 2012

May 2012

June 2012

July 2012

August 2012

September 2012

October 2012

November 2012

December 2012

January 2013

February 2013

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

June 2013

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

October 2013

November 2013

December 2013

January 2014

February 2014

March 2014

April 2014

May 2014

June 2014

July 2014

August 2014

September 2014

October 2014

November 2014

December 2014

 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How descriptive would you/should you/ do you have to be when describing a setting? The first scene of my script takes place in a Morgue. I have a 10-lined paragraph describing the room (autopsy table/sink/bio-hazard boxes, etc) that seems a bit long, but it does describe the room. The character in the scene isn't using anything in the room. And really only spends about a page in this room before leaving.
Ack!

My rule of thumb is: describe only what we need to know for the story or to set the scene. "A squalid morgue with one flickering flourescent." "A brightly-lit, state-of-the-art morgue." "Your basic down home back-country morgue. A variety of stuffed animals suggests it doubles as a taxidermist's workshop."

The production designer and set decorator will do the rest.

Thing is, we've seen dozens of morgues on TV, and we can fill them in with scales, steel gurneys, etc., for ourselves. Give us more details if it's something we can't fill in for ourselves -- a geomancer's workshop, for example. But even there, give us just enough to set the scene. One or two striking details are worth more than ten lines of description.

Labels:

5 Comments:

I've noticed that feature film writers (especially John August and his commenters, who are ostensibly in that category) have extremely verbose setting and character descriptions, particularly on the first page. Is that convention among feature writers? I've read mostly TV, so I've only seen very short sluglines.

By Blogger Morley, at 1:50 PM  

I'm not sure that's true. John August may do it, but just looking at random, neither MEN IN BLACK nor THE DARK KNIGHT nor Frank Darabont's script for the latest Indiana Jones movie start with verbose settings. They start with action sequences.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 2:08 PM  

I had a similar experience describing a nightclub. At first, I described every detail -- the music, the beautiful people, the cathedral-like space, blah blah. Most people know what one looks like; even if they've never been in one, we've seen places like this in film/TV.

So I kept paring it down to the essentials: what 2 maybe 3 elements that capture this setting. My final description was almost haiku-like. Worked for me and more importantly, got me to the meat of the scene that much sooner.

By Blogger daveed, at 3:13 PM  

Established writers may be able to get away with long scene descriptions, but newbies shouldn't do it. I'll just leave your with a comment I was given for an early script by a script reader...

"A lot of people will not read screenplays with such large description at the beginning. They see all that black text and they get very turned off."

I think that says it all.

By Blogger Tim W., at 3:27 PM  

I see -- for some reason I thought it was a cultural or philosophical difference between feature and tv writers. Though I was probably just reacting to the entries of one of his scene contests.

By Blogger Morley, at 1:46 PM  

Post a Comment

Back to Complications Ensue main blog page.



This page is powered by Blogger.