An excerpt from my script review for Underwater which will be available 01/13/2020:
4.) Dialogue and Description
Here’s the nuts and bolts of the problems.
Remember, the tone of your script should be uniform throughout.
Meaning your description can’t set one tone, which is then completely contradicted by your dialogue.
In this particular script, the tone of the description was exactly what we needed.
It was tense. It felt real. It even used vulgarity in all the right places that expressed the danger of the situation.
However, anything set up there was quickly ruined by the hokey, jokey dialogue all the characters were prone to.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know some people cope with stress by joking through it, but you can’t have the entire cast doing so for the majority of the story because then their peril doesn’t feel real.
Let’s start with the good.
They turn a corner. At the end of the hall is A DOOR.
Was a door.
Now there’s a fuckton of RUBBLE blocking what used to be a
Very nice. “Fuckton” is good, not to mention the “was” quickly added to the situation, providing the first of many obstacles our characters are going to face.
This is what you need to know about the bottom of the ocean
in the middle of the night.
It is nightmare dark.
All of the sounds are muffled and awful.
You can’t run.
You are walking with the weight of the entire world on your
This entire page was great. Although the writer uses “you” calling direct attention to the reader, it sets the stage for the challenges these folks are going through.
Before sliding down like a knife through butter.
And in this case, Paul is the butter.
One of the creatures that killed Paul, more than likely didn’t realize it. That’s more terrifying than sharks, because even the shit not out to kill you can kill you.
Maybe ten feet away.
It does look like A SKELETON.
Maybe ten feet tall.
But it walks on FOUR LEGS.
Long legs that bend at the wrists and ankles and elbows and
Its skin is translucent, its BLUE PHOSPHORESCENT LIGHT living
underneath its awful body.
Long hair follicles float at odd parts of its body.
But by far the worst part of it is its hideous FACE.
Almost like a HUMAN HEAD.
With two gigantic cataract eyes that don’t work. Or move.
An open mouth that water runs through and out the gills along
its thin body.
This is THE OLD MAN.
Although this one may have been slightly hard to picture, the human characteristics of the creature, along with its curiosity, made for an eerie encounter which turned nasty quick.
Let me reiterate, even though I’ve only included a few examples, most of the description and action did exactly what this creature/survival horror needed.
What wasn’t was the ridiculous attempts to be humorous via the dialogue.
He’s such an asshole. Of course he
survived. I can’t wait for him to
take the opportunity of our near
death to touch my ass.
“Norah, there’s only one way out of
here… and it’s through my disease
Norah almost drops a heavy chunk of debris by trying not to
See, you’re a nice guy. You never
say shit like that.
Because I have an immaculately
clean, healthy penis.
Gimme a hand with this one.
She gets on the other end of a five foot long concrete slab.
They look up and see the massive hole above where it fell.
What is this from?
One or two jokes to lighten the mood is completely fine, but these one liners just went on and on…
I don’t have underwear on.
I was doing laundry when it hit,
Norah tries not to laugh.
But your pants will bunch up.
Poor Paul. You have a great ass.
I know! That’s why I’m keeping it
You should let everyone see it
before we go outside.
Like a, good luck out there gang,
and here’s my ass.
Mission kicks off on a high note.
I’d chop off a limb. I’d probably
be willing to sacrifice a leg.
I’d stop wanting to have sex with
Harrison Ford circa 1980.
No, I would have sex with Harrison
Ford today if it meant getting out
I’d live in Miami Beach by choice.
I’d tattoo George W. Bush on my
I’d run full sprint into a wall.
I’d set my hair on fire.
Probably. I really hate it here.
I would sing “Bicycle Girls:
completely naked on live
That’s hardly terrible. You’d
become a celebrity and goddess to
men worldwide. Enemy to Queen fans,
And this is me trimming it down.
Damn near any instance where Norah spoke I wanted to gouge my eyes out.
Sure, you need to give your characters some banter as a coping mechanism for the struggle they’re facing, but it needs to be interrupted by something bad happening. Not treated like an open mic night.
Creatures need to come back. The cast needs near misses. Dead characters should “reappear”.
That sort of shit.
Droning on like this ruins all the good you’re accomplishing with your action and description.
Don’t undo what you’ve done!
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