An excerpt from my script review for Without Remorse which will be available 05/03/21:
4.) Dialogue and Description
(NOTE – For whatever reason John Clark is called “John Kelly” in the script.)
Honestly, the dialogue was fine.
There were good portions, like page 6, where Ritter comes at Kelly from the angle of the CIA and it leads to decent tension, especially considering the life and death mission they’re walking into.
Then a few “not so good” portions, like when Pam and Kelly are going back and forth about some existential “tortured soldier” bullshit, which isn’t great especially when factoring in what happens to her shortly after.
What I want to focus on here is the description…
Remember, you’re writing a script not a novel.
A simple rule to follow would be, “Don’t say in four sentences what you can in one.”
Just because you’re breaking each of the description blocks into four lines or so doesn’t mean you’re doing your job properly.
Whitespace is a reader’s friend.
(Or…less is more.)
Was this script horrible and unreadable? No.
But after the fourth character was introduced and I had to read what their eyes conveyed, I began to lose interest rolling my eyes.
There’s clever description, and then there’s description that’s too clever.
Does that make sense?
For instance…*SPOILER* Kelly’s wife Pam is killed BUT I didn’t know that until the next scene because the description was too focused on how Kelly was lying on the floor after being shot and the condition of his bedroom in the aftermath when he wills himself to run into it.
Key pieces of information there would be that Pam and her unborn child were dead and one of the bad guys got away.
“But her death was a mystery!”
Was it? Then why tell us on the very next page? Not exactly a nail bitier.
Then towards the end…
The final fight sequences just went on and on. They were elaborate, hard to follow due to the technical aspects, and indigestible to the mind.
Honestly I didn’t much care because it all boiled down to…
Kelly kills all the bad guys.
The one technique the description did well was with the idea that people being shot and killed were “unplugged”.
When a man is shot he doesn’t jerk as though stung by a bee,
nor is he launched backwards in a heap. He simply stops
being. It is more akin to unplugging a television — the
image simply ceases to exist…
This unplugged metaphor was then continued on throughout the rest of the story.
Something like this is a nice touch.
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