There’s a hilarious, potty-mouthed scribe out there called Manny Fonesca. He spouts much wisdom with his liberal dropping of the F, S and C bombs. I think it’s called blanket or carpet bombing in military terms. Here are some of his tips to survive the Hollywood jungle:
TOO MANY SENTENCE STARTERS
Do you start with too many “SOs”, “LIKEs” or ‘TOTALLYs” to add authenticity to your script? You can possibly add a few to color your dialog, but too many, will just.. like… totally clutter your script. Let the actors do some of the work and add some starters themselves.
THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS “PRE-HEATED”
Mr. Fonesca argues you are either doing something or not. You don’t prepare to do something or begin to do something. Constant use of the verb present continuous tense (the “ing” form of doing words) slows down a read. Change “He begins to stand and starts turning around” to “He turns”. Isn’t that much better?
DON’T REPEAT SH*T
Notice how I’ve cleverly left out a letter so you’ll never guess the mystery word? Don’t repeat information in the action with dialogue. We can see your character frantically searching for his car keys. No need to verbalize it too. The same goes for repetition of information that has appeared elsewhere in the script, unless it’s so important it’s worthy of reinforcement.
DON’T BE TOO WORDY
There’s a pile of scripts on my laptop I’ve renamed “Verbosity”. You know the ones; lots of flowery description where very little happens. Less is more. If you mention a spinster’s apartment, a movie stars mansion, or a homeless shelter, we get it. No further description required.
THERE ARE TOO MANY INSIDE JOKES, I’M NOT SURE PEOPLE WILL GET THEM
Hey, I work in the industry and I still miss many jokes. Intern jokes have had their day. Insider jokes can be downright arrogant, pompous and exclude your audience, so limit their use.
KEEP YOUR CULTURAL REFERENCES CURRENT
I read a script for “Easy A” and there was a reference to a character in “The Brady Bunch” called George Glass. I’m old enough to have viewed the original episode, but what about younger audiences who don’t watch reruns? Having to explain the said Mr. Glass, hamstrings your script.
KNOW YOUR PEERS
Listen to as many working screenwriters as possible. And spare me that “I don’t live in L.A.” garbage. There are online interviews, podcasts, magazines and videos to keep you in the screenwriting loop.
So go forth and write and populate the world with joyous stories…