Monday, June 30, 2008

LEARN TO LOVE CAPS LOCK

Or, up the ante like I do and HOLD DOWN THE SHIFT KEY! (It's been a boring day in agencyland.)

This will all make sense after Cal's question: When writing a spec, how closely should the formatting resemble produced scripts from the show you're writng? I ask because I'm following a produced script very closely, so my spec includes lots of capitalized of sounds, fragmented action description, and other language particular to that show.

Capitalized sounds and fragmented action description are actually very common in all scripts. Scripts are not written like novels; they are often choppy. Many writers think in shots, and write exactly what they want you to picture in each frame. I did once read a script that had NO complex sentences and it kinda drove me crazy...but used well, fragments are 100% okay. Your instinct to follow the show's real script is a good one - but remember that shows have many different writers, so while one script may use lots of fragments, another episode might be completely complete sentences. Every writer has a different style.

As for the caps (or shift), some things you always capitalize, like slug lines and names of characters we're just meeting. Beyond that, it's customary to capitalize anything you want to emphasize, whether it's an object your character picks up, or a big moment in the story. I think there's a line in the Fringe script like "AND THEN THE WHOLE THING FUCKING EXPLODES." Or something like that. It ups the intensity. It can also help establish your tone. Are you capitalizing phrases like BULLETS SPRAY INTO THE CROWD or HE CHUGS THE ENTIRE BEER, THEN GRABS ANOTHER? What you consider a BIG DEAL in your script will give us a sense of the world we're in.

Of course, don't get carried away. You don't want your readers to feel like they're being yelled at.

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2 comments:

Blarney said...

I absolutely loathe JJ Abram's and Kurtzman and Orci's writing styles, but love their stories more often than not.

I just detest the constant FUCKING SCREAMING AND OBNOXIOUS FUCKING SWEARING!!!!!!

Their scripts are inane to read. And I'm of the opinion that a script should be written like a tale you are telling. I think their of the opinion this is a pitch you must shout your way through.

I can't stand it. It's lame. But to each their own. I also hate constant underlining of sentences.

Screenwriter Shep said...

Well there's a difference between:

He grabs her.

He GRABS her.

He FUCKING GRABS her.

You have to be careful though, if you overdo it then it ceases to be effective.

It's like how you don't taste alcohol after you're already drunk.

Not that I would know...