Monday, April 10, 2006

Ten verbs, an ensemble, and a hello to Brett

Brett, who writes the A Bucket of Love screenwriting blog, decided to list the first ten verbs of his script to test it for action. It's a WWII airplane drama. Interesting....

To get this meme underway, Brett tagged Scott the Reader, but instead of propagating through the scribosphere, it seems to have rooted in the comments to his blog.

Having just written a new beginning to "Sheep's End", I thought I would compare the two versions. You know, there just might be something to this. Some readers had commented that the older version started too slowly. Here's the list for it:


And the rewrite:


I anticipated criticism about all those uses of "is", but I'm OK with it. Here's the paragraph that contains them:

"He's a strong man, whose strength grows more from his hard wiry frame and experience than sheer bulk. His hair is cut short in a practical military style. This is not a man who spends time in front of mirrors."

It's not too passive, merely economical. One intentionally funny commenter said I should have written "Quarter-inch hairs explode from his shorn scalp." That makes me giggle.

Back to the point.... The first verbs in the rewrite are certainly more exciting. It's a good sign.

I 'm taping "Canada Russia ’72". If you don't know what that's about, you're not Canadian - click the link.

I'm taping it because I want to dissect it. It is a dramatic interpretation of a real event that involved an ensemble. It will hold lessons for me in my attempts to grasp and mold the story of 101 Squadron. Both stories have natural dramatic paths, with different individuals playing the "lead" as the stories progress. If I could only get my hands on the script....

Speaking of airplane dramas, Brett lives in Katy, Texas, which is about five minutes from my mom's place in western Houston. I'm going to be spending most of the next two weeks at my mom's. Brett, if you read this and you want to get together to compare airplane stories and talk screenwriting, please e-mail me (my e-mail address is on my profile page). My mom is off the Barker-Cypress exit on I-10.

Anybody else in Houston? (Besides you, Mitch.)


Blogger Brett said...

psst-- email sent

PS-- the verbs trick is one that seems to bother some screenwriters. I think some of us are conditioned to distrust ALL easy answers and exercises, as all 'real" bits of writing knowledge must be obscenely vague and impossible to quantify and/or based upon the mystic carved-in-stone teachings of major names like Aristotle and Egri and Truby and McKee and so on, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, ad whatever.

The funny thing is, this is one of those simple little tricks which often can reveal very basic information about your writing. We're taught to avoid passive voice as if it were a piece of chicken left at room temp for too long, but teh odd thing is pretty much ALL styles and voices of writing potentially have use and validity. You'd like want to avoid much passive if you're penning an INDIAN JONES script or something involving explosions and belt-fed kill-o-zaps, but there are surely moments when the passive voice is THE most effective choice.

The trick is to develop enough self-awareness and objectivity to recognize what you are doing (and WHY) and then understand why you ought not consider something else instead.

Oh, and howdy right back at ya. It's comforting to see SOMEONE pick up on this meme, cuz til now it's made about as much noise as a Lawn Dart thrown into a pond.


April 10, 2006 6:09 PM  

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