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06/21/2006: House Dry-Swallows a Valium
I'm a member of the Television Academy, so I get to vote for the Emmys, which is pretty cool. This year I was interested to learn that the process was going to be internet-driven for the first time. Yesterday was the due date for nominations, so the previous night as I logged onto the super-secret internet site, I was filled with feelings of entertainment-based power. But, I quickly realized, the internet only provided a location on which the academy had posted all the shows and episodes which were eligible for nomination. The actual ballot itself was still a fill-in-the-bubble paper dealy which had to be in the offices of the accounting company by 5PM yesterday! Yeeps!
So I spent my afternoon, yesterday – literally my whole afternoon – driving downtown, parking, walking to the correct building, turning in my ballot and driving home. Hours, this took, gentle readers. Traffic, confusion, lots of walking… The guard in the building had a sort of harried look as he escorted me to the correct elevator. I asked him if he was seeing a lot of people walking in with yellow envelopes today. "Don't *even* ask," he said wearily. Well, apparently I wasn't the only writer in town who misunderstood the rules.
Sometimes we misunderstand them. And sometimes we break them on purpose. You've probably been told not to "do the director's job" when you write a scene. You already know that you shouldn't specify a bunch of shots. And you've probably also been told not to tell the actors every time you want them rub their eyes or scratch their nose or take a sip of something. You should let them do their own scratching. And yet, there is a situation where specifying this kind of thing can be very useful. Especially in a spec script. Because, of course, you don't have to worry about ticking off the actors. You're writing for readers, not in order to be produced. No actors at all. So, you can feel free to *use* those little actions to control the pacing of your dialogue.
Here's what I mean:
Someday, I swear, I just have this feeling that something transformative and wonderful is going to happen to me.
Guy takes a sip of his coffee, thoughtful.
Or something transformative, anyway.
See that? I was able to give the reader something like the same effect you'd get with (beat) or (then), but with a little more style, a little more sense of the length and quality of the pause. A little more help with the visuals.
And even better, if you can capture a distinctive action that's associated with an established character, you help give your script that authentic feeling. A Buffy scene feels even more like Buffy with a little "Giles pauses to clean his glasses" in it. And everyone loves a bit of "Adama looks sharply up from his desk," or "Michael glances uncertainly toward the camera." I know I do.
Lunch: I bought a jar of a sort of lentil-based stew at a Persian market. Tried it over tofu noodles. Yummy!