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Home » Archives » November 2006 » Muddy Mouthprints
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11/20/2006: Muddy Mouthprints

Speaking of "Band Candy"... we were, right? Speaking of "Band Candy," there's a line in that script that illustrates a tricky little mistake that you can avoid if you're careful. I was writing a line about how the strange occurrences around town had the "Hellmouth's fingerprints all over them," when I realized that the line was nonsensical in an interesting way... the fingerprints of a mouth? Wouldn't those be "mouthprints"? So I threw in some line with the word "mouthprint" in it -- not as a real joke, but just as a bit of whimsical wording.

The problem with the line is, of course, that in an episode filled with characters wrapping their lips around delicious melty chocolate bars, the word "mouthprint" SOUNDS LIKE it's related to that. Which it isn't. The result is confusion, muddiness.

Believe it or not, this situation comes up all the time. You have someone, quite incidentally, order a hamburger right next to a joke about how a man is devouring a girl with his eyes as if she were steak. A character makes a drug reference in a drug store. A character named "Mr. Fox" orders chicken, and you meant nothing by it. A joke about a "Southern Belle" occurs right before someone rings a bell.

The effect is similar to having one character call another one a "big baby" while an actual large baby is visible in the background of the scene. The audience is gonna try to connect the two things. They're going to get confused and distracted. Throw out the baby and the bathwater it rode in on.

So be really clear with yourself about which connections you want, and which you don't, and then be ruthless in making sure that you don't have any strange overlaps like this. Change the joke, change a name, move a scene to a different location. Clarity is your friend.

Lunch: More Vietnamese food! Pho and fizzy lemonade.


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