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Home » Archives » January 2007 » Making Mistakes on Purpose
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01/08/2007: Making Mistakes on Purpose

Let's imagine that you're reading a friend's spec script, and there's something in it that feels like a mistake. Let's say it's this weird scene transition. You thought that a scene was leading into another one in the same location at a later time, and then you realize that you've actually changed locations. It's confusing.

So you give the note, saying that you found it confusing, jarring, and the writer says, "Good, because that's what I was going for!" Well, yes, making something jarring on purpose is a thing you can do for a certain effect. A writer might very well want to employ it. But if it's bothering the test audience enough that they're mentioning it, that'll mean it'll bother the ultimate audience too, and then the writer won't be there to explain that they like it like that.

If you're the writer, and you're getting a note like this, don't feel like you've solved it just because you were able to convince you're friends that you wanted that reaction. You really need to address it. Addressing it doesn't always have to mean giving up on that special thing you were going for, either. Sometimes it's just a matter of letting the readers know that what you're doing really is a choice, not a mistake. If you really, really, want that transition, then you can actually say:

Caroline looks up from behind the wheel of her car at the cloudless New England sky, and then, suddenly, jarringly, we're seeing RAINDROPS bouncing off the hood of a car -- no, wait, it's a pick-up truck, and that's not Caroline behind the wheel. We realize that we've somehow been dropped into:


A WEATHERED-LOOKING COWBOY-TYPE wrestles his truck through the storm. Someone in the truck bed peeks out from under a mud-splashed canvas cover...

There. You told the reader that you want the change of location and conditions to be purposefully sudden and unexpected, and even, for a beat, confusing. You've managed that whisper in the ear of the reader, "I know, I know. I want it that way."

Lunch: left-over Chinese food from P.D. House (I think it used to be called Panda House, but they lost the rights to the name somehow and painted out all of Panda except the P and the D. That's what the sign looks like, anyway.)


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