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Home » Archives » March 2007 » I Think the Sheriff is Steamed
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03/12/2007: I Think the Sheriff is Steamed

Well, gentle readers, you will notice that I'm actually posting this very late on Sunday night. Although it is late, I wanted to post a tidbit for you! You know how, in a short story you might write something like this?

"You two," the Sheriff began, looking back and forth between the two men, "have a great deal of explaining to do."

That technique, of splitting the dialogue to suggest a pause or simply to create suspense, might feel like something that's very specific to prose writing. Screenwriting by its very nature is about the raw dialogue, after all.

But look. You can create exactly the same effect in a script just by doing this:

You two...
(looking back and forth between the two men)
...have a great deal of explaining to do.

It's a little unorthodox to put an action in a parenthetical like this. Technically it should be a stage direction, but I think that doing it this way more clearly recreates the pacing and intent of the prose. And if you can make reading your spec feel like reading a short story, you've just made it transparent, readable, enjoyable in a way that scripts often are not. And can't you just hear the Sheriff's slow boil?

By the way, use this sparingly. It's a spice, not a sandwich. Too much, and the script will start to feel choppy and labored. Just here and there, please.

Lunch: Buffet City again! Coconut shrimp and prawns with cheese and loquats and other wonderful items!


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