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Home » Archives » March 2007 » Golf Cartography
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03/22/2007: Golf Cartography

Hey there! Did everyone enjoy tonight's episode of Andy Barker, PI? This was "Fairway, My Lovely," the episode I co-wrote with Alex Herschlag. Unusual for a half-hour script, it included an action sequence, and I thought you, Gentle Readers, might enjoy looking at how it was written. Here is part of it, exactly as we scripted it:

ANOTHER ANGLE REVEALS Brian on the roof of the cart. He must've grabbed hold of the cart as it went past him.

ON ANDY as a HAND comes down over the side of the roof, catching Andy's face and pulling it back. Andy struggles to drive with a hand pulling his nose back.


CLOSE ON: ANDY'S FOOT, still flooring it. And then... he moves it, STOMPING ON THE BRAKE.

The cart slams to a stop, clubs flying out of the bag, and BRIAN IS FLUNG out onto the course. Andy jumps out and heads for the crumpled figure of the fallen caddy. Brian is motionless. Possibly badly injured.

Brian? Are you all right?

He bends over to check on Brian. But Brian was playing dead and now he GRABS ANDY by the shirt front and pulls him down onto the ground. Brian stands above Andy...

First of all, I should say that I don't consider myself a great action writer. It's always the last part of the script that I write. I even tend to zone out when watching action. Just tell me who won, you know? But I've gotten better at it over the years as I've finally learned that the hard part is the visualization of the action, that writing it all down can be pretty easy and straight-forward once the hard part's done.

This is how I tend to like to write action. There are a few camera directions, like "On Andy" and "Close on:". But mostly I'm striving for a succinct description of exactly what's happening without telling the director how to shoot it. The main actions are in capital letters, but that's not an exact science. I mostly use this for things I'm afraid people will miss. Also, you'll notice I'm free with the sentence fragments. I want the sequence to feel quick, almost breathless in the writing, and fragments can help with that.

Notice also that it's not strictly true that you can only include descriptions of things that can be seen. Look toward the end. "Brian was playing dead." That's a conclusion that I want the readers/viewers to draw, and it's the intent of the moment. But it's not, strictly speaking, only visual. Earlier in the piece, "possibly badly injured" is also something that's less than purely visual. It's there to make clear to a reader why Andy is getting so close to his opponant. Don't get all hypervigilant and discard things like that on the basis of some kind of screenwriting rule. The purpose of the exercise is to be clear, not to follow the rules. So loosen up, forget about a bunch of technical stuff. Thoroughly visualize what you want, then just get it on paper as clearly as you can.

Lunch: pasta salad and banana squash soup. No one was taking the soup. I think maybe they thought it was squash banana soup.


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March 2007

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