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Home » Archives » April 2007 » That's Right. I Said Dog-Fondling.
[Previous entry: "The Wavy Green Line"] [Next entry: "It stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow"]

04/25/2007: That's Right. I Said Dog-Fondling.

I have, in the past, advocated a fairly loose adherence to the "rules" of what can be allowed in the various parts of a script. For example, I'm cool with allowing stage directions into parentheticals sometimes. Like this:

I'm... I'm sorry... about the crying...
(blowing nose)
I just can't seem to stop.

And it's fine with me if you put some stuff into stage directions that isn't strictly visual. Like this:

John stares out at the audience, his nervousness growing with every breath. The prediction of his failure that we heard in the earlier scene just might be about to come true.

Sure, technically the writer is telling the reader what to think in that moment, instead of exactly what they're seeing, but it's only giving the reader an assist in terms of reminding them where they are in the story.

But be careful. It can be really tempting to go too far. And then you've got this:

Andy pets the dog tenderly, contrasting its rough fur with the soft hair of a human, and contemplating the unfairness, that this creature gets to live out its life in a shorter span, untormented by mysteries that take decades to unfold.

Interesting, but any reader is going to be justified in wondering how in the heck they're supposed to know what Andy's thinking when all they're really "seeing" is dog-fondling. Don't assume that a reader won't notice when they're being told things they aren't seeing; it actually really leaps off the page when this happens.

So split the difference. Let the reader into the bits of a character's internal landscape that an attentive viewer would be hip to. But don't give them the power of mind-reading. They'll notice.

Lunch: spaghetti with pesto and chicken


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