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08/07/2007: Like Snacks For Your Eyes, Not Your Ears
Are scripts visual or auditory? Your spec scripts aren't going to be read aloud by actors, but they are going to be read by people who are actively evaluating how they would sound if they were. Reading a script is certainly a more ear-based experience than reading a short story or an essay is. I bet if you did one of those brain scans, all the bits of your brain that have to do with hearing would be all squirmy and lit up while you read a script.
And yet, it's all still just words on a page, and you, as a spec script writer, are in the unique position of being able to use the fact that you KNOW you're writing exclusively for readers, not viewers, to slip a few treats into the script that wouldn't be detectable if it were being read out loud. Little non-auditory gifts.
For example, when I wrote a Buffy script with a troll as a major guest character, I wrote all of his lines in all capital letters. It wasn't really a cue to the actor, who would've bellowed beautifully anyway, as much as it was just me having fun on the page for the benefit of a reader.
In another script, Willow had to comment on the fact that there was more than one Buffy. Instead of having her say "two Buffys?" I wrote "two Buffies?" knowing that Joss -- the script's ultimate reader -- would enjoy that.
Something I'm dying to do, and I can't imagine why I haven't done it already, is to write a British character's dialogue with all British spellings. I think it would be hilarious on the page:
Are you insulting my honor?
Your honour? Certainly not.
Personally, I could even see a writer doing something as nonstandard as having a character very meekly say something in a tiny font. Although I'd only do it once in the script. It's right on the edge of gimmicky, but if a script was really well-written and then had one little whimsical note like that, I'd think it was pretty cocky and cool.
Others will give you different advice on this point, but I say, once your script is great, there's nothing wrong with playing just a little bit like this. Lightly, lightly.
Lunch: antipasto salad