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Home » Archives » November 2007 » Bread, Butter, and Mud
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11/30/2007: Bread, Butter, and Mud

I like to give examples of writing solutions from scripts that I'm currently working on. But I'm not currently working on a script, obviously. Just now, when I went to look back at my most recent script for inspiration, I realized that I literally had not opened Final Draft in a month! Holy Cow!

So instead, I'm going to tell you about a recent email-composing experience that I had. Don't worry, it applies to script-writing too. I wanted to express amazement, and I typed, "That's amazing with extra zs!" When I reread it, I felt that the joke was muddy. Since "z"s are used to express sleepy noises, the point of the whimsy was kind of unclear; boredom is the opposite of what I wanted to convey. If I'd said, instead, "he was dozing with extra zs," then at least the thoughts are pointing in the same direction. My joke wasn't terrible, but I feel that it only worked at about 70 percent strength. (I removed the joke from the email.)

Muddy jokes can be hard to catch, since your note-givers often aren't going to bother expressing a little bit of confusion, especially because they're often afraid it will make them look dumb. This is a reason that it can be a good idea to go through your script in a lot of detail with one special and very patient reader. ASK THEM about the jokes -- is this one clear? What did you take the intent to be? And the all-important, "Have you heard it before?"

This can also help you catch other unclear moments that you might not be aware of. For example, I once read a script in which a character exclaimed, "Bread and butter!" for no reason I could discern. It turns out that this is a regional expression, used by kids walking together when they're forced to split, say, to walk around a post. The problem was, the writer didn't know it was regional. Like most of us, she assumed that the expressions of her own childhood were pretty much universal. Readers, if properly questioned, can save you from much embarrassment of this sort.

Strike: A good (if damp) time was had by all at the Sony picket today, and I'll be back at the Barham gate of Universal at 6 on Monday morning. Maybe we'll have another "Cylon doughnut delivery" -- Krispy Kremes delivered in a box decorated with photos of Cylons saying funny things. We have very nice fans.

Lunch: Cup o' Noodles with an added shot of lemon juice. Perfect for a rainy day.


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