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Home » Archives » January 2008 » Go On, Hit 'Em Over the Head. It'll Be Okay.
[Previous entry: "A New Page for '08!"] [Next entry: "Everyone Expands Over the Holidays"]

01/03/2008: Go On, Hit 'Em Over the Head. It'll Be Okay.

I saw Walk Hard yesterday and really enjoyed it. It does a great job of poking (affectionate) fun at some of the clunky hallmarks of biopic screenplays, like their constant need to keep stating everyone's age and re-establishing what year we're dealing with.

It also goes in for some delightfully overblown teeing-up of its big moments. In the obligatory first-time-in-a-recording-studio scene, our hero is told, over and over again, about how there's nothing he can do in this moment to save himself from failure, how there's no way that he can possibly pull out a last-minute performance that will turn his life around, how there's no possible chance... etc... etc. It's a great skewering of a classic screenplay mistake. It could be taken as great advice.

However -- get this -- I implore you to ignore it. In my experience, you are far more likely to make the opposite mistake and let a big turn in a script happen with too little fanfare than with too much. I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps too many screen-writing teachers have been making you write those spare, clean, objective-sounding stage directions that don't allow you to drum-roll a good story turn.

Obviously, I'm not asking you to go nuts here. Don't have characters actually seriously say "nothing could possibly go wrong," or lines like that. But don't be afraid of letting the drama of a story turn play out. Let the stage directions help the readers understand what the characters expect out of the moment, so that the surprise of the turn will land. And then let the characters react to the turn. Don't be afraid of hitting it too hard. You certainly might do so, but it's an easy matter to dial that back during a rewrite. And that's a far easier correction to make than trying to figure out why the turn doesn't feel as significant as you hoped it would.

Lunch: that crazy cheesy garlic bread at The Smokehouse. Yum.


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January 2008

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