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Home » Archives » April 2008 » And Maybe Looking in the Mirror Will Make Him See Himself
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04/07/2008: And Maybe Looking in the Mirror Will Make Him See Himself

Recently, I was watching an old re-run episode of a series that I rather like, when a character said-- okay, let me set it up for you. Imagine a detective, holding something. I think was an old book of mug shots. Let's say it was. He carries it into the interrogation room where the suspect is pleading ignorance of some crime. And our detective says... no really, I swear, he says,

Maybe a walk down memory lane will jog his memory.

But, but... but walking down memory lane already means-- Oh my. Try saying it out loud. Try emphasizing different words. It doesn't get any better, does it? It's a bad line. Well, actually, it could be a great line in the right context, if you specifically wanted to suggest a self-important but unintelligent character. I've talked before about incorporating awkwardly repeated words for precisely that effect. But that's not what's going on here.

I actually suspect that this might've been a case of a problem born on the stage, not in the script. Sometimes things change during the shoot and a line ends up being hastily re-written, or perhaps even mis-remembered by an actor. And then something like this can happen. This line has that kind of "place holder" feel to it, like the intended line would be in that semantic area, just not involving the odd redundancy.

You don't have to worry about that kind of stage-born problem in a spec script, but you do have to make sure that lines like this one don't make it onto the page. Sometimes a line like this gets through because you yourself wrote it as a place holder and then forgot to fix it, or because the moment is so inconsequential that you never really looked at what you wrote to make sure it made sense. Keep an eye out. If a line seemed to write itself because you've heard similar lines a million times, it's probably worth reviewing for several reasons: if it isn't holding your interest as you write it, it probably won't interest the reader either. And at worst, it might be nonsense.

Lunch: chinese chicken salad.


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