a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Friday, November 18, 2005

Today's Bad Writing Excerpt

Amazingly enough, this comes from a script that was co-written by a semi-name writer with some major films to his credit.

Hard to count the number of things wrong with this passage.



Carter exits the Metro. A pock-marked face guy, 30ish, examines everything before Carter gets into the back seat of a big Jaguar. Slowly, Electra follows in her car.

He drives to a strip joint and leaves with a tall pretty girl. They go to a nondescript hotel in midtown.

After an hour, the girl comes out and flags a cab. Carter exits a few minutes later.


At 3:02 PM, Blogger Shawna said...

Are we supposed to circle the errors, like we used to in grade school? I think some of my circles overlap...

At 3:42 PM, Anonymous Eddie said...

Oh my.

At 7:40 PM, Anonymous David Anaxagoras said...

See, it IS all about formatting :)

Actually, lets all just use one master slugline per script now.


That should do it.

At 8:19 PM, Anonymous joshua said...

Okay, break it down for us monkeys in the back of the class - where are the magic mistakes . . . please?

At 8:28 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

David Wrote:
"Ext. World - Day"

That is just freakin' hilarious, and true. I must be doing something right....oh, wait, I haven't sold anything yet. Dammit!

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

These are the errors I found --

1) Multiple locations, but only one slugline.

2) "pock-marked face guy" is awkward, and should be capitalized.

3) Does the Jaguar drive off? Hard to even tell. It's not even clear what "Slowly, Electra follows in her car" even really means.

4) In the second paragraph, "He" clearly refers to Carter. Yet how can he be driving if he got into the back seat?

5) How do we know the girl was in the hotel for an hour?

6) "Carter exits a few minutes later" implies that the camera has been trained on the hotel for those minutes. As if.

It's not about format. It's just sloppy writing.

At 9:14 PM, Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

"It's not about format. It's just sloppy writing."

That was my second impression. My initial impression was "why the hell would a professional need to stoop to the most amateur tricks to get the page count under 120?"

At 10:06 PM, Anonymous Craig Mazin said...

That is unbefuckinlievable. Wow. Jeez. Man.

At 2:55 AM, Blogger Ismo Santala said...

It's like this all the way through, huh?

And we're talking about a serious piece of writing here, not some rough draft stuff?


At 4:05 AM, Blogger Danny Stack said...

I had to read the passage twice to see if I followed and understood it correctly (I still don't because of the errors you pointed out), and if I was reading the script in my pile, I'd already be thinking a huge 'pass'.

At what stage in the script does this piece of 'action' come from?

At 7:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah really... everybody knows you can't get a cab outside the strip club for at least TWO hours...sheesh (heh)

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Page 52.

It wasn't all this bad, but it wasn't good.

And yeah, this is a semi-name writer, and a submission to a fairly big production company.

At 8:14 AM, Blogger Mark said...

So, do you have to be politically correct since the scripts by a name writer or do you point out the mistakes in your coverage?

Mark's Screenwriting Blog

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I never point out format mistakes or bad writing in my coverage, since that's really not what my coverage is addressing -- it's all about stuff like plot, character, dialogue. And since this was a PASS/PASS (on script, and writer), I didn't feel the need to pile on.

There are occasionally times when I read a script where the story has enough potential to be a CONSIDER, but where the writing isn't very good, and that's the only time where I'd probably come down on the writing a little bit, just to indicate why it is getting the odd CONSIDER/PASS coverage.

At 9:34 PM, Anonymous Brad C said...

Couldn't the pock-marked face guy be the "he" in the second 'graph? I didn't assume Carter was necessarily the "he," but maybe that's because we named my daughter that. :)

Also, what is Mr. Pock-Marked Face examining, anyway? What is "everything"? Paperwork for a loan? A wad of cash? A collection of porn DVDs?

Was this a spec, Scott? I was wondering if the name Electra was another error (i.e., this was a script for a sequel to Elektra, and he misspelled her name).

I'm always amazed by poor writing like this coming from a pro, or even a contest winner. For example, I read one of the finalists from the last Project Greenlight, and I was amazed at all the lame spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. For example, "Nazi's" instead of "Nazis" (yes, it was meant to be a plural), or "lip-sinks" instead of "lip synchs."

And that was a script purchased by Ben Affleck.

At 12:06 AM, Anonymous C. dubya said...

So that's how the professionals write. I will take detailed notes and study carfully, so that someday, with hard work and practice, I will be able to pen stories as crisp and beautiful as this one.


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