Anthony Joseph Gilroy is an American screenwriter and filmmaker. He wrote the screenplays for the first four films of the Bourne series starring Matt Damon, among other successful films, and directed the fourth film of the franchise.
Don’t you just love people who not only know what they’re talking about, they fucking love it?
The negativity inherent in the title of this article definitely captured our attention. After we read it, we felt that it would attract that of our visitors as well.
Bottom line: Yes, the writer of this article dishes on TV writing pretty well. But what she says is true. And what she recommends for writers is, well, absolutely on the proverbial money. (Yeah, using that old phrase was a fine example of “lazy writing.” But, well, you know….)
by Noelle Sterne
As a writers, you are sensitive to words. After all, they’re your currency. Even when you’re taking a break to watch TV, you may unconsciously be evaluating—with disdain or grudging admiration—the words you encounter. Developing sensitivity for lazy language can help you assuage any lingering guilt for taking breaks, especially with TV shows.
Admittedly a rationale for marathon TV watching, I discovered that television shows can teach valuable lessons in our writing, especially to spot those standard scripted sentences like “I want my lawyer,” “Crash cart, STAT,” and “We need to talk.” Once we recognize the penchant for too-easy language, we can learn from and avoid it in our writing.
Here I describe two types of lazy language and suggest lessons we can learn from them and remedies to apply in your own work.
In an episode of “Raising the Bar,” a (belated) TV series about public defenders, a lawyer defends elderly twin brothers who have illegally cashed a deceased friend’s Social Security check. Instead of acknowledging the seriousness of their case and listening attentively, the brothers (played by actual old-time comedians) barrage the attorney with a constant stream of jokes.
One brother rattles off a story about an old man who goes to the doctor. When the doctor asks for samples of bodily substances, the patient replies, “Doc, just take my underwear.” The other brother shouts, “No, stupid! Underpants! Underpants! Specific is always funnier.”
Lesson: He’s right. Specific is also, well, more specific. How can you sharpen your language?
Remedy: Say you’re writing a mystery set in winter in Chicago about a man in dire circumstances. You’ve supplied enough of the backstory to show him believably forced to rob a shipment of expensive fur coats. You write, “Jeffrey pulled on his jacket and headed out the door.”
Given Jeffrey’s poor circumstances in a freezing Chicago night and his motive for his choice of robbery, the story is enlivened and our sympathies deepened when we know what kind of jacket he pulled on. His personal situation contrasts radically with what he’s robbing: “Jeffrey pulled on his windbreaker, much too thin in the brutal weather, and headed out the door.” Or, better: “Jeffrey pulled on his thin windbreaker, threading his hand into the torn left sleeve, and headed out the door.”
One Sentence Fits All
Today’s trendy colloquialisms show up in many television shows. A ubiquitous offender I’ve heard on almost every primetime show is a question with particularly annoying tortured syntax.
One example: In a series of TV movies adapted from Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone mystery novels, a Los Angeles homicide cop fired for drinking becomes sheriff of a small New England town. With recurring regulars and often absorbing plots, at some point almost every character asks another that same question….
Pic found at soberrecovery.com for ironic reasons of our own
by Peggy Bechko
Here we are again, gang, and today I’m going to discuss the possibility with you that you just might want to stop writing, give it up, walk away, move on to other things. However you want to phrase it, maybe writing isn’t for you.
It’s too late for me, I’ve been published frequently, big houses, smaller houses, Indy publishing and scripts optioned. But, you might want to save yourself. It’s hard to make if you’ve invested a lot of yourself and your time into something that meant a lot to you but just didn’t pan out.
So, here are six good reasons to stop writing.
1. You have too many ideas. So many in fact that you never finish anything. You start scripts, then drop it because you decide to work on a novel or a short story. OR you have one script in the works, but put it aside to work on another idea – again, and again, and again. So much so that no one script actually gets finished. Consider: maybe this writing thing isn’t for you.
2. Your spelling sucks. So does your grammar and your punctuation. You don’t want to take the time and effort to learn to do it right or even to use the tools in your word-processor. You don’t think it’s all that bad. You think someone else should clean up all those errors (at no expense of any kind to you) like an editor or maybe a producer’s assistant. Seriously, time to chuck it.
3. There are a whole lot of other things more important in your life. You want to bake cookies for the family. Mowing the lawn so the yard doesn’t look like a jungle is a priority. The phone keeps ringing (or whatever ‘ringtone’ you possess). There are movies you want to see, books you want to read (you should be doing that AND writing, but that’s another issue). Ummmm…. Priorities. If writing isn’t at the top of your list it might be time to move on and stop torturing yourself thinking you should do it when you really don’t want to.
4. You hate readers. Seriously there are writers out there with that problem. They figure the world is against them. Producers don’t want to read their scripts. Editors reject their manuscripts and even if a books or script makes it ‘out there’ the readers are picky and nasty and as a writer (sort of ) you really have a bone to pick with all those readers from the ‘gatekeeper’ readers to the ones at home watching those movies that have come from the scripts or reading on the couch. You loath them all. If that’s you, you really need to pack it in and find some other fun pursuit.
5. You need a vacation. Again, seriously. This one is legit. Some writers never stop. They write seven days a week, all year. They risk burn out. If this kind of writer is you, then you do need to stop…at least for a while. Take a break, refresh, let those stories rest so you can come back to them with a new perspective. Nothing bad will happen. A break is a good thing. Stop. For a while.
6. Maybe you can’t handle rejection of any kind. Then this really ISN’T the life for you. You’re going to get lots of script rejections, some with notes, most without. Editors with publishing houses are going to dump your novels with no ceremony and possibly hurtful comments. If that isn’t something you can deal with or want to deal with, then put down the pen (i.e. your computer) and walk away. There are lots of other things in life.
There are lots of other reasons to stop – or go forward when it comes to writing. It’s really up to you to consider all the angles and avenues.
Just one bit of advice. Don’t stop writing because some idiot on the internet said your writing is no good.
Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.