by Larry Brody
Over the past several years I’ve noticed a running battle on all Message Boards, Bulletin Boards, Facebook Groups, you-name-it about screen and/or television writing. That battle is about how much to describe the action and settings in your script.
I can’t speak for feature films (although my theory there, which I’ve stated in other writings, is that everyone might as well emulate Shane Black, the most successful spec script writer/seller in history. Read something he’s written and then do the same), but I know television.
There are very few professional readers in TV. For the most part, the people who read your spec work are the same people who produce the shows. This means you have to write the way way series staff writers write. And that means you have to describe everything fully unless it’s an obvious standing set.
Don’t tell us how the hero’s office looks, but do tell us what the library she visits is like. Don’t tell us that the hero frowns or walks from his chair to the table, but – and this can be crucial – do tell us how that action scene has to go, punch by punch or tire squeal by tire squeal.
Think of the writer as the choreographer of the script and you can’t go too far wrong. And don’t forget to enjoy that particular part of the gig. It’s a hell of a lot of fun!
QUICK POSTSCRIPT FROM LB: The above advice is for material you’re submitting to shows and agents. It doesn’t quite apply to contests because most contest judges lack practical TV production experience, which means they seldom have a clue about how anything they read should look. In other words, “Sigh….”
Another in what I hope will be a long run of helpful hints for TV writers here on TVWriter™ every week. Which brings up a point: If you’d like to share some writing tips with your fellow TVWriter™ visitors, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to make a guest post happen.