I come across stuff in scripts that is either done so often it's just sort of a sigh moment when I see it, or that impacts and damages a read. I thought I'd put a topic up to post some of this in. Sort of a cautionary 'don't do that" topic. (wry smile)
I've been reading a lot of scripts that are set in the past that don't give a year up front. This is really disconcerting. You open a script that says nothing about it being the 1970's or 1980's and then someone whips out a cassette tape or walkman on page 10. Really? That's when and where I am supposed to figure out the script year, and I need to guess based on a late reference to teens using an outdated piece of technology?
Don't do that.
Today's script peeve is dead animals. I'm not talking about hunting for food or killing an attacking bear in self defense. I'm talking about killing a defenseless house pet type animal. One of the fastest bar none ways for a lead to lose my empathy and interest is killing a defenseless animal and that empathy is not coming back from that.
Today's script peeve is triple names. It's one thing for one main character or one secondary character to have a triple name (a main name and a nickname) in an introduction. Like, say, George "Lucky" Luciano. It's another for fifty freaking named characters to all be introduced by first name, nickname, and last name. Especially coming at a reader in back to back introductions. That is spelled "brain fry." For example —
GEORGE "LUCKY" LUCIANO is hanging with best friends ROBERT "BOBBY" MCKAY, BARRY "BIG BOY" BRANDT, CORRY "THE COREMAN" FREDERICO, ELIZABETH "LIZZIE" CORNELL, WALTER "WALT" MERCADO, ELVIRA "EVIE" SMITH, JONATHAN "JON" LIMBAGO....
I am making those up as an example on the fly but that is not an exaggeration of what I see sometimes, if anything, it's light compared to extreme cases. And it only gets worse if each name has an age in brackets behind the name intended, I guess, to what, kick dyslexia into high gear for those who have it and initiate the onset of dyslexia in anyone who on a regular day had normal brain function?
Do not do that to your poor reader's brain.
Today's script peeve is sports movies with no sports....
Say there is a script about a baseball player. And I see this baseball player and he goes to family dinners, and on dates, and hits the local gym, and he drives around town, and goes to the grocery store, and goes to the bar with his buddies —
What is missing there? You guessed it. Baseball.
I see a lot of scripts about athletes that contain no sports. Or, there is a lead up to a game — and then the scene cuts away to after the game.
Do not write a script about an athlete with no sports in the script.
This goes double for musicians. I also see scripts with musician characters and there are no musical performances in the script. Or, (tell me if you have heard this before), the script leads up to a musical performance and then cuts away and comes back later after the performance is over.
The most dynamic action in a sports movie is the sports. The most dynamic action in a music movie is the music. It is unsane to write about an athlete or a musician and leave out the sports or the music and spend the bulk of time in small static settings watching characters talk. Don't do that.
Today's script peeve is unstated time periods.
Opening any script, the assumption is the time period is "present" unless otherwise stated. If a story isn't taking place in the present, it needs to say so right up front in the header: EXT. NEW YORK - DAY (1977)
I shouldn't be stuck guessing what decade a story is set in because someone on page 30 whips out a Walkman or trots into a Blockbuster. I should know, on page 1.
Today's script peeve: CAPS.
Try reading a hundred pages of that without the whole bottle of Ibuprofen on standby.
Also, please don't double down with underlining that just makes it worse.
*I made that example up but I promise you that is not an exaggeration.
“There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in” - Leonard Cohen
Today's Script Peeve: Characters setting buildings or cars or such on fire by tossing a man's metal lighter onto the gasoline trail.
Seriously? A vegan non-smoker is carrying around a $20 lighter to just toss about during spur of the moment arson events? I don't think so. (And that's the cheap ones. The nice ones start at $40.) More than half the characters I see doing this in scripts have no reason to be carrying a nice lighter, wouldn't part with it like that if they were, it's also pretty fucking identifiable because very few men carry those lighters these days, and it hasn't been original in scene action since, oh, I dunno, the 1930s?
Todays Script Peeve: Florid Description... ahhhh!
Listen, I do not want to wade through 100 pages of multisyllabic anachronistic florid vocab reading a script.
Save it for the mensa app. THEY will be impressed.
Me? I'll just have a headache.
Today's script peeve is action parentheticals in the wrong character's dialogue. It looks like this:
I don't know where this came from, it's a new thing popping up in scripts. And. Just. No.
"Bob" should not need to read "Mary" dialogue to dig out "Bob" scene action. Ditto for "Mary" reading "Bob" dialogue.
You know real people are reading that dialogue, right? Forget how problematic too many parentheticals are or about parentheticals needing to be about dialogue delivery, not action. Let's just stick with, don't put the wrong actor's action directions in actors' dialogue parentheticals that is for sure going to piss off and insult actors. What, you couldn't even be bothered to give them their direction in their own dialogue? What next, direction hidden on the back of pages? Stop doing that.
You are using a script formatting program right? All the format is so pretty, all the margins are right and all the line breaks are right and dialogue cues and scene headers write themselves out and in all caps without you ever even touching a caps lock key and pages are numbered just right —
Go print pages 2-5 of the script.
Look at the page numbers.
What page numbers, you ask? Because no page numbers printed, or, if any page numbers did print, it is just a bit of the bottom of the page numbers which means nobody reading those script pages can read a script page number.
Know what someone who prints that script or those pages has to do to see page numbers on the page?
(Kind of important for anyone writing notes on a script or pages.)
They have to go in by hand and write all the page numbers in on each page, (that is a royal pain in the ass don't make anyone do that jeez!) or they have to print the script or pages in "scale to fit" mode. Which means the script pages print at 91% instead of 100% and now the page numbers show BUT all the text is shrunk and too small.
Go fix your format program settings so the page number sits low enough on the page to print on script pages.
If you're writing a "strong female character," maybe she shouldn't be getting coffee for all the male characters....
"Yo, Wonder Woman! Get the boys some coffee!"
(It's 2023. Fer fuck's sake.)
Do not name every single character in a script with a proper name.
A proper name tells a reader a character is important and plays some sort of significant role in plot.
Guess what happens when every single character in the script has name? From the mailman to the door man to the hardware store clerk to the guy in a phone booth on the street corner to a woman waiting to cross the street when the light turns green to the cab driver to the three bank guards to the five bank tellers to the kid in the parking lot sitting in a car waiting for his dad to leave the bank —
Guess what doing that does to a reader's head?
It explodes the reader's head.
Don't explode the reader's head.