Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why is this here?

Pulling from the writer's handbook for today's blog. Not the official Writer's Handbook, mind you, because frankly there isn't one, but my handbook which will hopefully still be of use to you.

Last night I went and saw an independent film with a friend of mine and while the movie did have some merit, it was about 40 minutes too long and thought just a wee too highly of itself.

So those of you who are new to the writing game or are just looking for a little pseudo-sagely wisdom from a blue-haired freak (or green or turquoise, depending on how the light hits it), I offer you this: Cut out the guff.

If you have a scene that doesn't move the story forward (tells us nothing about a character, reveals no plot points, does zilch to build tension etc etc etc) then it has no business being in your book/script/screenplay/whatever.

There is a terrible musical called "The Pajama Game" that was written expressly to showcase Doris Day's singing voice and the plot was thrown together as an after thought. Within this musical there is an entire scene here the two main characters run into each other in the hall and gush over how much they love the other. Let me be perfectly clear, these two are already together, they've already sang that they're in love with each other, this scene purely exists so they can gush over it again.

Apart from being one of the most annoying songs I have ever had to sit through in a theater, it was an absolutely useless scene that only served as a means for us to piss away the precious time we have on this planet.


Occasional fluff can be enjoyable, it's true, so I suppose I cannot ward you away from it completely, but I would urge you to approach your work with the kind of critical eye that mentor figures in every art-focused movie seem to possess. Demand answers from your work, make every scene prove to you that it has a RIGHT to be there.

Boredom is a terrible thing, my friends, it really is.

Last night the writer/director/editor (Being all 3 of these is a problem all its own but we can talk about that tomorrow) asked the audience who hated his movie. Because statistically, at least one person had to hate it.

I didn't raise my hand.

You know why? I didn't care enough to hate it. I got bored after 20 minutes in. I watched extremely well produced gore and artfully scuzzed up set (seriously their set was beautifully disgusting, I wanted to attack it all with bleach--it was magnificent!) but I didn't care. There was too much unnecessary crap floating around. It could have been a very intriguing short film, instead it was about an hour and a half (at least it felt like it) that didn't know what it was saying but that it wanted to say SOMETHING really badly. But whatever it might have said or suggested just got lost in all the guff padded around it to draw it out in length.

That director was right. Statistically, someone will hate your work. But at least they have an opinion on it. They care enough to hate it. Don't let them get bored.


  1. Excellent post!

    I once read a book about writing a screenplay that suggested you write the movie, then cut out the first scene. Fluff happens when writers get lost, don't know where to begin, or falls so in love with their characters that they want to roll around in their fluff.

  2. Brilliant! I recently watched a web series that a co-worker of a friend starred in. It had it all; Super powers, secret organisations, drama, action. i should had loved it. BUT each episode was filled with "guff". Characters just chatting. Every episode could have been 5-10 mins shorter. And as such I couldn't enjoy it, but I didn't hate it either. This is where a separate writer/director and especially editor is a bonus.

    Cool post. I look forward to more. :)