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Notes from a Screenreader: Discuss

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

Discussions are the enemy of drama in a spec script. They are info swaps to give the reader story information, which is like putting stale bagels out for guests: unwelcoming and hard to swallow.

It’s more accomplished work to compose images that do the same job.

Crazy, Stupid, Love opens in a date restaurant, panning over elegant dress shoes playing footsie and stops on Cal’s and Emily’s feet, pulled close to their own chairs, his in shabby tennis shoes. When Emily asks for a divorce 15 seconds later, it’s apparent what she feels is missing between them.

No need at all for several dull discussions to “show” that she has checked out of the marriage.

  • Discussions are a condiment. Use sparingly, for interest. “A Royale with cheese” springs to mind.
  • Discussions need a point. Naked exposition is not a point.
  • Discussions can’t settle anything. They are not for closing doors.

To change your discussions to drama, add subtext, ultimatums, confessions, emotions. Someone has to have a stake in it for it to belong in your script.

ANNIE LABARBA

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

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