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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bad Action Line, Bad!

In response to a comment sent in from my dear friend Luzid about what I mean by bad action lines, I have for your viewing hilarity, created an amalgam of every bad, dense action line that I have read just today. On the couch. Wishing I was doing something else but for that one super cool horror script.


The heaving SEE tosses the boat closer to the glacer while the crab pots slide toward TONY, ruddy, a drinker (mid-30s but looks like he's 50) who glares at TRACEE (17, wishes she was 21) and RAIN pounds the deck while in the background, TOWERING OIL RIGS mone and sway in the wind. On the HORIZON a fleet of ships head toward a danger cliff and obscured by the storm, nobody can see the danger they will soon be in. Tony gropes for a rope, winds it around his left wrist, trying to help get the last crab pot in but a WAVE crashes over him and Tracee gets hit by the jib, which throws her overboard in an explosion of fome. She struggles but nobody sees her and the storm gets worse and the person reading the script starts having some kind of seizure and the WAVES of pain crash over there brain and they get a papercut and a migraine and close the script with SMASH CUT.

Too many lines, everything is run together, typos and misspells, saying not showing, bad character descriptions - a virtual bounty, an overflowing net of writhing, sardine-like action lines. Even if a person had no typos and wasn't a totally horrible writer, remember that feeling you got in the pit of your stomach when you first scrolled down and saw my example? How you kind of went oh GOD - not now. I like short, pithy Rouge Wave paragraphs - yeah. That feeling. Don't give a reader that feeling.

A too short action line might look like:

The boat rocks. Thunder overhead. Bad storm. Cliff approaches. Lightning.

It's like if Joe Friday and The Hulk had a baby. Hulk, smash!

I'm not going to be one of those people who says you have to use 3 or 4 action lines, no more. I don't think one can really pronounce that there's some limit, over or under which you will suddenly turn the reader off. Really, just make your action lines easy on the eye, make them evocative and colorful and fun. And if you find that you have blocks with more than say 5 lines of action - just ask yourself - what words can I lose or substitute to shorten this? Or is it fine the way it is? Just keep your eye on that.

There is a lot more information on the Rouge Wave if you click on "action lines" under Browse Topics.

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1 comment:

Chris said...

were they rouge WAVES of pain?