Beware of “to be”

In my fabulous book, it mentions the Seven Deadly Sins Of Screenwriting. The first sin is the verb “to be.” In basically any form, it weakens your writing. My fifth grade English teacher, Mrs. Hale, told me about “using active verbs” but that didn’t make as much sense to me as “get rid of ‘to be.'” Easier to understand.

First of all, it’s boring.

“She is walking” transmogrifies into “She walks…” Pretty simple stuff.

However, you can also use your hunt to exorcise “to be” from your writing as a way to make your writing a bit… zippier…

Take this sentence.

When five armed men drag her from a café into a beat-up military vehicle, Travis must rise to the occasion.

Not the best sentence. Not, surely, the worst. But here is the FIRST version, using the dreaded “to be”… and it’s bland, not as interesting, and far less specific and compelling… and I only made it better by knowing I had to get rid of “to be.”

When she is dragged from a café into a beat-up military vehicle, Travis must rise to the occasion.

Going after “to be” to just make the sentence more active, ended up making the sentence far better. Tedious, hell yes, but that’s why you come to my website, right!?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Beware of “to be”

  1. Dan D.

    But, you cut a piece of information. You took out the five armed men, which shortened the sentence. That, to me, is what made it a snappier sentence. If you left that in, the sentence would be: “When she is dragged by five armed men from a café into a beat-up military vehicle, Travis must rise to the occasion.” Not necessarily snappier than the original. Just different.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      No, I just didn’t make it clear. The first version is the rewriter, which I think is better. The second version is the original draft, which is less goo. I like the five armed men, and they’re in the final version.

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