Be specific, but be specific in the right way.
A student of mine, who is a very good writer… probably because she is a very good writer, not because she’s a student of mine, wrote this…
INT. MERCY HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM – NIGHT
Meg completes her run ticket.
Do you know what a “run ticket” is? I do not. Do you think Meg knows what it is? I bet she does. This is a marvelous example of knowing what you’re writing about… but not letting the research get in the way. We read that sentence, have no idea what “run ticket” is, but we also get the sense, mostly via osmosis, that it is the CORRECT thing, and that it fits and is meet and right and good and just and all that stuff.
Good on ya, Marti!
Conversely, I recently critiqued a screenplay… and I have no idea who wrote it, or what it was about… One of the marvelous services I provide as screenplay critic is a leaky brain, one from which knowledge and memory of your story trickles with the setting sun. I read. I crit. I forget. So, if you want me to crit again, it’s like I am reading for the first time. I’m like a bee. I have a three day memory.
Anyway, this writer was writing some sort of WALL STREET type business script. The writer obviously was not a Wall Street business type, because the scene description, instead of some perfectly perfect description of a Wall Street woman hard at work, would say “Alice works on some papers.” That shouted for Lassie like little Timmy in the well, “Get me outta here!”
Every time the writer would take us to the office, there would be bland references to the work being done. “They work hard.” “Everyone is busy.” Stuff like that.
Not: “Meg completes her run ticket.”
THAT is a fantastic sentence, and it TOTALLY makes me buy that the writer knows what she’s writing about, and it calmed me down and urged me forward, secure in the knowledge that I was in the hands of Someone Who Knows, instead of Someone Who Hopes I Won’t Notice.