Make It Clear… tie does not go to the runner

If someone misunderstands your writing, is it their fault?

I say nay.

I just critiqued a homework from a student who is a good writer, but I mentioned in this week’s notes that there was a scene that was totally confusing to me. The story had a scene with a character at an airport, having trouble finding a parking space out front to wait to pick someone up. A cop tells him to move. As he’s pulling out, a van hits the side of the car.

CUT TO: A funeral. Someone is being buried and I had no idea it had been the guy in the car. None. Zero.

A lot hinged on the fact that we know who’s dead. And I totally missed it.

Part of the reason I missed it was because the writer saw the picture in his mind of the van hitting the car, and the guy in it being squashed flat and blood gushing all over everywhere and, etc. etc… but those story-pushing details were not on the page. All that happened was that the van hit the car. Now I’ve been going to airports for all of my 33 years, and I have never seen a car going fast enough in a passenger loading zone to kill anybody. Especially since 9/11. So, as I read the script, based on what had been written, I saw a fender bender, at most.

It could have been described as “a joy riding TEENAGER, flying in a fat Econoline van through the airport at ninety… SLAMS into the Cadillac… Ewwww. Gross. Mr. Smith is dead on impact.” And then, when you CUT TO: the funeral, we know who’s dead. There is no QUESTION that we know who’s dead.

Just because you see the movie in your head, does NOT mean the reader is going to get it off the page.
Read your work out loud.
Let someone else read it to you.
Read it out loud again.

Because I was so confused, I had to go back, and piece together what the writer meant, and that totally threw me out of the read.

Not what you want.

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Filed under Bad Writing, Criticism, Rewriting, Screenwriting, Writing Process

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