When I was in Las Vegas, I sat down with a filmmaker to go over his script. At one point in our conversation, when I was asking him to tell me his story… he told me about a scene that didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t figure out how he was going to shoot it, or even what he was hoping to shoot…
And he said the word that must not be spoken. “Realize.”
He said, and I quote: “She realizes that…”
Upon hearing the Dread Word, fire shot from my eyes and I pulled my shining golden sword and plunged it into his laptop, pinning it to the table — totally surprising the shit out of the guy. He was stunned to discover I had a shining golden sword.
Once you say, “realize” you are doomed. The camera can’t see it, so you shouldn’t write it or think it because it’s a sure thing that you can’t shoot it. We can’t look at a character’s face and know what he is realizing. Now, if someone’s shining golden sword has sliced open their cheek, and blood is dripping down their face and they touch it and look at the blood covered fingers, hey, we get that the character “realizes” his cheek has been cut open… But that’s because you showed it to us.
When you tell someone your story, or when you write your story, notice if you utter the Dread Word. If you do, it’s time for a rewrite.