The difference between good and great… very scary.

I put this in the book. No one seems to have noticed it. I think it’s the single scariest thing in there. But now, through the magic of YouTube, I can show you want I’m talking about.

Watch Natalie Merchant sing “Because The Night” by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith. She does a hell of a job. Singing her little heart out. Trying her best. It sounds really good. She can really sing. You hear this, you think she’s wonderful. Just like a screenplay that’s only okay.

It seems really good until you compare it to one that actually IS really good. And the Patti Smith version is what your script needs to be. It has to have that cutting edge. The power. The raw gushing talent that is overpowering. Patti Smith’s voice (what you want YOUR screenplay to be!) is so incredibly powerful, like a tsunami, it makes the Natalie Merchant version sound like dirty dishwater.

In my opinion.

And you have to make sure you’re delivering at that stratospheric level, not content to be satisfied being Natalie Merchant.

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7 Comments

Filed under Bad Writing, Good Writing, Screenwriting

7 responses to “The difference between good and great… very scary.

  1. Ian

    I understand what you’re saying but these people both have careers in the music industry, even though one is a more powerful singer than the other. Plus I only here Natalie Merchants version on the radio.
    I don’t feel like you can compare two different screenplays like this. They could both be in different genres, they could have different voices, different writing styles, and the people reading them could have different tastes on what they consider to be great or not. There’s a point where it becomes subjective.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      I was speaking figuratively, but probably didn’t make it clear. What I’m talking about, sorta, is the difference between draft 10 of your screenplay (Merchant) and draft 24 of your screenplay (Smith) — but the lesson only holds water if you think (agree with me for argument’s sake) that Smith’s blows Merchant’s out of the water. They’re both very good. In real life, Merchant had the bigger hit. But I’m not dealing with real life… I’m talking about how I see the two songs. Merchant’s version is nice. But nowhere near as powerful as Smith’s. The difference is basically her voice, which, also basically, is what separates one screenwriter from another.

  2. Rhonda Misson

    I know what you mean. Singers who attempt -“Total Eclipse of the Heart” cannot reproduce the pain that’s in Bonnie Tyler’s voice.

  3. Melody Lopez

    But its more then just the lead singer’s performance. The entire composition is grittier and edgy…the commercialized update is more spectacle then heart… a lesson for all writers to consider when crafting scenes that cobble together a story… where’s the heart? and does it bleed a color we recognize and relate to? hope so… that’s gonna be the difference between sold and scrapped…

  4. Lawrence

    This analogy works. I understand it.
    I have written and performed my own songs before. But I never, ever, felt that my version was the definitive one. Patti Smith sure does. She goes out and sings her song like it is the last thing she will ever do….pure and utter conviction. I am sure that Patti Smith’s version inspired Natalie to do a tribute….and that’s really what it is….a love letter to the original.
    This is a great analogy not only for screenwriting but for any creative endeavor (the analogy works just as well in reverse too. I listened to Patti Smith’s version first). My rewrite sessions just became interesting again.

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Lawrence,
      Good look with the rewrite!
      What’s interesting, if you’re pressed for time… to listen to a minute of Merchant, then Smith, then Merchant again… then you get the full effect of how much more intense the Smith version is.
      Enjoy your writing.
      Will

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