The “Don’t Repeat” thing is tough to root out.

Just finished giving notes to a client. A client I’ve given notes to twice before. So, they are used to what I hit on pretty hard.

One is proofreading.
I ended up telling her she has to find someone else to proofread her work. If you’re in this same boat, find someone else to proofread your work. If you’re not a good proofreader, you know by now. So don’t think “Hey, I’m magically going to get better at this!” It’s like saying, “Today, I think I’ll be taller.” Get some help if you need it.

Another is “Most important thing, last.”
A general rule, to be sure. But, it behooves you to go through your dialogue line by line and ask, “Hey, is the zinger in the middle or at the end?” Very, very often, it’s lost in the shuffle. A person says three lines in a speech, and the good one is #2. By moving that line to the end, you suddenly create power in the three lines… with the best one last.

Finally, the don’t repeat rule.
You can say the same thing twice in a row and not realize it.
Just like I’m probably going to do now.
You may not notice that one line and the other are pretty much alike.

So, you have to wear your “Am I Repeating?” glasses and check each line of action and each line of dialogue for just that one thing… “Am I somehow saying the same thing twice, by accident?” If you are, get rid of one.

She had an opening title card.
Fine. It set up her story nicely.
It faded out, and a second one came up. In the writer’s mind, it added emphasis. In the reader’s mind, it was overkill.

Saying the same thing twice, even if it’s slightly different (To You!) is not adding new information. It’s just more crap the reader has to plow through to get to the next piece of new information.

If you don’t believe me, make a short film. When you get to the editing room, you’ll cringe at every tiny line that you wish you hadn’t shot that you wish you’d trimmed in the script phase.
Nothing like sweating in an editing room to teach you, once and for all, that stuff that repeats will kill you in front of an audience.

Unless of course, you mean for it to repeat and did it on purpose.

Anybody ever made a film and found this to be true?



Filed under Good Writing, Rewriting, Screenwriting

3 responses to “The “Don’t Repeat” thing is tough to root out.

  1. Thom

    Yes, I’ve shot many a short film and, it kills me when lines repeat. Worst is that I still shoot motion picture film. It MURDERS the shoot ratio. I sorta’ dubbed it the “Yogi Berra rule.”

    • yourscreenplaysucks

      Nothing like shooting film and hearing money burning after starting the camera to make you wish you’d cut more dialogue.

  2. Thom

    Which is why the ones that I have the privilege to direct, I see if I can tell the story without dialogue. That’s why they call it motion picture and not motion sound :). Bought your book to help me bridge the gap to more features. Great read, sir. Much thanks.

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