I’ve been working on the “7 Deadly Sins of Writing” list of words to take out of your work for about a decade now. Other people have similar lists, but this one works for me.
Just added a new word! Isn’t that amazing! Stop the presses! “Emotional.”
I teach screenwriting and have a bunch of students and, this week, half turned in homeworks with the word “emotional” in them. I felt like I’d been hit in the face by a shovel. When you get something that is slightly wrong shoved in front of your face over and over, you finally notice.
So, when it came to class time, I said to them, “I am feeling very emotional right now.” They looked at me, blinking. I said, “And what emotion am I feeling?” None said anything because they had no clue. “Boredom?” “Insane joy?” “Homicidal rage?”
“Emotional” doesn’t mean a thing. It’s just a word that, when the writer writes it, the writer knows what the reader is supposed to feel. But, when the reader reads “emotional,” she hasn’t got a clue what she’s supposed to feel, because the writer didn’t actually tell her.
He only thought he did.
So, here’s the 7 Deadly Sins of Writing handout.
A further thought on this topic.
I’ve been giving this handout to my students for years. Do they use it? Doubtful. At times, despite paying a crushing tuition for my advice, students have a way of feeling, “I know more than this loser. If he’s so hot at teaching screenwriting, how come he’s not rich and in Hollywood?” Sigh. Can’t help anybody with an attitude. I can only put it out there and hope they listen.
Some months ago, a friend from film school days emailed to ask for my book. After he read it, he emailed to say that the 7 Deadly Sins checklist was AWESOME. This, btw, is a guy with an imdb page as long as my arm. 43 directing credits. 8 television series as a producer.
And this guy LOVED the list. Thought it was incredibly helpful.
He’s won a WGA award and is currently being paid to write a TV pilot. And why can’t I get my students to listen?
Maybe you will! Hope so.