GOTTA KNOW WHEN TO SHOW 'EM
By Craig Kellem
If you read enough scripts, youll discover all kinds of trends in contemporary writing, both big and small --from how many people out there are trying to write the next Sixth Sense, all the way to how many people think the word lose is spelled loose (you wouldnt believe how many!)
Heres another one. There are a whole crop of writers out there who are allergic to disclosing enough information so that reading their script cogently is possible.
Many writers are so anxious to surprise you on page 120 that they employ the dubious technique of telling you the absolute minimum on pages 1-119.
They call it suspense. I call it omission.
There is a big difference between the two.
There is nothing wrong with teasing the audience and making them want to know more. Nor is there anything wrong with red herrings and scenes that end on a precipice and make you wait. These are tried and true techniques. But youve got to throw your reader a bone here and there SO THAT THE LEVEL OF CONFUSION DOESNT BECOME THE DOMINATING EXPERIENCE IN READING THE SCRIPT. And the bone cannot be buried to deeply that a Geiger counter is needed to detect it.
Now many writers are sensitive to this issue and can usually site a famous movie which in their mind justifies this dubious approach. I tell them this: There is hardly a situation in any movie, dysfunctional or otherwise, that cant be justified by some movie somewhere that got away with it. I urge them to think about the other 2000 movies that didnt!
The bottom line is this: If you save everything for the end, you stand a chance of having so alienated the confused reader that, by the time they get to the big disclosure, it no longer matters.
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