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Ian
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Ian
Posts: 45
Registered: ‎03-15-2007
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Ian's Description - Writing Exercise

This was very interesting in that I took the first page of a my screenplay Eden's Shame and stripped it down to description only. I'm interested to know if you all think it works without the dialogue. Thanks for the workout, very cool stuff.

FADE IN:

INT. SHIP'S HOLD – NIGHT

Lanterns cast an eerie, yellow glow. Bodies are squeezed together. MUFFLED MOANS emanate from somewhere in the tight confines. Someone RETCHES.

A MAN struggles through his shipmates and kneels before a bucket overflowing with urine and feces. He gives an apologetic look to an OLD WOMAN sitting near the bucket; she clutches Rosary Beads between worn fingers, her lips move rapidly in silent prayer. Urine SPLASHES into the bucket.

The ship's hull CREAKS and several BANGS break the silence.

VOICES are heard from above. A hatch SLAMS open and moonlight spills down a set of angled stairs, spreading into the dank compartment.

EXT. SHIP – NIGHT

SAILOR #1 backs away from the open hatch waving his hand in front of his nose. He motions for help from his mates and they move into the compartment, holding handkerchiefs to their faces.

The Captain turns to a SHORT MAN in a clean, well-pressed suit and hands him a roll of money. The man unrolls the bills and quickly counts them off. He smiles and walks away.

The captain turns to see his cargo climbing from the hold. He lifts a handkerchief to his face as MEN, WOMEN, and CHILDREN wearily file past him. All look gaunt and filthy.

Exhausted, the immigrants MUMBLE in their own languages (Italian, Slovakian, Polish...). The old woman stops in front of the captain and reaches out to him, her Rosary Beads wrapped tightly around her palm.

The captain reels from her outstretched hand as another IMMIGRANT gently steers her toward the gangplank.

The sailor motions for the captain. He gingerly avoids touching his passengers and soon stands beside the sailor. The men look down into the hold.

Several bodies lay about the compartment with mourners crying by their sides.
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crAZRick
Posts: 489
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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Re: Ian's Description - Writing Exercise

Yep, it works just fine without dialogue, Ian. I see the movie playing in my head; I wish I could write like that. I had to cheat mine too much.

:smileysad:
I no longer regret that I have no quote, quip or anecdote to share with my countrymen... how about all y'all?
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danielnoah
Posts: 141
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Ian's Description - Writing Exercise

Man, that is one dazzling cruise. Where do I sign up?

Ian, very well done. The scene loses nothing without the dialogue - but then, that's true of most scenes which are visually-driven. (Try watching TV with the sound off. You can pretty much glean the basic action of any scene just from looking at it.) More importantly, your descriptions do what screenplay descriptions should. They're just detailed enough to convey a strong sense of this time and and place, but not so detailed that it's cumbersome to read. Once or twice you did use facial expression and/or gesture, but I like the way you did it - not so much "directing" the actor, but instead telling the story. For example, the sailor waving his hand in front of his nose SHOWS us that there is a stench, which is in fact an important step forward in the revealing of the story.

Great job, Ian. I have no complaints.
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danielnoah
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The exercise reversed - dialogue only

[ Edited ]
Ian, your comment about how well a scene works without the dialogue got me to thinking. Check out this link. These are transcripts of films, no description, dialogue only. In most cases you can barely follow what's happening. Without the visual element, screenplays just don't make sense.

Message Edited by danielnoah on 05-01-200708:11 PM

Message Edited by danielnoah on 05-01-200708:12 PM

Ian
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Ian
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Registered: ‎03-15-2007
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Re: The exercise reversed - dialogue only

I just read the 'About A Boy' dialogue script (as much as I could take of it anyway) and it made no sense at all.

When I mentioned the use of dialogue only it was in reference to a short exercise (Sol Stein's He said/She said). There is no way a screenplay can hold up with just dialogue and the scripts you pointed me to definitely prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I do believe that a lot of writers miss opportunities to use descriptive dialogue though - we get to marry the two together and it saves on description. It is so ingrained now, the idea that description must be kept to an absolute minimum, that I found this exersice incredibly liberating. That was one page of description - an absolute no-no, yet it proved that description is a must and has to be handled with care. I really enjoyed this exercise but please don't make me read any more of the dialogue only scripts - ouch! ;-)

Cheers,
Ian
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