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crAZRick
Posts: 489
Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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crAZRick, Description-- Writing Exercise

OK, I took a few liberties with this Exercise, but only a few. It's a tad longer than a single page, and there is Dialogue included, but only very basic stuff; I stripped out most of the extraneous dialogue which might be a part of the 'real screenplay' since this exercise should focus on description. Because of the nature of the scene, the setting and storyline (it's a Poker Game scene) there has to be a level of focus on Body Language and Facial Expression especially when there is less focus on Dialogue. I also cut way back on those Tells too, and reworked it a bit, in order to focus on Description. There is also a level of Poker Lingo Tutorial infused in the piece, as it is an early scene in a poker-centric story. I don't know how to go about just writing Detail and Description, without getting into the lingo and intricacies of the game. I'll have to get around to finding the screenplay for ROUNDERS and other poker-centric flicks to really get a handle on how to do those sorts of details...

It's not Great, and far from Perfect, but I think it captures the basic gist as far as Description and Action in the scene.



INT. CASINO FLOOR- POKER PIT, TEXAS HOLD'EM TABLE -- MOMENTS LATER

6 PLAYERS, 1 FEMALE and 5 MEN, and a DEALER, engaged in play.

3 PLAYERS toss their HOLE-CARDS across the felt toward the Dealer (FOLD).

FEMALE PLAYER (CLAUDETTE), mid-40s, stares at her hands, cupped over two cards (hole-cards).

INSERT: CLAUDETTE HOLDS 10 OF CLUBS, JACK OF SPADES

Claudette caresses a stack of her chips slowly. After a lengthy pause, she tosses a few chips across the table, toward the pile in the center.

OLDER GENTLEMAN (JACK), late-50's, graying hair, sits stoic and silent, drumming his fingers lightly over his hole-cards.

INSERT: JACK HOLDS 7 OF DIAMONDS, 7 OF HEARTS

JACK matches Claudette's bet (CALLS).

YOUNG MALE PLAYER (RICK) mid-30s, already has his chips in play (Big Blind). He glances around at the other players, leans back stretching his arms over his head, yawns, then taps the table twice with his fingertips, with a gentle, deliberate stroke. (CHECKS)

DEALER peels the top card from the deck and slides it aside (BURN CARD), then deals 3 CARDS to the center of the table (THE FLOP).

FLOP CARDS are: 7 of SPADES, 10 of SPADES, JACK of HEARTS

Dealer looks to Jack, first-to-act after the Flop.

Jack strokes his chip stack, peels off a fistful of chips, makes 2 stacks of 4 chips, and tops the stacks with one more chip, a total of 9 chips.

DEALER
Bet is $900. Pot is $1500.

RICK rolls his eyes, scratches his chin, exhales hard, reaches for chips. He fishes twice as many chips from his stack as Jack bet, finally pushing the chips across the felt in two stacks.

DEALER counts Rick's Bet.

DEALER
Raised $900.
Bet is $1800.
Pot is $3300.

Claudette, Jack look to Rick in silence.

Rick glances down at the felt, the Flop, the Pot, anywhere but at either of his opponents.

DEALER mixes Rick's Raise into the Pot.

Claudette matches Rick's Raise.

DEALER
Call $1800. Pot is $5100.

Jack also matches the Raise, only 9 more of his chips.

DEALER
Call $900. Pot is $6000.

DEALER peels another burn-card, then deals 4th COMMUNITY CARD to FLOP (THE TURN):

ACE of SPADES (making the FLOP: 7 of SPADES, 10 of SPADES, JACK of HEARTS, ACE of SPADES)

Jack acts first, tapping the table with the back of his hand.

Rick slouches in his seat, taps the felt twice.

DEALER nods, turns to Claudette.

Claudette bets a SMALL STACK of CHIPS.

DEALER
Bet is $600. Pot is $6600.

Jack smiles across the table as Rick slumps in his seat.

Rick looks down and away from Jack, Claudette, the others at the table, eyeing the various chip stacks. Rick's remaining chip stack is now the smallest stack at the table.

DEALER scoops Claudette's bet into the pot.

Jack glances from Claudette to Rick, eyeing their chip stacks as well, counts out 6 chips from his large stack, matches Claudette’s bet.

Rick sighs, shifts in his seat, leans back over table and scoops up his cards, rubbing his eyes and stroking his chin.

DEALER collects Jack's Call, into the large pot.

DEALER
Call $600. Pot is $7200.

All eyes around the table again on Rick.

Rick leans forward, CARDS IN HAND, slides cards forward, toward the POT...

...catches Jack smiling wide across the table...

.. and proceeds to slide ALL HIS CHIPS INTO THE POT with his other hand.

OTHER PLAYERS at the table shake heads and scoff at Rick's idiot-bravado.

DEALER counts Rick's Raise.

DEALER
Raise, $350. Bet is $950.
Pot is $8150. $350 to Call.

Claudette quickly Calls the bet, leaving herself just 1 SHORT STACK OF CHIPS.

Jack also Calls quickly.

DEALER
Pot is $8850. Last Card Coming.

DEALER peels another burn-card, then deals the 5th CARD to FLOP (THE RIVER CARD): JACK of CLUBS (making the FLOP:

7 SPADES, 10 SPADES, JACK HEARTS, ACE SPADES, JACK CLUBS)

Claudette looks to Jack, winks, and slides her remaining chips into the center of the table.

Jack shrugs, laughs, matching Claudette's bet.

DEALER
All-In $1200. Called $1200. Pot is $8850. Side Pot $2400.

Jack beams, flips his cards, revealing FULL HOUSE, 7s FULL OF JACKS

Jack reaches for POT.

Claudette smiles, shakes her head.

Claudette flips her BETTER FULL HOUSE, JACKS FULL OF 10s

All eyes once again fall on Rick.

Rick slides back, stands up from the table, hunches over...

..flips his HOLE CARDS face-up on the TABLE...

... and locks eyes with OLD JACK.

Rick's hole-cards exposed: ACE of HEARTS, ACE of CLUBS. ACES UP! ¬giving Rick FULL HOUSE, ACES FULL OF JACKS and the WIN!

JACK
Well, now.. uhh..
Good hand, Son..

RICK
Don't call me Son. The name is Rick.
And, this is my Home! I'm done.

Rick scoops all his CHIPS from the table, stacks them neatly into a little plastic rack, nods to Claudette, shaking hands and accepting a few congratulatory pats on the back from other players as he steps away from the table.

Claudette gathers her SIDE POT WINNINGS, smiling at RICK.

Jack glares at the Rick, as Rick walks away.
I no longer regret that I have no quote, quip or anecdote to share with my countrymen... how about all y'all?
Ian
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Ian
Posts: 45
Registered: ‎03-15-2007
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Re: crAZRick, Description-- Writing Exercise

Hey Rick,

I don't want you or anyone else to think I'm running this show, because I'm far from it. I hope you don't mind if I respond to your piece here and the comments you made about my exercise. First, I'm no great writer but I sure as hell love writing. Write, write and write some more. Practice - believe me when I say that it won't make you perfect, but it sure as heck helps.

This exercise was really cool because it goes against everything I've learned about screenwriting thus far which is to keep description to an absolute minimum. This work forced me to abandon a key component in keeping description thin, dialogue. You can use description as dialogue and that lightens the script. I've written exercises where you only write dialogue, not the other way around, so this was such an eye opener. I had to add a few words here and there and combine sentences and do a little trimming, but it forced me to cut to the quick.

When I look at your work here I see that you try to 'explain' what people will see. But, that is impossible since there will be no one saying those things in brackets like (hole-cards) or (big blind). Show what we will see on screen and trust that people will follow along.

Here's one thing that I noticed about your writing - repetition. Here's an example:
6 PLAYERS, 1 FEMALE and 5 MEN, and a DEALER, engaged in play.

If there is one woman and five men at this table, then I know there are six players. You needn't spell things out like that. You do this in a few places.

You are the writer, not the director. Tell the story without directing.
FEMALE PLAYER (CLAUDETTE), mid-40s, stares at her hands, cupped over two cards (hole-cards).

INSERT: CLAUDETTE HOLDS 10 OF CLUBS, JACK OF SPADES
CLAUDETTE, mid-forties, stares at a pair of cards cupped in her hand; a ten of clubs and jack of spades.

Let the director decide how that will be shot or if at all. Being aware of this will help your story's flow.

I challenge you to cut this to one page on your screenwriting software and I also challenge you to stick to the guidelines of the exercise. Trust me, pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone will help you a lot.

Remember, this exercise doesn't ask for your scene to end at a conclusion. You can cut it mid scene. We're talking one page (one minute of screen time) and that does not usually a scene make. Get this to a page, no dialogue...I know you can do this, you're a good writer.

Cheers,
Ian
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danielnoah
Posts: 141
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: crAZRick, Description-- Writing Exercise

Rick, I think Ian's notes are spot on here. You're "over-seeing" your action, then describing what you see. Did I post the 50 feet guideline in this class? I can't remember, so I'll go ahead and post it again.

A good guideline for yourself is to imagine that you are watching your scenes play out from 50 feet away. From that distance, you can only see the big stuff -- entrances and exits, a kiss, a punch -- but you can't see gestures, or the exact expression on a character's face. Of course, once in a while you might need to duck in closer to study something really important -- say, someone writing down the combination to a safe -- but unless you have to, it's best to stay 50 feet away.

Another way of looking at it: description in screenplays is on a need-to-know basis. You have to look at every detail and ask yourself, "Does the reader NEED TO KNOW THIS" to understand what's happening? If the answer is no, that detail should probably be cut.

For example, in your card game - we don't really need to know the precise hands the players are hoolding. We only need to know who wins. Reading your page was work. It needs to be pleasure.
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crAZRick
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Re: crAZRick, Description-- Writing Exercise

OK, here's the stripped-down 60-second/50-foot version; it has to be better, right?



INT. CASINO FLOOR- POKER PIT, TEXAS HOLD'EM TABLE -- DAY

SIX PLAYERS and a DEALER seated around a poker table. Each player has TWO CARDS face-down in front of them.

3 PLAYERS peek at their cards and to toss them back to the Dealer.

FEMALE PLAYER (CLAUDETTE) tosses a few chips to the center of the table.

OLDER GENTLEMAN (JACK) eventually matches Claudette's bet.

YOUNG MALE PLAYER (RICK) leans back, stretches, yawns, taps the table.

DEALER deals 3 CARDS face-up to the center of the table.

Jack bets. Rick quickly doubles Jack's bet.

Rick's remaining chip stack is now the smallest at the table. Jack's stack is largest, but the chips in the middle of the table probably match Jack's stack.

Claudette eventually matches Rick's Raise. Jack immediately matches Rick's Raise.

DEALER deals 4th CARD face-up on the felt.

Jack taps the table with the back of his hand. RICK slouches in his seat, taps the felt.

Claudette bets. Jack matches Claudette's bet.

Rick leans in, slides his cards forward, catches Jack beaming across the table, slides ALL HIS CHIPS into the Pot instead.

Claudette quickly matches the bet. Jack also matches the bet.

DEALER deals the 5th CARD.

Claudette looks to Jack, winks, and slides her remaining chips into the center of the table.

Jack laughs, matching Claudette's bet. Jack beams, flips his cards, reaches for the Pot. As Claudette flips her cards, Jack stops reaching, settles back in his seat, muttering under his breath.

Rick slides back, stands up from the table, hunches over, flips his cards face-up.

Rick wins! He scoops his winnings from the table, stacks them neatly into little plastic racks, shakes hands and accepts a few pats on the back from other players (not Jack) as he steps away from the table.

Jack glares at Rick as Rick walks away.
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
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Re: crAZRick, Description-- Writing Exercise

Rick, this is better. But it's still problematic. To be frank, it's boring.

I think part of the problem is that you're writing about a card game, which is, notoriously, one of the most difficult events to film and write. If I were ever asked to do it, I'd be completely lost. I did once write a basketball movie, and my solution to the problem of how to depict the games was not to. I faded out at the first buzzer and came in just after the final. The reason being - the games weren't important to the human story, only the RESULT of the games. So that's what I showed.

I suggest making this a bit easier for yourself and trying again with a completely different scene. Forget about poker, and games in general. Write a scene with a single protagonist pursuing a goal that is inherently emotional. If you do this, you will be 50% of the way toward writing effective description, because the content will be inherently engaging.
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crAZRick
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Re: crAZRick, Description-- Writing Exercise

OK, I give-up the 'screenplay I'm writing' idea, and opt for the 'frustrating emotional shopping excursion' suggestion:



INT. IDEAS 'R' US SUPER STORE -- DAY

BOB pushes a cart, one front wheel sticks and spins, clattering noisily, jerking the cart to the right. The cart is over-flowing with ideas. Bob kicks the back wheels and shoves the cart along, grumbling as he approaches a section of shelving labelled SPORTS & CARD GAME IDEAS.

Bob struggles to guide the cart down the narrow aisle, while scanning the shelves. A man wearing an IDEAS 'R' US smock approaches. The man wears a name tag with FRANK stamped on it.

Bob raises his hand, inviting Frank to assist him. Frank reaches into Bob's cart, picks up one of several ideas, smashes the idea over Bob's head!

Bob stumbles back, the idea shattered around him.

Two more IDEAS 'R' US employees snicker at the scene as they peep from around the far end of the shelving units.

Bob kneels, begins collecting the pieces of shattered idea.

Frank takes up another idea from the cart, thrusts the idea forward, catching Bob squarely between the eyes.

Bob flails, falls back, crying.

Frank looms large, kicks Bob in the groin.

Bob curls up on the ground, gasping.

Frank flips the cart full of ideas over Bob, then jumps up on the over-turned cart, dancing a jig.

Frank stomps down from the cart, kicks Bob in the head once more, then strolls down the aisle, whistling a happy tune.

Bob bleeds profusely from open wounds and protruding shards of several destroyed and useless ideas.

Frank enters an office at the end of the aisle, closing the door behind him. A name plate on the office door is stenciled: FRANK LEE BOURING, IDEA CONTROL SUPERVISOR.

Bob plucks some few shards of shattered ideas from his flesh, arranging the pieces into a new order on the blood-spattered floor. Once Bob has arranged the bits of ideas into one spectacular idea, Bob collects the new idea and struggles to stand.

Bob admires his newly-created idea, a ROCKET LAUNCHER!

Bob aims the rocket launcher idea at Frank's office, and FIRES.

Frank's office explodes in a fireball!

Bob dances a jig.

Frank Lee Bouring, Idea Guy stumbles from his office, in flames, flails, falls, and doesn't get up.
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
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Re: crAZRick, Description-- Writing Exercise

Much better, Rick! It seems that your style is quite spare, and that's good - own it, use it, work it. I like the way you represent each moment of the scene with its own paragraph, even if that means it's just a few words. It creates a good pace, a good flow.

Two tips. Start being harder on yourself about which details add and which take away. I'll give you an example. The wheel of the cart sticking is a detail that adds. We've all experienced this and we know how annoying it is. Plus, it's visual. But the cart jutting "to the right" is meaningless. Who cares what direction it's going? That doesn't add anything, it takes away.

Every visual detail you include costs you. What it costs is the energy of your reader, who must work to visualize it. Is that work paying dividends for the reader? Or is it merely energy spent and lost? That's how you assess which details add and which take away. For me, visualizing a cart with a sticking wheel pays off. Visualizing it jerking "to the right" costs me. This may seem nit-picky, but these "loss details" really add up. They can topple a good screenplay.

Second tip: quit hiding from real emotion. Movies are all about it. By giving your protagonist a cart full of "ideas," you're avoiding anything real that might occur in the scene. I'm calling you on this. You're a very talented and imaginative writer, and I want you to go all the way and allow your work to be emotional. Emotion is everything.
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crAZRick
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Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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Re: crAZRick, Description-- Writing Exercise

Thanks Daniel and Ian for the feedaback. Actually, my style fluctuates from verbose to sparse, mostly because I haven't developed a true style for screenplay writing yet. I get what you both mean about those extraneous details detracting from the flow of the story, but I don't tend to notice those things when I'm free-flowing ideas across the page. I guess it's the Director in me-- or maybe the Novelist-- influencing the Screenwriter.

I'll just go ahead and be Writer/Producer/Director of my crap once I make my millions at the poker table and can afford to front myself the $$$ to make my movies; save a lot of people a lot of grief that way! :smileyvery-happy:

as far as the structure goes, still working out those details too; I thought one should separate each character's actions into new lines/paragraphs, even if they are short lines of description, before moving on to another character's actions or reactions. I thought 4 lines or less per paragraph, and I assume those 4 lines or less should be in regard to a single character's actions, or a specific sequence of description. Otherwise, I was told, it reads too much like a novel rather than a screenplay. I thought spare/sparse in screenplays was 'best'??

on to emotion; I guess I'll work on that once I nail down a few fundamentals of screenplay writing. Eventually, it would be my dream, to present that poker-game scene in the context of the screenplay I'm writing around that scene, and have it be Everything it should be, over-flowing with Emotion and Drama and Pleasurable rather than Painful to read. To be fair though, poker IS damn boring! 3 hours of boredom, 3 minutes of adrenalin-pumping excitement; obviously, I have only managed to capture the boring aspect, even during 1 of those 3 minutes that should be 'exciting'

again, as usual, more to work on. :smileyhappy:
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
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Re: crAZRick, Description-- Writing Exercise

I've been brainstorming poker movies. I can think of quite a few - The Sting, Rounders, Lucky You, California Split, Casino Royale - but the only one I could find the script for online is Maverick. There is, in fact, a highly detailed poker showdown in the third act. Might be instructional to see how they did it.

But don't just read the poker sequence. Read the whole script. Because the context of the game (i.e. the emotional element) is just as important - if not more - than the presentation.
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crAZRick
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Re: crAZRick, Description-- Writing Exercise

yep, I found the Maverick screenplay too, though Rounders would be more how my idea would shape up. My pitch-line would be 'Little House in the Desert', or 'Little House on the Las Vegas Strip' It's a family-drama, small-town-living, big-city-dreams type tale, with Poker as a central element to advance all those family-oriented themes.

Of course, the poker scene in Maverick has to be so detailed, as Maverick 'wills' that Ace into being in the finale; I agree, my poker scene didn't need such level of detail, I just wrote it out in order to see how plausible it seemed, not so much how jumbled and wordy and extraneous it read. In reality, the pocket AA winning hand is kinda boring and cliche; any idiot can play AA to win, AA in general wins a small pot or loses a large one, so my scene becomes less and less plausible-- and anti-climactic, really-- upon seeing the hole-cards. Character-building (and perhaps dramatic action) could be better accomplished with the Protagonist winning in a different way, I suppose. This was just the first poker-game scene I had been working on, trying to infuse a little bit of everything into it; the dramatic build-up, the character-building, as well as showing some basic details about how Texas Hold'Em poker games are dealt and played, since I can't rely on other movies like Maverick or Rounders to clue people in with regards to my story. I have to go see Lucky You when it comes out, but I have seen Maverick and Rounders, and a few Stu 'The Kid' Unger bio-pics, but never tried writing one before this.

I'll keep working on it, maybe blow up a few slot machines or have a fist-fight break out to amp up the action, or add a few topless waitresses as eye-candy to take folks minds off how much it sucks... or else work on my debutante-kidnapping-and-extortion script instead.
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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crAZRick
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Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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Re: crAZRick, Description-- Writing Exercise: The Kidnapped Debutante Scene

I know, I know: reads like a novel, not a screenplay; I suck...


INT. ABANDONED WAREHOUSE -- AFTERNOON

The decrepit shell of the large empty building creaks and groans with every gust of wind. Sparse slivers of sunlight filter through several cracks in the outer wall. Sounds of sea gulls feeding and nesting, the rush of the surf pounding against the rocky shores, should be soothing.

A young, petite red-headed girl wearing a white blouse and plaid skirt sits on a milk crate in the center of the room. Her blouse torn open, hangs off her bare shoulder. A bra is tangled in a navy-blue jacket with a gold-and-gray crest-embroidery, in a heap on the filthy floorboards.

The girl's head lolls forward against a wooden vertical support beam. Her arms extended, one on either side of the beam, wrists and mouth bound by duct-tape. Her eyes are closed, cheek grossly discolored in hues of purple and red, swollen and marred by sweat, tears, blood and dirt.

Her eyes flash open suddenly, and she lurches from the crate, thrashing and flailing as wildly as her binds allow before collapsing to her knees. Muffled sobs and groans, heavy panting squelched behind the gag, drown out the soothing seaside serenade.

The girl claws the support beam and struggles to her feet. Her head jerks about, eyes darting from one corner of the room to the next.

Across the room, a wooden door shimmies and rattles in the wind. The girl becomes fixated upon that door, shifts around the support beam until the duct-tape binding her wrists rests against a corner of the beam. Slowly, deliberately, her arms slide up and down the length of the beam, while she grunts and cries.

The duct-tape binding finally tears free from her wrists and she collapses against the beam. She pulls the gag from her lips and cries out, the sound sticking in her throat; still, she sobs.

She pushes herself up from the support and lunges toward the door. She stumbles and falls to her knees; a thick steel manacle binds her ankle, a heavy rusty chain securing the manacle to the beam. She clutches her torn blouse tightly to her chest, plops back against the support beam, curls her knees against her chest and cries.
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
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Re: crAZRick, Description-- Writing Exercise: The Kidnapped Debutante Scene

Terrific! You nailed it, Rick. This is excellent and evocative description. I FELT a great deal while reading it, and I was able to visualize the moments easily. Congratulations!

Now, I will say this, to all (read: both) of you. A lot of screenplays start out with this kind of detailed, "written" description, but slowly become more spare as the stories kick in. It's almost as if you're selling your vision of the kind of movie this will be in the first ten pages or so, but once you've gotten that into the reader's head, you can back off and trust that they'll fill in all that evocative detail on their own.
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crAZRick
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Re: crAZRick, Description-- Writing Exercise: The Kidnapped Debutante Scene

YAY!

and that would be my problem with posting snippets of scenes; not having earned my audience's respect and approval for the way that I tend to write/ramble. First of all, finding a full page of nothing but action and description; then, failing that, finding a 3-minute scene that can be pared-down to 1 minute of description/action, and still making it pleasurable and engaging enough...

I wrote the kidnapped-hostage scene as a stand-alone with the debutante character and story in mind, but didn't rip this from the midst of a work-in-progress as I tried to do with the poker-game scene. But, the poker-game was the best scene I could figure would stand-up without the dialogue, if I was absolutely challenged to fit the parameters of the exercise (thanks Ian, for that nudge!) Hard to establish Heroes and Villains at the poker-table in under a minute, without snappy banter, table-talk, or at least some facial expressions or gestures, all of which were expressly forbidden by the instructions...

ah well.. I do see the point to all of this, and I 'get it' as far as why the poker-game sequence is a weak, sad and pitiful way to kick off a screenplay. Then again, that is sort of the impression one should get of the Protagonist and the developing plot, at that particular time in the story, until the next minute, when everything changes, which is allegorical to the poker-theme as well!


I guess I'm great coming out of the gates or during sprints like these exercises, just suck-wind at the marathon that screenplay crafting tends to become. Just takes more conditioning, I suppose.

at least I evoked some 'feeling' this time; baby-steps....
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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