Descriptors: Be Precise

Don’t forget when you’re writing to use precise descriptors that evoke something very clear in the mind of the reader. Even in screenwriting, the quality of prose to some degree either engages or repels the reader and thus the experience of your screenplay.

Try to avoid descriptors that are ambiguous, contradictory or confusing, because the reader won’t know what to make of them.

For example, introducing a female protagonist as a ‘homely academic’ in a ‘skin-tight pencil skirt’ is confusing, because a homely academic wouldn’t likely be wearing something youthful and sexy. This imagery is confused, and so I won’t have a clear picture of that character when reading. If I don’t have a clear picture, then I really have no picture at all – that is really bad for your script.

Subsequently, every time that character appears on the page, I will ask myself, “Okay, are we hot for teacher or are we straight academic?” I won’t know who this character is. It’s very distracting.

Or, for example, I read something recently that introduced a location as ‘a wonder of architecture’ that was basically a tract house. Tract houses are tacky – they are no wonder. Using the phrase “architectural wonder” evokes the wonders of the world. So, then following that up with “tract house” is very confusing and distracting.

The more precise your descriptors can be, the more specific picture you are painting in the mind of the reader.

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