Monday, April 26, 2010

Guest Blog: Be a writer, not a whiner!

Hey all, Bitter here. I'm taking this week off for vacation and writing, so in my absence screenwriter Tripp Stryker has generously agreed to fill-in. Hope you guys find him entertaining. I'll be checking in via Twitter and email occasionally, but probably not with any regularity. See you next week!

I met The Bitter Script Reader a couple weeks ago at a party thrown by a mutual friend. We exchanged the usual pleasantries, email address and all that fun stuff. Not long after that, he sent out an email to most of his closer professional acquaintances hoping to get some fill-in columns for when he took a much-needed vacation. As it turns out, I was the only one to reply – but I had enough ideas for five people. (A common occurrence for me, by the by.) Which worked out because I knew it would take me a week to really cover everything you guys need to hear.

The truth: most of the stuff you read on this blog and other blogs is bullshit. The only thing more pathetic than a loser who argues that bold sluglines are an abomination is a loser who’s sense of self-worth is so low that he actually has to argue vehemently against a guy who thinks bold sluglines are a blight. How does this make you a better writer?

Seriously, every now and then I wade into screenwriting forums and other blogs to see these hot topics and what do you people argue over? What font to use, when and when not to bold and underline, whether or not to use “CONT’D” in dialogue. Here’s a tip – no one cares!

If this bullshit upsets you that much, you’re not a professional writer.

Does underlining something automatically render it invisible, or put it in Greek? It’s just words on a page, people!

Real writers make the rules, they don’t follow them. Wanna debate formatting? You ever read a Tarantino script? I defy you to find one “screenwriting rule” he’s followed.

Shane Black? Nobody wrote the way he did until he submitted it. He was the first guy to “talk to the reader” via wry asides. What if he said, “Oh no, I must write in this dry, boring way that my screenwriting professor taught me?” Except you know what? He didn’t have a screenwriting professor! He didn’t have anyone filling his head with stupid ideas about what to write and what not to write. He just wrote.

Real agents don’t care about this shit. A real agent would take a script that was submitted on colored paper, written in Times New Roman, with dialogue centered rather than offset by margins and they’d still read it on the merits of the writing. How do I know? Because I got repped off of a spec like that. And at one of the Big 5 at that.

The only people who care about this formatting bullshit are readers – the least experienced people in the company. How much skill does it take to read something and know if it’s good or bad? I’ve been doing that since first grade.

Here’s where some whiner is gonna pop up and say that it is our duty as writers to suck up to these readers or they might PASS. Thus, we have to do everything they say or they’ll put us on the industry-wide blacklist.

That just proves that you don’t know what you’re doing. If your fate is in the hands of a reader, you’ve already lost. Think of this as your first test. A real writer doesn’t go through readers, he goes around them. And it can be done. I did it in my first month of working in the business, but that’s a story for tomorrow.

Email Tripp Stryker at Tripp Stryker doesn't do Facebook or Twitter - they cramp his style.


  1. This guy's a dick, bring back the other guy.

  2. No this guy's absolutely right. Most writers I know talk about writing, rather than write. Myself included - what the hell am i doing commenting on blogs?

  3. 'Email Tripp Stryker at'

    You almost had me up until that line. This is a clever parody of a Hollywood douchebag, right?

  4. Nice, I like it, I like it a lot.

  5. Well shit. I'm going to write all my scripts in crayon from now on.

  6. Less talkie, more awesome-o write-o!!

  7. I agree with what most of what "Tripp" said. However, I would have to add that using non-standard fonts is the most likely thing to get your script canned.

    I have to admit, I used to be a format Nazi. Not anymore.

    I do have to say that I've seen a lot of scripts lately that have an inordinate amount of underlining and italicized text.

    I'm talking about scripts where every other sentence is punctuated with an underline or an italic.

    Save your underlining for super events like:


    It's like using exclamation points; if you use one every other sentence they lose their power.

  8. "Well shit. I'm going to write all my scripts in crayon from now on."

    Emily wins.


  9. Nice Post~!!!. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

  10. I don't know anything about what it takes to go from a spec script to a shooting script. Isn't part of the idea of formatting that the writer can follow the rules to rewrite the thing all the way through production?

    It's not really fair to compare scripts written by directors and producers like Tarantino. If I'm going to write, produce, and direct, I'll write the thing however the hell I want.

    I don't like BOLD because it's harder to read after being copied a couple times.

    The post pretty much rules for its attitude about what it takes to get attention for a screenplay. A polished turd is a lump of shit and a unpolished gem isn't a stone. It's knowing the difference that counts.

  11. I agree with the sentiment.

    While I wouldn't recommend being deliberately different just to show that minor formatting issues don't matter, I wouldn't fuss over them too much.

    If the reader can understand what's going on and the formatting doesn't make it hard to read or comprehend then it doesn't really matter.

    Your time is much better spent using your storytelling skills to write something that will engage the reader, rather than learning and refining technical rules (which aren't universally agreed on as having a single correct way to do anyway).

    All the best with your writing everyone. :)