Twenty four words you can't say in Final Draft

One of the last things I do before I consider a script ready to send out is run a global search for my personal list of proscribed words. These words are not forbidden because they are naughty – it's a script, fuck that – but because I use them too often.

We all have such words. Most of them stand in for the pauses we add to our everyday speech. We want pauses in our dialogue, so we stick 'em in there too. Problem is, different readers use different words for their pauses, and most readers add the pauses in their own heads and don't need those words. Though we sprinkle our everyday speech with well's, oh's and you know's, a page of dialogue studded with those words causes pain. As I mentioned in a
previous post, dialogue needs to sound like real people talking – only better.

Everyone has their own habitual vocabulary. That's one of the ways literary forensic types determine disputed authorship. Though you should make your own list of dangerous words, here's my version:

Actually, usually, a lot, like, always, very, well, here, yeah, hey, ok/okay, maybe, just, oh, pretty, guess, more, quite, bit, you know, right, even, of course, so

Though I search for every word, I don't remove every instance. People use these words. Dialogue without them might sound strange. But it's eye-opening to skip from instance to instance and realize how often the words pop up. Though I don't remove them all, I remove enough. Sometimes I get a page less script for my labor. Hey, that's actually worth it, you know?

Here's another note. While running this search, do a quick scan of every incidence of your/you're and make sure you've got them right. No, you are not ignorant for mixing them up – it's something your typing fingers do without consulting your brain. But you LOOK ignorant if they remain wrong in your finished draft.


Technological dependency

The ridiculously cheap envelopes must have been a Luddite Trojan horse, as my Internet connection has been down since I brought them home. I am now lurking in a Starbucks, sucking an ancient cup of coffee. Last night I circled the parking lot of a closed McDonald's, fishing for a signal. The Verizon folks say all will be well soon. But they said that two days ago. I now face a weekend without Internet and all is not well.

As a friend posted on her Facebook wall, "I love my computer since all my friends live there..."
I want my friends back!


In related news

I bought envelopes today for the first time in years. They were marked down to a ridiculously low price – two dollars and fifty cents for a box of two hundred and fifty resume-quality, rag bond, watermarked envelopes. I made the salesclerk check the price twice as I was sure she had made a mistake. She hadn't.

The marked down price makes sense, as I will probably not use two hundred and fifty envelopes for the rest of my life. I'm sure there were similar sales of audio cassettes, VHS tapes and typewriter ribbons in the last few decades, but honestly – who remembers?

In a burst of synchronicity, I will use those envelopes (okay, a few of those envelopes – seriously, two hundred and fifty?) to announce to the world my latest screenplay, Postal. Though, in an even more synchronous turn, I'm announcing it here, first. 'Cause I'm a product of the Internet age, and I can't wait for my own virtual reality headset. Facebook in 3D? Awesome.



Here's a fun video of yesterday's storm excitement in New York City. Several folks in the comment section suggest these young men cannot be real New Yorkers as REAL New Yorkers would never show that level of excitement about anything.

There's truth in that.

Back in high school, I was on a harbor ferry when it was hit by a freighter in a dense fog. The boat tipped way over, one side was clearly bashed in and the PA system sounded like very nervous adults in a Charlie Brown special. As far as any of us knew, the boat was going down.

We tramped out on deck and yanked life vests out of their wooden racks. That was fun, 'cause you got break the wooden lath that held the vest in place. Breaking stuff is fun, even for blasé New Yorkers. Then we realized that the outside vests were filthy, and tramped back inside to retrieve nice clean vests from under the seats.
And then... we all stood around holding our vests at dainty arm's length, pretending that nothing exciting was going on.

Sure, the ship might be about to pull a Titanic, but that's no reason to make evident one's distress by actually PUTTING ON THE DAMN VEST.

I haven't lived in New York in some time, but I still have trouble visibly displaying the level of excitement in this video – even when I'd like to. I went to Comic Com and thought the people geeking out over their favorite stars looked like they were having fun. But I just couldn't do it. I am a fan, but I'm a fan who was born and raised in NYC. I scream on the inside.

As for these guys, native New Yorkers or not, they are a perfect example of why writers should write realistic dialogue – but never real dialogue. DUDE!? A tornado is touching down in Brooklyn and that's the best you can do? Well, yeah, in real life, that is about the best anyone manages.


Recessionary spending

I just read a BusinessWeek article about the recent Burger King sale. Guess what? The chain's "razor-like" focus on their favorite male 18-34 demographic has proved disastrous while McDonald's attempt to woo a new market has been a stunning success. What's that new market... ?


Apparently, women make money. And in the current recession, they're doing a better job of it than young men. Ouch.

Hollywood, I hope you are paying attention. McDonald's didn't just throw out a couple of poorly-prepared options to keep the ladies happy. The company reworked the menu, the marketing and the restaurant decor to the point where I am proud to tote my coffee around, in public, in a McDonald's cup. And why not – McCafĂ© coffee is pretty damn good. It sure would be nice to want to watch a recent movie as much as I currently want a Mickey D snack wrap and fruit smoothie.

Of course, the McDonald's market – even the new, money-making McDonald's market – just isn't sexy. Anyone coming to Hollywood in search of Entourage-style sex, drugs and more sex and drugs probably isn't too interested in appealing to such a market. Though at the moment, I bet there's LOTS more fun to be had at McDonald's franchisee conventions than at any such Burger King get-togethers. Scary thought for the future, huh?

Profitability. It's the new sexy.


Please nobody tell James Cameron

The waitress handed Precious Nephew a 3-D puzzle toy. We put together the puzzle and Precious gazed at it, perplexed. "Where are the glasses?" he asked. "How can it be 3-D if there are no glasses?" Uh... crap.

I am not ideologically opposed to 3-D movies. In general, I am in favor of the March of Progress and all that. My sister recently found a 1950 shelter magazine that breathlessly suggested housekeepers could enjoy unexpected benefits from modern, office machines like... staplers. I have a stapler – and a 3-hole punch, tape dispenser and copy machine – in every room of my house in which I am likely to encounter paper. Though in a few years, the use of paper could mark me as old fashioned all by itself.

I like synced sound and color movies, too. My problem with 3-D movies is selfish. I am one of the 2-12% of the population who just doesn't see them in anything resembling 3-D. This makes me the annoying wet blanket on movie night. And for that, I hold Mr. Cameron personally responsible.

Of course, my insistence on good 'ole 2-D makes me a pleasantly cheap date. Though as an adult who buys my own tickets, that's not such a great argument.