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07/28/2001 - Edit Yourself
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Teleplay Tips & Tricks

Edit Yourself

One of the most difficult tasks for any writer, new or old, is editing. In TV and films, the ability to edit your teleplay or screenplay is crucial. That's because part of the magic of movies is that they expand time.

By that I mean that scenes invariably seem to have taken longer to play than they really did-even well-written scenes. In television, two minutes of talk usually feels to the viewer like ten. And a couple of minutes of action can seem like an entire military battle.

In order to make this work for you instead of against you, the writer must learn to delete any word or sequence that is not absolutely necessary. Speeches that do not simultaneously reveal character and attitude and also forward the story should be the first things to go. Extra words in speeches, such as "I think that maybe we can..." should be changed to, "We can...," with the writer relying on the actor and the situation to supply the missing "personality."

One of the ways I know I'm reading a really good script is that there's a slight sensation of something missing. Not a lot, just the little extra oomph that, say, a novel would have. If you get that feeling when you read over what you've written, don't despair. Instead, be joyful. It means you've left something for the production to supply!

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