When Hollywood readers encounter overly long action narratives they tire, decide the writer really
doesn't know what he's doing, and skim the rest of the script. To keep them reading . .
- Use the active form of the verb wherever possible, dispensing with the "ing" progressive forms
(EXAMPLES: "He is dancing." becomes "He dances." "She is shouting." becomes "She shouts.")
- Replace the verb "to be" wherever possible with an active verb, or simply eliminate it.
(EXAMPLES: "She is in uniform." becomes "In uniform, she . ." "It is dark outside." becomes
- Make all action immediate, eliminate "suddenly", "then", "begins to", "starts to"; just make
the action happen without any sort of temporal qualifier.
(EXAMPLES: "Suddenly, he runs off." becomes "He runs off." "She starts to climb." becomes "She
- Use highly descriptive verbs that eliminate the need for extra words.
(EXAMPLES: "He pushes the Man aside and takes the tiller in his hand." becomes "He commandeers
boat." "She walks sexily, showing off her curves as she goes." becomes "She sashays.")
- Describe only what can be seen on screen.
- Avoid character thoughts and 'novelization'.
- Put the action into the dialogue instead of the narrative--not the parentheticals, but in what
the characters say.
Keep action narrative passages to four lines or less wherever possible. See Word Use for more related pointers.
A useful trick to keep those readers who skim only dialogue in the action: have your characters do
things that extend from what they are saying. In other words, make us see what they are doing by
what they are saying. This greatly helps with staged readings, too.