Bad Writing Part Three Zillion: On The Nose

The screenwriter can and should avoid giving direction to the actors.  You write the story; let the actors create the characters.


One way to do avoid giving direction to actors,  while still getting the story across,  is to write vague actions.

Example Version 1



Do you like the idea?


Abby looks at the old man.

Yes…Yes, i do.





Example Version 2

Do you like the idea?

Abby stares at the old man with a shocked look on her face. Magnolia follows her gaze, then looks at Abby with a motherly expression. She taps her fingers on the table. Abby hesitates, chewing on her middle fingernail on her right hand.



Magnolia glares at Abby, raising her eyebrows. Abby twitches her nose and looks out of the corner of her eye without moving her head. She sighs heavily, as if the weight of the world was on her shoulders.

ABBY, con’t.
Yes, I do.



Which one is more playable?  Which one gives more creative possibilities to the actors, so they can expand and deepen the meaning of the scene?


The first version leaves more to the actors, yet does not diminish the screenwriter’s control of the story.  Why does the playwright have to tell them what their subtext should be by putting in all that staring and twitching? It’s insulting to the actors. It is clear what their relationship is because in the script Abby works for Magnolia, Magnolia blames Abby for the office fuckups, Magnolia tells Abby how to run her life, they chase the lost wolf together…whatever.

Let go of the control-freak inside you and let the actors make the dialogue SING!

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