06 October 2012

Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits

Many of you recognize what the title's all about - they're George Carlin's "Seven dirty words", a classic stand-up routine that explored all that could not be said and/or done on television. As a screenwriter, using colorful language is often tempting ... and just as often the sign of an amateur.

Authentically uses the word "Fuck"
300 times ... we don't mind!
First off, if you don't know George Carlin and his wealth of stand-up brilliance, start with the below clip and then click your way through every Carlin clip on YouTube. He was one of the smartest funny men ever and it'll be worth your time, trust me!

Back to colorful language, cursing ... you've seen it in scripts, you've seen it in movies - characters cursing to the point where it drowns out what a scene might possibly have been about. Don't get me wrong, I love bad language and, done well, it'll deliver classic movie moments. On that note, how could I not share the lovely mix of one hundred classic movie insults, right!? Check out the clip below.

Okay then - if you've spent ten minutes of your life watching the above insults ... think about them. More often than not there not crude, they're smart - you can tell that a screenwriter actually spent quality time coming up with original lines!

All I'm saying is, be cautious around colorful language. Using the word "Fuck" and its many friends is always tempting - but they can lead your script astray. Know your story, know your characters, find their voices - and then, if you stay true to your characters and what they would and would not say - you'll probably find that you can cut most of the colorful language that made it into your first draft.

Give it a try and try and think about it in the context of the scene and in the context of the actor actually speaking those words. If you give them colorful language, emphasis will be on them - it's the easy way to go, the cheap way, actually - and it can suck the life blood out of your dialogue. If you remove the bad language but keep everything else, the actor will bring all his passion to those words, he will build his anger, hatred, disappointment, frustration, whatever into what's on the page. Try it and you'll find your words have just become more powerful.

In your script you have to use every trick in the book to help the reader - one thing a reader wants is clarity. Just as you shouldn't confuse the reader with a ton of characters, you also shouldn't confuse him with different characters using interchangeable speech patterns. When you give colorful language to various of your characters - they can easily end up sounding the same.

Long story long, be careful with colorful language - done right, it enhances your script and your character(s). Done wrong, it quickly leaves the reader bored and with the realization that the writer used that colorful language to spice things up - because he trusted neither story, nor character, nor dialogue. Remember, just because something's authentic, i.e. as in real life - doesn't necessarily make it the best dramatic choice. 





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