Last week, I ranted about various reasons why a script may not survive market.

One of of the biggest challenges a screenwriter faces is overwriting. It’s a common occurrence; ye gods, my first screenplay? Stinky. Overwritten to excess. Filled with pages and pages of poetic, descriptive text, it could only be eclipsed by Wilde’s two-page description of the roses in Dorian Gray’s rug. Only I wasn’t Wilde. Not yet.

I thought that what I was doing was correct, because, you see, I interpreted that as “visual storytelling.”

I could not have been more wrong.

So… last week I blogged about it, and lo! and behold, between comments and my inbox, I seemed to have pissed some writers off. Business as usual.

Rather than enter more comments, and risk sounding snarky, I thought I’d address the issue head on.

When I blogged about overwriting, I was talking about TMI. Minutiae, crammed into each and every line of action. I was not talking about image systems, visual metaphors, etc. I’m a firm believer in image systems, and eye-popping visuals are what can set your script apart from the rest. If it is crucial to the story that Nancy wear a hot pink D&G evening gown with a jeweled trim and matching hot pink fingernails and a brazilian-waxed-bedazzled-va-jay-jay, then by all means, include this data (although if I’m reading it, I’ll probably throw up on your pages. Sorry about that).

But – if it is not crucial, if this is just how you *see* Nancy, then do yourself and the world a favor – edit it out.

“What? Edit out the glory of Nancy’s va-jay-jay adorned with peacock blue rhinestones? Preposterous!” you cry.

And I respond, “Yep. Cut it out. All of it.”


Because your story just came to a screeching halt.

See, lines of action should be pointed, distilled bursts of what you, the writer, see on screen.

They should also serve

to draw


reader’s eyes


to the bottom

of each

and every


If you are filling your lines of action with trivia, your script will be, well, trivial.

And, as screenwriting is one of the most difficult literary forms to master, why on earth would you want your script to be seen as trivial? Trivial don’t sell.

Let’s play “Edit the Action” (you’re more than welcome to write your own edits in the Comments section)


HRH steps out of her carriage, carrying three recyclable bags, one from Trader Joe’s and two from Whole Paycheck. She walks up eight stair steps and enters her condo complex. Her heels clack as she walks to her door. She notices that her neighbor has planted posies. The posies are pink and purple and yellow, just like the underwear that she is wearing underneath her Lucky jeans that she got on clearance at Macy’s. She fumbles for her keys in her Versace knock-off purse. One of her fingernails is chipped. She opens the door and sets two of the bags on one counter, and the third next to the sink. She opens the bags and pulls out organic chicken breasts, two pieces of salmon, one bottle of olive oil, some mushrooms, toilet paper, two lavender-scented candles, two bags of haricot verts, a package of sweet potatoes and some toasted almonds tossed in salt and rosemary.

She opens the stainless-steel refrigerator and looks in. She moves the package of strawberries to another shelf, and moves some water bottles around. Then, she puts the mushrooms, and the haricot verts in the stainless-steel refrigerator.

She opens the stainless-steel freezer and puts the organic chicken breasts and the two pieces of salmon inside it. She closes the door.


That, dear ladies and lords, is what I mean by overwriting.

My edit:


HRH gets out of her car.

She picks up her groceries and walks to her door.


She puts the groceries away.

Now, go write.

HRH – Princess Scribe

What I am reading: I’m not. Prepping a script for market.

What I am watching: My life is strange. Believe it or not, I have to watch MI 3. Afterwards, I’ll treat myself to MARIE ANTOINETTE.

A Royal Shout-Out: Well, more promo. Once again, I invite you to join me and other panelists at the International Family Film Festival’s Sunday screenwriting panel, Raleigh Studios, 12 to 2 p.m. Hope to see you there!

About princessscribe

Screenwriter. Creator of things. I love tacos. "Midlife on Fire" Volumes 1 & 2 now available at
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5 Responses to Action!

  1. HRH steps out of her carriage, carrying three bags.

    She walks up the staircase, and into her condo.

    I literally GAK’ed a little after I got to this point in the original. I see you’ve added a slug, I don’t know what that was, however, probably something like:


    would work, depending on factors I don’t know about, as I didn’t read the rest of the original….


  2. Pingback: Best o/t Web 20 Mar | The Story Department

  3. Johnf697 says:

    Wonderful site. Plenty of useful info here. I’m sending it to a few pals ans additionally sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you to your sweat! ececkagfdedg


    • Thank you so much! I overwrite my first draft… I give myself permission to do so, but after I indulge myself, it’s time to get to business and cut that stuff out. 😉


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