Sentence fragments in screenwriting: bending the rules of grammar

screenplay sentence fragmentsAny student of English language is, at some point, taught that sentence fragments should be avoided. A sentence needs a verb, or a verb needs a subject, and the lack of one or the other means the sentence makes no sense. But take a look at any half-competent screenplay and you’ll find it full of clipped sentences, which still make sense. This is because screenwriting is about communicating a plan of action, a blueprint, not a full-bodied description or a fortress of flawless grammar. Grammar does matter, but the English language is flexible – the question you have to ask is when is it okay to bend the rules? Continue reading

What Kurt Vonnegut taught me about writing dialogue

Kurt Vonnegut and writing dialogue.

When I first started reading the works of Kurt Vonnegut, his style was a revelation to me. His novels tackle complex ideas, but the prose is simple and clear, the stories often very short. For example, Slaughterhouse-5 is a stark contrast to the complexity of Catch-22, despite similar themes, but is just as effective (hence both are included in my recommended reading list). One thing stood out for me more than anything in the way Vonnegut wrote, a very simple dialogue technique. The response: “Um.” Continue reading