Thursday, November 18, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: #13 WGA Script of All Time - The Graduate (1967)

[Quick Summary: Ben, a recent college grad, is seduced into an affair with Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's business partner.  Then Ben falls for Elaine Robinson, the daughter, & all hell breaks loose.]

This is a sublime read.  SUBLIME, do you hear me? SUBLIME.

It's reads fast.  It clutches your gut. 

The antagonist is really threatening.  The protagonist is put through the wringer.

But the #1 thing worth stealing is its clarity.

CLAR-I-TY = You know exactly what the writer means but it hasn't lost momentum.

New writers often mistake "explicitly clear" for "clarity."  They are not the same.

Example of clarity:

ex. Ben arrives at the Robinson house to find Elaine. He moves through various rooms of the house, sharply interrogates Mrs. Robinson, then dashes for his car.  There are 11 locations in 2 pages, yet I know exactly where he is & why. 

Example of what a new writer would do:

ex. Ben arrives at the Robinson house. Anguished, he climbs the fence.  [There's no reason to describe how he climbed the fence.]

Creak goes the back door. [I do not need sound effects here. He's lost Elaine & is in a rush.  Don't slow me down.] 

He tiptoes through the kitchen. [Tiptoe here is useless.  He's in a RUSH, right?]

He confronts Mrs. Robinson & sweats as she calls the police.  [Dialogue should carry the tension here.  You heard me right.  The climax is the one place great dialogue will make the difference.]

He leaves. [Uh, where is he going?]

Ok, this is a bit of exaggeration, but the point is that new writers often accentuate the wrong thing.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: If you read the Graduate, you'll see how to keep it crisp, clear & moving (clarity) WITHOUT bogging it down.

The Graduate (1967)
by Buck Henry

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