Theory of Nothing? A Review of The Theory of Everything
January 7, 2015
Plot vs. Story
July 29, 2014
Show, Don't Tell - Goal Setting Edition
June 27, 2018
Screenwriting Tips: Show, Don't Ask.
This one gets me every time. Whenever I hear a character ask "what?" I feel a compulsion to mock it. Unfortunately for my viewing companions, my insults are not always silent.
It all stems from an episode of the TV show Lost. I counted the characters ask "What?" seventeen times -- in a single episode. Now, I might be exaggerating. It could have been sixteen. Don't believe me? Check out the video below. It's torturous.
Nevertheless, two things happened as a result.
1) I realized how lazy that bit of dialog is. Mockably so.
2) Not surprisingly, I never watched another episode of Lost.
Now a third thing has happened. I'm sharing a twist on a classic bit of advice: Show, don't ask.
When a character asks "What?" it usually means they are either surprised by what was just said, or didn't hear it properly. It's like hitting the pause button. It's a cheep time filler.
If you, the writer, want to have a character express shock, confusion, or disbelief, then show it. Or at the very least, find a more clever way to express it than a cringe inducing monosyllabic question. I implore you.
If you choose to have a character not understand what was just said, have a damn good reason to repeat yourself. Don't forget one of the cardinal rules: don't be boring.
Go back through your script. Seek out and destroy any "What?" you find. Writing is rewriting!
And if you want a more palatable supercut from other movies, click here.