Stupid Screenwriting Shit
It still often amazes me that the word “writer” appears alongside “screen.” One of the countless ironies of our world for me. Screenwriters are not often first-hand writers, though some are, I grant you. Some are playwrights who do screenwriting. Some are novelists who have adapted their own novels.
Many, though, have no previous writing experience–they just want to write movies–and, NO, there is nothing at all wrong with that. This article being a rant, it would be nice, though, if the craft were respected to the extent that puny grade-school things like grammar and spelling were followed more assiduously.
The lure of screenwriting for the non-English-majors of the world I think can partly be attributed to the looser requirements of screenplays of having to be perfectly grammatically correct. We routinely get away with incomplete sentences and run-ons in our scripts because the language above all is meant to be “visual.” We want to sustain our reader’s interest for the entire “running time” of our script. Pesky periods impede that flow, as do conjunctions and overly long sentences. So we go for shorter–something that be read and digested immediately.
This is not to say that there are no rules in screenwriting. Screenwriting has many rules, but these are tacit rules, under the guise that there are no rules, only guidelines, which is of course absolute, grade-A horseshit. Film schools and self-appointed gurus attempt to cash in on these guarded secrets by offering the keys to the Kingdom (of successful screenwriting) to wannabes: “Knowing these rules will allow you to break into screenwriting!”
Don’t believe it.
Clarity, however, remains one of our essential dictates as screenwriters; we are often weeding our scripts of distracting elements. Add this to your pesticide solution, because many readers will be Nazis about your grammar and spelling–especially your spelling. Poor, inattentive spelling leads to clarity issues and clarity issues take readers out of scripts. Plus, they just piss off readers, who probably are English majors. All they need is one reason to pass on your script and using a homophone for the word you really mean could be the deciding, defeating blow to your otherwise brilliant, heartfelt narrative.
The fact is the intense structural and formatting requirements of a screenplay sort of predict that proper grammar and spelling will go out the window at some point, and “peak,” yet another word, is another such example of this.
Peek vs. Peak
“Peak,” of course, means the highest-most point of something: the very top. “Peek,” on the other hand, broadly means to glimpse something–but now peak has decided to move in on peek’s action.
Like all writing, screenwriting reflects our current world and I dare say in our current world the word “peek” is misspelled by many. This is not supported by anything other than what I have read; your experience may be altogether different, but I rarely see people write “peek” when they mean “peek.” I often see them write “peak” when they mean “peek.” Also for some reason I don’t really see people writing “peak” when they mean “peak.” It is strange how certain words fall into the gutter of human awareness. It is as if peek has been orphaned by the language, as though peak at one point stepped forward and said “I’LL do peek’s job! Fuck peek!”
At any rate, this is my gentle, yet frustrated reminder to pay attention to word choice. As it stands, “peak” still means “peak” and “peek” still means “peek.” Use accordingly or risk being cast into the slush heap.
Now, go and write your head off.