Sunday, December 03, 2006

"LARGE"--and Not in Charge

Everyone, right now: stop using the word "large."

You think I'm joking, right? Jim's lost it. Oh, nay, gentle readers. Allow me to explain.

"Large" is a lazy adjective. It's also often vague, generally unnecessary and perhaps even meaningless. When I read a script--and I read lots of 'em--I almost always see way too many LARGES--sometimes a dozen of 'em on the same page. And the sad part is most writers never even realize what they're doing.

Interestingly, "small" is not nearly as over- or thoughtlessly used as "large"--but "young" is. Let me whip out a few recent examples.

1) Peter opens up a large can of coffee.

Okay, do we really need the word LARGE here? How many sizes of coffee cans are there? I think the writer just threw a "large" in there because he was conditioned to use an adjective, so he used the first one he thought of. How about "Peter opens a can of coffee"?

2) Marge storms into the large Wal-Mart.

INT. WAL-MART - CONTINUOUS

She approaches a large CLERK (30s).


Okay, a LARGE Wal-Mart? I know, I know, they have regular Wal-Marts and Supercenters, but if it's a Supercenter, say so. Why use large? Isn't "Wal-Mart" enough? We all draw an immediate mental picture that the word "large" fails to enhance.

I'm willing to let "large CLERK" slide, since that's a fair description--but it is a bit boring. Can't we think of a less lazy way to describe him? How about "obese with thick glasses and a combover"?

3) Inside stand THREE YOUNG GIRLS.

Too vague. What does this mean? Are we talking toddlers? Teenagers? twenty-somethings? "Young Girls" could apply to any of these groups. It tells us nothing. Thank God it wasn't "THREE LARGE YOUNG GIRLS"!

When you're writing, analyze your adjectives carefully. If an artist carelessly slops on a color he hasn't considered thoughtfully, it will detract from his overall painting. Same thing with your adjectives. Train yourself not to fall back on tired, vague adjectives like LARGE. Choose a better adjective, and watch your pages come alive!

--Jim Cirile

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

What about useless VERBS that don't convey character or emotion - like LOOK and WALK? A wife who's just learned that her husband's just cheated on her doesn't LOOK at him as he WALKS away: she GLARES at him as he SKULKS away. A hockey player doesn't LOOK at the referee after he's called a penalty on him: he ROLLS HIS EYES and yells, "What the fuck?". An elderly person doesn't WALK down the grocery isle: they SHUFFLE down the grocery isle. A horny teenage boy doesn't LOOK at the gorgeous girl in tight jeans and t-shirt as she WALKS by the bus stop: he WINKS at her, puffs out his chest and sucks in his beer belly as she STRUTS by: or, maybe, if they're both shy, he PEERS DOWN when she GLANCES at him because he's intimidated by her beauty and she has a lack of self-esteem. Whatever. The point is, offer words that give SOME indication of character and emotion; not empty words like LOOK or WALK.

Jim Cirile said...

Hey, that's great, anonymous! Same point: lazy writing kills more scripts than lazy creative execs, I'll bet.