12/14/05 - bad writing

In today's excerpt - William Goldman, Oscar winning screenwriter and author of such scripts as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Princess Bride, comments on bad writing—his own bad writing:

"One of the moments that screenwriters can never obliterate from our memories is when we realize that, now and forever, we have written a flop.

"And when I say 'flop,' I am not referring, not even remotely, to a 'succes d'estime', i.e., a film that maybe doesn't make back all its money but has passionate admirers. ... Not an effort that 'falls short,' that 'misses the mark,' that 'runs aground.' Not the 'ill-judged,' or its cousin the mighty struggle that went 'in vain.'

"No, lads, I am talking about the whiff, the stiff, the stinker, the all-out f***ing fiasco.

"I am talking, alas, of my original screenplay The Year of the Comet ...

"What makes this kind of adaptaion complicated is that we have gone through so much failure trying to get (it) to work, we tend to cling to our favorite scenes and sequences when we come to make the movie.  'Oh, no, I can't cut that sequence, it almost killed me to write that.'

"We have forgotten, in other words, Faulkner's great dictum: in writing, you must kill all your darlings."


William Goldman


Which Lie Did I Tell?: More Adventures in the Screen Trade


Vintage Books


Copyright 2000 by William Goldman


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