“Sometimes, You Have to Kill Your Babies”

Quote attribution varies. It was something I heard from a screenwriting instructor, that she’d heard from someone else, etc. We’re not discussing anything contentious or abhorrent here; this is about writing.

Editing is hard work. Words can sparkle on the page, but somehow, when they come out of the mouth of a human being, they lose their fizz. It’s not the fault of the human being, just that the word wasn’t meant to be three-dimensional.

Sometimes words aren’t meant to be four-dimensional either. That is, according to Euclidian space, words take up too much time. When you’re working in a specified time limit, you need to be as lean and clear as possible. There’s no room for extra words — run too long, and they’ll turn on the lights and shut off your show!

Some of my favorite sections of text have had to be removed to maintain our running time of 45 minutes. Here are a few of the “babies” I’ve had to, uh, put to rest:

Publix is simply awesome. Imagine driving to a fluorescent-glazed colossus where you can buy anything! Then you pack it all up in your car and drive home. Where I live, you walk to a supermarket as big as this bungalow, where there’s a great selection of gourmet olives and vegan paté but week-old produce. Then you carry everything back home on foot, so you only buy enough food for 3 days, but it costs as much as if you shopped for a family of 12.

Time to check the radar! Last night, The Weather Channel explained “spaghetti forecasts.” Spaghetti! (Si, mi piace spaghetti!) They spindle out in various colors with 3-4 letter codes. These codes stand for words like “barometric” and stuff. I’d figured they were names of agencies making predictions, maybe even making books on where the storm would land. But, no, it’s nothing like that.

And then there’s this section, my very favorite of all. If I had five extra minutes, I’d put this right back into the play:

I’ve been thinking a lot about disasters lately. Acts of God. I don’t know exactly what they are, but I see it written on lots of insurance forms. Maybe a rain of toads? Not entirely sure where to put shark attacks. Natural disaster or man-made? Pretty sure I’m not going to get bitten by a shark if I don’t go into his ocean.

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