How Are Scene Descriptions Written? Let the Coen Brothers Teach You
Two of the best writers today are brothers, the Coens, so what can we learn from emulating the way they write scene descriptions?
The Coen brothers are some of my favorite filmmakers. They have a distinct style on the page and their movies are all memorable and bold. They take a lot of chances in storytelling and not all of them work out.
Still, I find them to be fearless, genius, and worthy of copying as you develop your own voice—especially when it comes to writing scene descriptions.
In this video from Revising the Script, we get to dig into how the Coens do it in their own screenplays. Check it out below and let's talk after the jump.
Learn Scene Descriptions from the Coen Brothers
I think THE BEST way to learn to write scene descriptions and action is to watch a scene from your favorite movie and then write what you see. Then look at how your favorite writers described what happened and see where you match.
Not only will this exercise get you thinking cinematically and visually, but it shows you how professionals do what you want to do for a living.
In the video you watched, that's exactly what the author does—recreates the opening scene of The Big Lebowski.
His words on the left, the Coens' on the right.
If you're an avid reader of the site, you know I am a huge fan of the pared-down version of action writing. There's no need to editorialize or to be sophomoric in your scene descriptions.
You're writing a movie, not a novel. That means you want the words to describe a scene people see later, not one the audience reads.
The Coens give you just enough to understand what's happening. They reveal character through their actions. The Dude is a simple man in need of some milk. We don't wax poetic about his philosophies or political leanings.
Not only does that leave room for the performer to bring something to the character, but we get to let them live in our own imaginations. We can see just enough to spark the scene in our own heads.
Overbearing writing makes reading a screenplay a slog.
So the next time you sit to write, think about how the Coens do it.
Give us just enough to absorb us into the story.
We can't wait to see what you come up with next!
What's next? Watch: Here's How to End a Movie, Coen Brothers Style...
Let's see how the endings of the Coen brothers' films both subvert and satisfy the traditional requirements of narrative.