Perfunctory Moments

According to Miriam-Webster, the word perfunctory is-

Just kidding. I would never subject you to the moist handshake of essay openers. But while we’re on the subject, now is a good time to talk about your throw-away moments. The moments you have to get through the show the big plot point you can’t wait to write.

Take a woman about to discover a body. Or a killer. Whatever. How do you make the start of the scene stand out? To you, she may just be PERSON ABOUT TO DISCOVER BODY (housewife, 40s). To a good writer, she’s a woman in the middle of a day. Good day? Bad? Maybe she’s soaked from the rain. Maybe the paper bag of groceries is so wet it breaks. Perhaps a PEAR rolls to the front door of her apartment where the shadow of TWO FEET are visible under the door…

In some scripts the writer is so excited to drop a body (or discover one) the scene leading up to that moment could’ve been written by a computer program. I’m not even talking about a good computer program. A $4.99 in Fry’s discount bin, cutting edge of 1997 kind of program.

When your script is finished, go back to your big reveals – especially those after throw-away moments – and ask yourself if you really need to throw those moments away.

Every scene we read is time we give to your script. Throw-away moments let us know if you value our time as much as you value your own.

Source: Reader’s Lament: Perfunctory Moments

This post comes from an abandoned blog from 2013. I like this post. The idea of all the little moments in our day and how even the big events have little moments before, during and after.

How would you write the scene with the woman who discovers a dead body? What was her day like up to then, what mood was she in and how is it she (in particular) was in that right place and right time to find the body? She may not be the lead character in a story, just some woman written about and then not heard from again.

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