Looking Glass Language

a word bird reflects on life & language

Archive for the category “Writing”

Billy Wilder’s top 10 screenwriting tips

© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved. Titles: The Apartment Names: Jack Lemmon, Fred MacMurray Characters: Jeff D. Sheldrake Still of Jack Lemmon and Fred MacMurray in The Apartment

J.D. Sheldrake: Ya know, you see a girl a couple of times a week, just for laughs, and right away they think you’re gonna divorce your wife. Now I ask you, is that fair?
C.C. Baxter: No, sir, it’s very unfair… Especially to your wife.

I may soon be delving into the world of scriptwriting as part of my Writing MA. So, as Billy Wilder was the co-writer and director of Some Like it Hot and The Apartment, two of the movies I’d want to have with me if I was ever stranded on a desert island, I thought I’d see if he’d shared any useful tips on the craft. Here are his top tips:

  1. The audience is fickle.
  2. Grab ‘em by the throat and never let ‘em go. Read more…

he can’t spell yet, but he sure can wield an apostrophe…

To Mummy, have a verry verry happy Mother's day, you sansirley, from your gorgers boy I’m not sure what I love most about this Mother’s day card, given to my sister by my nephew:

  • His endearingly intuitive phonetic spelling (“you sansirley from your gorgers boy”. Bless.)
  • The gift-wrapped presents. (What’s in the tall thin parcel? A telescope? A toblerone? I need to know.)
  • The ‘I love you xxx’ pullout, or…
  • The fact that he’s mastered the use of the apostrophe at such a tender age…

Read more…

Wordy Wednesday: naming



What have cute little meerkats and a portly and rather annoying Welsh opera singer got to do with naming choices?

They’ve become stars because Compare the Market and Go Compare chose generic names, making it difficult for the public to distinguish one from the other, or from the dozen or so other price comparison websites out there.

As a result, clever ad agencies had to come up with ‘sticky’ brand assets that would make the companies stand out, and the companies themselves were required to spend millions on TV, billboard, radio and press ads to establish the link with their brands.

Read more…

Apostrophising… (some might say ranting)

apostrophe, great taste on it's way

Oh, the irony…

I hate to be churlish, particularly as this London-based coffee company is doing so many things right, but really, if they’re going to call their company apostrophe, they need to learn how to use that most abused of punctuation marks correctly..

It’s not like they don’t care about this stuff: the name itself predicates an interest in words, and they’re also working hard at building themselves a literary niche.

Read more…

Wordy Wednesday: iconic

Herbert Lom as the Chief Inspector

pic courtesy of http://www.tvweek.com

The overuse of ‘iconic’ has been niggling away at me for a while now, so much so that – much like Chief Inspector Dreyfus after an encounter with Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther – I’m starting to get a bit winky when I hear it. It’s so debased that I think we should ban its use for anything other than Russian religious artefacts for a period of, say, 50 years: that might give it sufficient time to regain its dignity and import.

To see what I mean, pick the odd one out in the following list:

  • The London Underground Map
  • The Spitfire
  • Concord
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Read more…

Elmore Leonard’s writing rules

Elmore Leonard

As you have probably heard, Elmore Leonard, the US crime writer known as the ‘Dickens of Detroit’, died earlier this week at the age of 87.

Leonard started his career writing ads for Chevrolets: on the side he was writing Westerns that he hoped to sell to Hollywood. In The Times this morning, Will Pavia reported Elmore saying that when the market for stories about Apaches and bounty hunters dried up, “I had to switch to crime,” and added that Elmore’s “dialogue was zippy and the characters leapt from the page, frequently into the grateful embrace of Hollywood producers.”

More than 40 of Leonard’s works have been made into tv shows or films, with his film credits including 3.10 to Yuma, Jackie Brown, Get Shorty and Hombre . (Hombre is a great excuse to show a picture of the gorgeous Paul Newman, who was, indeed, the man).

"My momma taught me to remove my hat and my cigar in the presence of a lady. Whatever else I take off depends on how lucky I get."

“My momma taught me to remove my hat and my cigar in the presence of a lady. Whatever else I take off depends on how lucky I get.” Hombre, starring Paul Newman & Diane Cintrillo 

Read more…

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