Some quotes on writing

I find that the sentences are more ornate and elaborate in nonfiction because you don’t have dialogue to get you on your way. Nonfiction has its ruffles and flourishes, clauses and semicolons. I never use a semicolon in fiction. – John Gregory Dunne, Paris Review interview

I try now to write every script as if I would have to direct it. I do not leave vagaries of position or gesture. I do not have vagaries about the set. I try to specify who the characters are. It’s a blueprint. I will always give visual clues. I’m not talking about the props only, but a visual motif. People sitting or standing. I will write those things in. Where they are in the room, I write that in the script. You don’t have to do that, and I used to not write that. Betty has a seat in the kitchen. That’s one of my things. Your mom has a place where she sits, if she sits. Directing has made me not write impossible crap like somebody “plops into a chair” or “turns beet red” or “rolls their eyes.” That means that there’s no cheating in the stage directions—“He’s never felt this way before.” “He reminds her of her father.” You can’t write how someone feels, you have to show it in the scene. – Matthew Weiner, Paris Review interview

To make films that are as open to ­interpretation as my last few is a hard trick to pull off. It would be much ­easier providing all the answers. That’s the essence of bad mysteries—­someone is marked out as the culprit, then the plot twists, and it turns out that it’s ­actually someone else. As a viewer, that leaves you angry, because you feel like you’ve been lied to. And that is terrible. – Michael Haneke, Paris Review interview


I was talking once with a writer who had worked at Columbia who showed me a script that had just been read by Samuel Briskin, one of the big men at that studio. I looked at the script. On every page, there was at the bottom just one word: improve.


Like The New Yorker editor Harold Ross’s imperative “make better.”


That would be one word too many for these producers. Just improve.

Paris Review interview