I was reading an old Entertainment Weekly recently and came across an article on David Zucker, the comic brain behind "Airplane!", the "Naked Gun" films, and now "Scary Movie 4." It was an interesting and well-written article, as indeed most of EW's are, but my favorite part was a sidebar on Mr. Zucker's personal filmmaking lingo -- for instance, "floocher dialogue" is "Filler lines recited by foreground characters to enable the audience to focus on a background joke."
I love this sort of stuff, partly because vocabulary like this is such a fascinating little piece of insight into someone's world, and partly because I can always find something useful in it for myself (here I am TOTALLY stealing "transplant and whack" and "schmuck bait" from Mr. Zucker). A few terms of my own:
- "thunk-thunk": describes any picture-book manuscript that gives us the problem (thunk) and then the solution (thunk) with no action between to show (not tell) how the character arrived at the solution.
- "mirror moment": the moment in the first two chapters of a novel where the main character catches sight of himself or herself in a dark glass or mirror and catalogues his appearance for the reader's benefit. This isn't intrinsically bad, but it is a little cliched; I was browsing the paperback of The Da Vinci Code the other day and was amused to see on page two of the text: "The past year had taken a heavy toll on him, but he didn't appreciate seeing the proof in the mirror. His usually sharp blue eyes looked hazy and drawn tonight. A dark stubble was shrouding his strong jaw . . ."
- "tater tot moment": a moment that shows the main character's emotional vulnerability and connects the reader with the character; adapted from the scene in Millicent Min, Girl Genius, where Digger throws tater tots at Millicent
- "killing your babies": Many writers know this term, where you have to cut writing you love from a larger work because it's not working within the larger work, and eyes on the prize, the goal is to make the larger work work. Best line on this ever: My friend Katy once sent me a paper to edit with the words, "You have to make like Herod on the Holy Innocents on this thing."
If you have other useful terms for writing, feel free to leave them in the comments. And ten points to the first person to identify the author of the title alluded to in the headline.