Speaking of Action Lines I thought I should bring up an example from the script “The King’s Speech” by David Seidler which I consider to be marvelous writing.
“A BBC NEWS READER, in a tuxedo with carnation boutonniere, is
gargling while a TECHNICIAN holds a porcelain bowl and a
towel at the ready. The man in the tuxedo expectorates
discreetly into the bowl, wipes his mouth fastidiously, and
signals to ANOTHER TECHNICIAN who produces an atomizer. The
Reader opens his mouth, squeezes the rubber bulb, and sprays
his inner throat. Now, he’s ready.”
First of all, consider the whole image this description gives:
He is in tuxedo though he will be on the radio.
There is a ceremony going on.
This is fancy and snobby.
In short, there is this strive for perfection and class. You are expected to meet certain criteria to be here and do what this man is doing. David Seidler sets the environment and the demands for the movie in one single scene. Note also, that this news reader is not a main character. It is not even a character reappearing in the movie.
Then regard the choice of words.
“Carnation boutonniere”. How easy would it not have been to write “pink flower in the buttonhole” instead? But with the help of the sophisticated selection of words, David Seidler helps the reader to paint the picture and the difference between “pink flower in the buttonhole” and “carnation boutonniere”.
“Expectorates” instead of “spits” is also an example of this. Anyone can “spit”, but “expectorate”. . . That is a man of class.
Adding the little detail that the bowl is of porcelain, adds to the picture. Just any bowl could have ruined the impression intended. This had to be a porcelain bowl.
Finally consider the camera directions, so discreetly added: “The Reader opens his mouth, squeezes the rubber bulb, and sprays his inner throat.” It does not say “He sprays into his mouth”. It expressively says we should see him opens his mouth, we should see him squeeze the bulb and we should follow the drops from the spray into his mouth and to the throat.
Of course this serves the accentuation of an ongoing ceremony and the need for perfection.
I’m full of admiration in his way to set the mood and the environment so delicately within such limited amount of words.
Image belongs to Imdb.com