Replacing “Ands” with “Buts” or “Therefores”

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In the short documentary The Making of South Park: 6 Days to Air, writer and co-creator of South Park, Trey Parker, discussed the process with which he weekly fits an overabundance of story and gag into a 22-minute television show. His methodology is pertinent to all forms of storytelling:

I’m pretty scared right now, ’cause I’m up to twenty-eight pages, and I still have one, two, three, four, five scenes still to write and each scene is about a minute long, usually. So this is going to end being about a forty-page script, I think. … [So we need to] start taking scenes that are there and figuring out, okay, how can we make this same thing happen in half the time and rewrite it.

[I call it] the rule of replacing “ands” with either “buts” or “therefores.” And so it’s always like: This happens and then this happens and then this happens. Whenever I can go back in the writing and change that to: This happens, therefore this happens, but this happened; whenever you can replace your “ands” with “buts” or “therefores,” it makes for better writing.

Say what you will about the crass, profane, and eclectic South Park — because I’m about to: It is the best satire since Alexander Pope. And for them to produce the wit, stories, and music they do within a week is a testament to both an amalgamation of creative talent and a grinding, determined editorial drive.

On Wednesday, Perpetual Murray shared a brilliant editing technique from Amina Gautier (see “Kill Those Trees!”). Gatier prints multiple copies of her manuscripts and with each copy edits a specific element of style or craft. Count me among those who will now have a printed copy set aside for the most unpronounceable rule, the Rule of Replacing “Ands” with “Buts” or “Therefores.”

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