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04/06/2002 - Tekkity-Tech

A while back I was talking to another development type who told me about reading scripts for one of the current STAR TREK shows. He said that in the earliest draft of the scripts one of the lines might read like: ENSIGN TED: "Captain, you may be able to reverse the gravitational flow of the outer planetary core, but what would happen when the (Tekkity-tech) causes the third moon to reverse orbit?"

"Tekkity-tech" means that chewy scientific (or pseudo-scientific) language that a writer must seek out to give their script that ring of accuracy. It can also mean legalese, medical terms, phrases you might hear in the NASA lunchroom; any grounded terminology that makes your characters sound and seem realistic. Things the characters say on the X-FILES (of old), E.R., STAR TREK, etc. The jibber-jabber that the actors slave to pronounce correctly.

Written cleverly, tekkity-tech plot twists can save the day even when you're twisting logic backwards. Tech talk is important, for when you employ it well, the readers of your script actually feel smarter, even if they're not sure they understand what they just read. You know how it works. A clever writer uses an obscure word but in such a way that the word is somewhat defined within the sentence.

A good reason to take care in researching good tech talk is that it appeals to the admittedly masculine sensibilities of readers. Personally I respond less to chick-flick stuff and more to masculine plots, but everyone likes a story that respects the mechanical, factual world, so don't gloss over your technical nouns.

You don't always have to strain to employ the ultra-tech employed in true genre, but the point is not to skimp and rely too much on lay terms when perfectly good jargon exists. For good examples, pick up a Bruce Sterling novel. ANY Bruce Sterling novel. Just keep the dictionary nearby, unless you use words like "prehensile" on a regular basis.

Find out the exact terms for the scenes you wish to depict and then find the right synonym. These flourishes can elevate the intelligence in your work, as well as subtly adjust the tone. Don't be afraid to be high-falutin' with your four-dollar words. Be a geek; show off. Screenplays are where you're supposed to let it rip.


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