Thanks for leaving questions in the last post, much appreciated. I'll get to them one-by-one (there were a couple handled directly in the comments section, if anyone wants to check it out) but I thought I'd start with the music question, from JJ: "What about using music in scripts? Generally, we're advised against it but I've seen plenty who do it, so what's the good & bad ways...?"
Some would say that it’s best to avoid having musical references in a spec script. This is because of clearance issues (from the music publisher and the author) and whether or not they’ll allow their song or clip to be used. This is more to do with the film’s actual soundtrack than it is about using songs for a specific scene. A lot of scripts will try to impose their own soundtrack into the narrative where they will namecheck and reference twelve to fifteen songs throughout the story. Some writers/producers even go as far as to submit a CD with the accompanying songs with a ‘note to the reader’ to press ‘play’ at certain points in the story. Hate that. Hate it. The CD is never played, I can assure you.
However, it’s perfectly acceptable to reference a song for a particular scene, as long as it’s relevant to the character or the story. For example, say if your character had to sing a karaoke song in a key scene, you'd want to mention the song, right? And the song would no doubt be relevant to whatever the character is going through (e.g. he gets to sing 'I Can't Live if Living is Without You' after he's just been dumped). It's all about context, and for a specific reference like this in the story, you'll probably get away with it. However, if the script goes into production but you can’t get clearance to use the song, then you have to use a different number.
Occasionally, writers will ‘set the mood’ by referring to a certain type of music, usually in a bar scene, something like: “John Smith enters the bar. It’s a dingy place. Metallica, or someone similar, pounds out from the jukebox.” It gives the reader a general vibe about the scene without giving the production manager and music supervisor a headache about what track to lay down.
Music selection is generally someone else’s department (especially for TV) but it’s fine for scenes to mention which song is blasting from the car stereo, but remember only if the lyrics/mood are important to the character/story. If you don’t need to be specific about a song or band, then just mention what type of music is blasting from the stereo: “Cheesy pop music blares from the radio”. “The deep bass of a cool R&B number pulses through the car”. Whatever.
So, yes, it’s okay to reference songs and lyrics, but don’t go overboard. Once or twice is usually enough and/or acceptable. Anything more and you’re suggesting a soundtrack, which may not be appropriate or feasible for the script's production.
Next up... personal writing revelations! Oo-er.