Look, I’m not saying your core idea sucks, but did you tell anybody about this concept before you wrote it? Maybe somebody who wasn’t a friend or family member?
Don’t tell me in a character’s introduction that they’re ‘fun-loving’, ‘mischievous’ or ‘free-spirited’ if you’re going to make them stand around reciting lifeless dialogue like a lobotomy patient. That’s called lying.
Why is it that writers who seem perfectly capable of using commas in action lines forget to put them in dialogue? Commas are your little friends. Do not forsake them.
Everybody names their protag ‘Jack’ or ‘Zack’. Everybody names their preppy douchebag character ‘Chad’. Try to pick something cool, weird and/or memorable.
If your first spec is a historically accurate period piece about, say, 19th century Venetian circus performers, don’t expect it to sell for money.
(…unless it contains the juiciest acting role ever written.)
You came all this way in your story just so your protagonist could stand around and watch a CG effects light-show at the climax of Act 3? Try harder.
(Why yes, I have seen RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Here’s the thing: it didn’t work that well even for Spielberg.)
Do you really need a splashy title page with images and crazy fonts? Keep it in your pants until at least Page 1.
As an adjunct to yesterday’s tip: I can tell when you’ve cracked open the thesaurus and picked the biggest synonym in an attempt to make your script look educated.
It doesn’t. Old English words are almost always shorter, stronger and more effective.
‘Sotto voce’ and ‘sotto’ in parentheticals, while technically correct, are kind of pompous. ‘Whispers’ is a perfectly good word.
Don’t describe anyone or anything as ‘portly’. This is what people type when they have no freaking idea what their character is supposed to look like.
Don’t have your protagonist’s family members keel over dead in lieu of having an actual Act 2 Dark Point. Random events like this should be the icing on the cake of your protagonist’s misery, not the sum total of it.
There is no such word as ‘motherload’. So stop trying to use it.
There shall be no characters climbing out of bathroom windows to escape bad dates, nor indeed bedroom windows to escape grounding. It’s shit. A gibbon with a typewriter could probably do better.
Don’t make your villain an evil corporation instead of a real person, because….
I just fell asleep typing that. That’s how boring it is.
…to apologize for the lack of a new tip yesterday.
It turns out Time Warner Cable accidentally disconnected my broadband instead of my neighbor’s. I wish I was joking.
We now return to making fun of terrible screenwriting. Thanks, and happy writing.
Don’t have a scene where your two romantic leads go to an art gallery and laugh at the abstract art. It’s lame, lame, lame, and now I hate you.
Don’t try so hard to be punchy and kinetic that you forget to have any characters or emotional beats.
Sure, you’ll drag the reader along, but once it’s over their abiding memory will be of you screaming and waving your hands in their face for an hour and a half.
Stop treating your characters like precious, precious snowflakes. If something horrible doesn’t happen to them at the end of Act 2, why should I care about Act 3?
Don’t do running gags that run the entire length of your script. Why? Because if somebody hated that gag the first time, they’re going to want to hunt you down and rip out your trachea after the thirtieth.
If you can’t write like Apatow, don’t try to write like Apatow. If there’s anything worse than recycled dick/poop/fart jokes, it’s recycled dick/poop/fart jokes where the writer’s heart obviously wasn’t in it.