Screenwriting Tip #467
If your concept revolves around a big twist, then yes, you do have to tell people what the twist is. “Wait and see” is not an effective pitching strategy.
Screenwriting Tip #466
When rewriting the same draft over and over, keep yourself amused by changing or adding to perfectly good scenes. You might find something that works even better.
Screenwriting Tip #465
It’s best not to stick around too long after the Act Three climax, but don’t leave your audience hanging either. You spent all this time setting up the stakes — now show us the outcome, and how the protagonist’s world has changed for the better.
Screenwriting Tip #464
Allowing the audience to know more than the protagonist is best used in Act 1 — it’s good for dramatic irony, building empathy and setting up. Allowing the protagonist to know more than the audience is best used in Act 3 to facilitate the final twist or reversal.
Screenwriting Tip #463
Lose whatever’s weighing you down. I don’t care what it is. It could be something as major as the protag’s backstory, the entire romantic subplot, or even the original hook which got you writing in the first place. Bottom line: if it ain’t working, it needs to go.
Screenwriting Tip #462
Steal a trick from video games: Halfway through the story, take your protagonist’s best weapons away from her and see how she does without them.
Screenwriting Tip #461
Everything doesn’t have to work out for the best. The mentor character who was dying at the dark point doesn’t have to be dancing at the wedding in Act Three.
Screenwriting Tip #460
The best plot twists are the ones that make a shocking amount of sense.
Screenwriting Tip #459
Don’t worry that you’re getting too far away from the ideal movie in your head. Not only is that entirely normal, it actually means you’re making progress.
Screenwriting Tip #458
Yes, I can tell you were drinking when you wrote that sequence. Hey, it’s evocative and fast-paced. If only it made any sense…
Screenwriting Tip #457
Scenes sagging? Lacking drama and conflict? Do the Worst Possible Outcome Test. It’s easy: Find the last time your protagonist made a major decision. Ask yourself, what’s the worst possible outcome of that decision? Then write that.
Screenwriting Tip #456
Just because a lot of people believe a story, doesn’t make it good or true. Trust what you know, and write your own story in your own voice.
Screenwriting Tip #455
Thunderstorms do not automatically make your third act more bad-ass.
Screenwriting Tip #454
In ensemble stories with lots of people in lots of locations, keep the boredom to a minimum by cutting at the points of biggest conflict. Cut away right on the twists and the big dramatic questions — the audience will squirm, but they’ll love you for it.
Screenwriting Tip #453
Nobody likes a cast made up entirely of shorthand archetypes. So write your ensemble cast against type. Break the mould early and break it often.
Screenwriting Tip #452
The protagonist doesn’t get to be happy between pages 15 and 95. And if he is, the source of that happy better be a dream, a trick or the calm before the storm.
Screenwriting Tip #451
When designing your antagonist, remember: evil doesn’t know it’s evil. Evil gets out of bed in the morning and goes to work with a song in its heart, knowing that what it’s doing is right.
Screenwriting Tip #450
Never interrupt when your characters are arguing with each other. Let them slug it out, then edit later.
Screenwriting Tip #449
Give the protagonist what they want… right after they’ve realized they don’t want it any more.
Screenwriting Tip #448
Is your antagonist really dumb enough to fall for this obvious trick, come to this meeting without a backup plan, and lose his cool when he shouldn’t? Then he’s not a very scary antagonist, is he?
Screenwriting Tip #447
Ticking clocks work best when the protagonist fails to defuse them in time, and then has to deal with the consequences. Combine that failure with the end-of-Act-Two ‘dark point’ for fun and profit.
Screenwriting Tip #446
Look at structure this way: If the driving force of a story is the dramatic question, then it’s your job to keep reframing that question every fifteen pages.
Screenwriting Tip #445
Don’t signpost those big foreshadowing lines. Make them memorable, sure, but hide them away among other dialogue. The audience will get more of a thrill when the time comes to connect the dots.
Screenwriting Tip #444
Pitching your script as a mash-up of two well-known films is just an opening gambit — it’s the ‘jumping on’ point so people will know what you’re talking about. Once you’ve got them, it’s time to tell them why your story’s different.
Screenwriting Tip #443
What’s Act Three? Act Three is your protagonist’s nightmare scenario, the worst thing that could possibly happen. If it had happened to her in Act One, she’d be curled up on the floor whimpering.
Screenwriting Tip #442
You know how time becomes sort of elastic during action scenes in movies? You can replicate that in your script. Short words and clipped sentences when you want the action to skip along, bigger words and longer sentences when you want everything to slow down.
Screenwriting Tip #441
Here’s a great trick novelists use: instead of striving to make us hate the antagonist, let us feel for him, understand his point of view. That way we’ll still hate him, but we’ll also feel kind of bad about it.
Screenwriting Tip #440
World-building is not screenwriting. Still, certain genres benefit greatly from working out the ‘rules’ beforehand, i.e. how do spaceships work in my world?, are vampires undead or just diseased people?, etc. If it matters to the story, you need to know it.
Screenwriting Tip #439
Unless your protagonist is a total buffoon, try not to have him make more than one or two stupid mistakes. Misfortune that stems from the antagonist draws us into the story, while misfortune that comes from the protag being an idiot pulls us out.
Screenwriting Tip #438
Just a friendly reminder: the word ‘penultimate’ does not mean ‘really, really ultimate’.
Screenwriting Tip #437
You can only reasonably expect your friends and family to read one draft of your latest project. Better make it the best draft. That might entail keeping your masterpiece to yourself for a month or two. Don’t worry — they’ll struggle through, somehow.