Screenwriting Tip #426
It’s true, people really do say ‘um’ and ‘like’ a lot. That doesn’t mean the characters in your screenplay have to.
Screenwriting Tip #425
If you’re basing your script on a personal story which you lived through and which touched you deeply, please remember to leave out all the boring stuff.
Screenwriting Tip #424
Better to outline too many scenes, characters and subplots than to run out of material in the middle of Act Two. Think of it as scouting out the terrain before taking the best route.
Screenwriting Tip #423
If you’re going to break the rules, do it in spectacular fashion. That way it’s obvious that you’re breaking the rules, not ignorant of them.
Screenwriting Tip #422
If you can’t explain your screenplay idea to somebody in a casual conversation, you don’t actually have a screenplay idea. What you probably have is a setting, a character or a cool theme — now take it to the next level.
Screenwriting Tip #421
For god’s sake, don’t throw away/delete your original notes, no matter how much your idea may have changed. You’ll need them for when you get halfway through the script and realize you have no idea why you were ever interested in this concept.
Screenwriting Tip #420
We all have prejudices and deep-set opinions, but our characters don’t have to conform to them. Why not try writing against your own prejudices? You might learn something about yourself.
Screenwriting Tip #419
Read the classics. I mean the really classic classics. There’s more romance, betrayal and elaborate set-piece action in the Ramayana than there is in a whole Hollywood summer.
Screenwriting Tip #418
Complex story with lots of moving parts? Take a cue from novelists and pick a ‘point of view’ character (usually the protagonist). If you find yourself writing a scene in which the POV character’s not present, or which doesn’t link back to her in any way, that scene’s probably narrative dead weight.
Screenwriting Tip #417
Time-jumpy narrative structures are all very kinetic and exciting, but they have drawbacks. Prime example: don’t show us a context-free scene of two characters arguing, and THEN flash back to show the cause of that argument. That’s not clever; it’s undercutting yourself.
Screenwriting Tip #416
Don’t just back up your data. Put your working file in your Dropbox (or other cloud storage service) folder and keep it there. Ta-da — your script is now immune from hard drive failure.
Screenwriting Tip #415
Be careful with large amounts of dual dialogue. People don’t normally yammer over the top of each other unless it’s a very tense situation, or a shouting match.
Screenwriting Tip #414
Draw out your suspense scenes by using shorter paragraphs and more paragraph breaks. That way, the reader has to process every line. Who cares if it ends up being longer than other scenes? Your set-pieces deserve the extra love.
Screenwriting Tip #413
Juggle as many ongoing projects, half-formed ideas, job applications and query letters as you can reasonably handle. More lottery tickets means more chances to win.
Screenwriting Tip #412
When the scene you’re writing is boring even you, don’t just push on. Delete it and write the interesting version of the scene.
Screenwriting Tip #411
There’s usually no reason to write in establishing shots, as they slow down the read. Add them only if you’re spec-ing a show that uses them, or if it’s really unclear where we are.
Screenwriting Tip #410
Please stop creating characters whose ‘world changed on 9/11’. It is the laziest of all tragic back-stories, with the possible exception of ‘family died in a car crash’.
Screenwriting Tip #409
TV is as much about timing as it is about character. Know where your act breaks are, and know how to get out of every scene before it starts to wind down.
Screenwriting Tip #408
Your antagonist has to be the guy we love to hate. The simplest actions — putting a bullet into a foe who’s already down, picking on the most vulnerable kid in class just for the hell of it — can be enough to earn our hate.
Screenwriting Tip #407
Sudden whip-pan comedy flashbacks (“This reminds me of the time I…”) are right on the edge of becoming a cliché. They’re also obvious, throw-away, and rarely funny. Use with caution.