Screenwriting Tip #273
One of the most important skills is the ability to know when a scene ends. End strongly — don’t let the dialogue trickle out until your characters have nothing left to talk about.
Screenwriting Tip #272
When you finish the first draft, remember to type THE END after the last line. You’ve still got a long road ahead, but you owe yourself that little victory.
Screenwriting Tip #271
So much discussion about how to ‘break into the industry’ is bullshit designed to distract you from the real work. Here’s what you need to do: 1) Write a lot of good scripts. 2) Be a decent human being. That’s it.
Screenwriting Tip #270
Think like an actor. Cast yourself in a part, then practice your lines. If you run a scene and find you’ve got nothing to work with, maybe talk to the screenwriter about that?
Screenwriting Tip #269
None of those screenwriting formula books will make one bit of sense until you sit down and read a lot of scripts. Amateur scripts, produced scripts, old scripts, new scripts — just read them.
Screenwriting Tip #268
When you ask friends to read your script, remember to actually listen to their feedback. Even if it seems wrong at first, think hard — is there an underlying cause for the problems they mention?
Screenwriting Tip #267
Before you decide to base your style on old movies you used to love, maybe go back and see if they actually still hold up.
Screenwriting Tip #266
Aaron Sorkin can get away with sock-puppeting his characters into arguing about politics. When other writers do it, it’s either really boring or vaguely offensive.
Screenwriting Tip #265
Plots, especially comedies, can get away with a lot of coincidences. But the minute coincidences start to dictate your protagonist’s actions, that’s when you lose the audience.
Screenwriting Tip #264
Take your comedy premise. Can you think of at least 10 good jokes that might come out of that premise? No? Then how the hell are you going to write 70+ scenes?
Screenwriting Tip #263
Do not write the end-credits blooper reel yourself. Why the hell would you do this? Doesn’t this defeat the entire purpose of a blooper reel?
Screenwriting Tip #262
Adding “I’m just sayin’” to the end of a line of dialogue does not make a bad joke any funnier.
Screenwriting Tip #261
‘His head turns to red mist’. You mean he got shot in the head? Yeah, this is an action scene cliché.
Screenwriting Tip #260
If this character never gets to say or do anything cool or interesting, why the hell would an actor want to play this part?
Screenwriting Tip #259
Don’t waste all of your time on backstories and character personality quizzes. World-building ain’t screenwriting.
Screenwriting Tip #258
Spec scripts from unknown writers get bought on the strength of their original ideas and individual voices. So pay no attention to the current trends — write it for yourself.
Screenwriting Tip #257
Stop writing your female characters like they’re inscrutable fucking aliens from Mars. I’m looking at you, 500 DAYS OF SUMMER.
Screenwriting Tip #256
A character is yakking away and suddenly — FREEZE FRAME! Now cue flashback and explanatory voiceover. …No. Don’t do this unless you’re trying to parody bad ’90s comedies.
Screenwriting Tip #255
If you’re going to have an ensemble cast instead of one singular protagonist, your script better be either: A) Incredibly funny, or B) About events that are inherently really, really interesting.
Screenwriting Tip #254
This cliche needs to die: The sweet, seemingly-innocent character who — surprise! — cusses like a sailor.
Screenwriting Tip #253
Do not let important characters disappear from the script for more than 15 pages. This is why index cards and plotting software exist.
Screenwriting Tip #252
People in real life ramble, obfuscate, talk around the point — they don’t just state facts at each other. Trust me: there is NOTHING more boring than a scene in which two characters carefully, politely tell each other the truth.
Screenwriting Tip #251
When seeking feedback from friends, ask first. Don’t mass email your script to everyone you know. Some people just don’t have time to read a script and give notes.
Screenwriting Tip #250
You can do it. You can write three pages a day, no sweat. And when you finish your three pages for the day, keep going. This is how drafts get finished and discipline becomes habit.
Screenwriting Tip #249
Here’s a really cheap screenwriting trick for when you can’t find the way into a scene: Write all the dialogue first — it’s the fun part! Then go back and add the action.
Screenwriting Tip #248
Tell your logline to at least three different people. Watch their reactions. If they don’t react with genuine interest, either fix your logline or ditch the sucker.
Screenwriting Tip #247
Make sure your awesome plot reveal actually makes sense. Foreshadow it with subtle clues. If you’re going to turn the plot upside-down, it’s on you to do it right.
Screenwriting Tip #246
Don’t bother making up fake companies or products (‘BarStucks’, ‘Zoogle’, etc.) for your script. Other people will decide if that’s necessary. Right now, your job is to make sure it reads well.
I recently wrote a fun little piece for Script Frenzy on how to craft a kick-ass protagonist. It went up on the front page today. Go look, and consider joining up and taking part in Script Frenzy, because why the hell not? (I’m not kidding about The Stars My Destination, either. I highly recommend it. Best protagonist ever.)
Screenwriting Tip #245
‘Edgy’ is a bad descriptor for a character. Is he cutting-edge, or is he just really nervous?
Screenwriting Tip #244
Don’t half-ass the outline. First make the outline detailed and crystal-clear, then break it if you need to.