Screenwriting Tip #352
Cliché Alert: A broke character turns out their pockets and finds only lint. Bonus points for checking in the sofa.
Screenwriting Tip #351
Know why you don’t like your friends’ script advice? Because most people have no training in narrative structure, and so can’t explain why they don’t like something. Remember: just because they diagnosed it wrong, doesn’t mean the problem isn’t there.
Screenwriting Tip #350
Look inside yourself and write the truth — what scares you, what moves you, what makes you laugh. Chances are, it’s also a universal truth. Y’know, unless you’re a weirdo.
Screenwriting Tip #349
Heart-on-sleeve, character-defining monologues are like VO: they’re kind of a cheat, and no fun to read. You get one. Maybe two.
Screenwriting Tip #348
Please no more dramas or rom-coms about rich, white problems. Y’know: rich, white people deal with unexpected pregnancy; rich, white family can’t afford to live in their gigantic house; rich, white hipsters have awkward, asexual romance together, etc.
Screenwriting Tip #347
Nobody’s first spec is any good. Enjoy the accomplishment, show it to your friends and family… then bury it and write a better one.
Screenwriting Tip #346
The best ideas always come in the last thirty seconds before you fall asleep at night. The trick is to stay awake long enough to write them down.
Screenwriting Tip #345
Things you probably shouldn’t tackle in your very first spec script: A) Non-linear narrative B) Multiple protagonists C) Aliens D) Time travel E) All of the above
Screenwriting Tip #344
Imagine yourself on a Comic Con panel one day, talking about your film. It’s good motivation to finish your genre script!
Screenwriting Tip #343
If you insist on writing characters whose professions make no sense in light of their personalities — e.g. a flighty, emotional surgeon; a shy real estate agent — you have to write them better so we’ll believe the contradiction.
Screenwriting Tip #342
It may be an ensemble show, but your pilot has to have a protagonist for structural reaons. They’re the A story. (NOTE: I’m assuming you know what an A story is, because otherwise why are you trying to write television?)
Screenwriting Tip #341
‘Detract’ is not the opposite of ‘attract’. I know English is hard, but you’re supposed to be a writer.
Screenwriting Tip #340
If your protagonist needs some vital piece of knowledge for the plot to progress, just give it to her. Don’t waste 10 pages of her and my time dangling it out of reach.
Screenwriting Tip #339
The point of a second draft is to cut 10 pages. I don’t care where you take them from. How about that subplot in Act 1 that you forgot about, or that chase sequence in Act 2 that doesn’t actually advance the characters?
Screenwriting Tip #338
The point of a first draft is just to exist. Nobody should ever spend more than three months on a first draft, unless they’re hand-chiselling it on a stone tablet.
Screenwriting Tip #337
There’s always this scene early in Act 3 in which the protagonist has to break into somewhere, or escape from somewhere, or get somewhere on time. This scene is usually garbage because it’s all plot and no character. Skip the plot and cut to the heart.
Screenwriting Tip #336
Nobody likes being dragged around by a writer who’s trying to direct his own script, e.g. ‘we push in on the locked door’, or ‘we pan around the room before settling on the sleeping figure of Mister Protagonist’. Save that stuff for important action or don’t do it.
Screenwriting Tip #335
Got sore/cramped shoulders from hours spent perched over a keyboard? Tiger Balm. Trust me.
Screenwriting Tip #334
Set every scene. Don’t make me wonder what room of the house they’re in, or why somebody just started talking when you didn’t even tell me they were present.
Screenwriting Tip #333
Don’t slice up dialogue with unnecessary action and (CONT’D)s. If somebody truly has a lot to say, just let them say it.
Screenwriting Tip #332
You can’t set up a ticking clock (time-limited character motivation) and then never mention it in the script again. By definition it has to, y’know, tick.
Screenwriting Tip #331
Lengthy montages of your man-child protagonist striking out with women are never as funny as you think they are.
Screenwriting Tip #330
For the love of Joss, please give me some indication of a character’s age and gender when you introduce them. Otherwise I’m left imagining a faceless golem.
Screenwriting Tip #329
Your story instincts aren’t always right. For example, try to ignore that little voice in your head that says: “I know! The protagonist and her best friend should have lunch and talk about their history together for 4 pages in the middle of Act One!”
Screenwriting Tip #328
In the first 10 pages, every line of dialogue, every introduced character and every chunk of information is highlighted in the reader’s mind. So make the first 10 count.
Screenwriting Tip #327
Nobody likes a mopey protagonist. Moping is backstory. Start your script at the exact point when the protagonist snaps out of it and decides to improve their life.
Screenwriting Tip #326
Raise questions, drop hints, leave riddles half-solved — whatever it takes to keep them interested and turning the page. Novelists have a lot to teach us about this trick.
Screenwriting Tip #325
Don’t change a few lines of dialogue and pretend it’s a whole new draft. When you half-ass the rewrite, you’re only screwing yourself.
Screenwriting Tip #324
Sell your ideas. Don’t sound shy and retiring in your loglines and query letters — sound like you just had the best idea of your entire freaking life, and you can’t wait to share it.
Screenwriting Tip #323
You know what’s better than endlessly fiddling with the dialogue on a bad scene? Cutting the whole thing. See, rewriting’s easy.