Screenwriting Tip #383
‘Because he’s crazy’ is not good enough as characterization for a villain. It’s not good enough for any character, frankly. When you decide to put mental illness in your script, it’s on you to research it and do it justice.
Screenwriting Tip #382
The ‘trailer moment’ should be the last thing you think about. Without character, even the biggest trailer moment is nothing but a noisy light-show.
Screenwriting Tip #381
A protagonist who succeeds because of her wits is usually much more likeable than one who succeeds through brute force, good looks or dumb luck.
Screenwriting Tip #380
Actually spell out what will happen if your ticking clock runs out. Does it just stop ticking? Or is it attached to a metaphorical bomb that blows up everything your protagonist’s worked for?
Screenwriting Tip #379
Not every character has to have a scene, or even a conversation, with every other character. Ultimately, all that matters is how they affect the protagonist. The protagonist is your true love; the other characters are one-night stands.
Screenwriting Tip #378
Let your audience suspect a twist or character turn, but don’t spell it out. Don’t even indicate it in the action lines, if you can help it. They’ll be more invested the less you give them.
Screenwriting Tip #377
Find the ‘watershed’ line of dialogue in every scene. You know — that one line that twists the situation and turns the conflict in a different direction. If you can’t find one, maybe there’s something wrong with the scene.
Screenwriting Tip #376
How to trim page-count and improve pacing: cut a scene on its strongest beat. Just get out when the action hits a peak. When we next see those characters, the audience will fill in the missing action from context.
Screenwriting Tip #375
Good writing is when a character does something we weren’t expecting, but which makes perfect sense given everything we know about that character.
Screenwriting Tip #374
Even magic and the supernatural have to follow a clear set of rules. Handwaving isn’t just a shortcut — it also damages the credibility of your story and world.
Screenwriting Tip #373
Characters who blurt out non sequiturs while asleep/right after waking up is now a comedy script cliché.
Screenwriting Tip #372
Fat people are not inherently funny. Just putting a fat character in a scene is not, in fact, a substitute for actually writing some jokes.
Screenwriting Tip #371
Broad accents are hard. You need to actually study this stuff — if you just write baby talk or broken English, it doesn’t sound authentic.
Screenwriting Tip #370
Cutting away from a scene just before a character reveals some vital piece of information is a great trick… the first time. When you use it five times in a row, you make Baby Jesus cry.
Screenwriting Tip #369
Really good character names go a long, long way. Choose names that stick in the mind — that way, nobody will forget your script.
Screenwriting Tip #368
Every scene should affect the protagonist in some way, either directly or incidentally. If not, you got yourself a dud scene. Doesn’t matter if it’s the funniest, scariest, most exciting scene in the script — it needs to go.
Screenwriting Tip #367
Before you start, make a list of everything that’s cool about your concept; everything that gets you excited. Try to hit most of it in the outline. Refer back to the list as needed during scripting — it’ll keep you on target.
Screenwriting Tip #366
If your characters don’t say horrible, soul-crushing things to each other during the dark point, you’re doing it wrong.
Screenwriting Tip #365
Introducing a new character through dialogue references, or in a photo, or over the phone, rarely works. We tend to forget who they are until they show up in the flesh. Just put them in a scene, already.
Screenwriting Tip #364
Did you really need a montage here? Or did you just have a bunch of crappy jokes you couldn’t fit into any of the other scenes?
Screenwriting Tip #363
Stop making your characters react to events. There is almost always a better version of the scene in which they act instead.
Screenwriting Tip #362
A tenant rents your apartment. A tenet is a core belief or opinion. If you can’t spot the difference between the two words, don’t use them.
Screenwriting Tip #361
Give your scenes different shapes. Write some with hard outs (ending on a strong beat) and some with soft outs. Start some in the middle, or even skip to the end and show us the scene’s aftermath.
Screenwriting Tip #360
Most people outside the USA don’t give a crap about baseball. The international market is 70% of box office. So think hard before you write that baseball spec.
Screenwriting Tip #359
Your concept is not a state secret. Nobody wants to steal it.
Screenwriting Tip #358
If you’re giving notes on somebody’s script, don’t criticize their basic concept. Try to imagine the coolest possible version of that concept, then help them to get there.
Screenwriting Tip #357
Crack a novel some time. You might learn to use something other than the same five verbs over and over again.
Screenwriting Tip #356
You don’t have to start in media res, but maybe you could do us all a favor and start at the not-boring part?
Screenwriting Tip #355
Protagonists who yell their epiphanies to the world are — you guessed it — a cliché. Bonus points if a passer-by drops a snarky one-liner about how nobody cares.
Screenwriting Tip #354
Please don’t write that one line of dialogue where a character neatly sums up the theme for us, e.g. “I guess it’s true — people can change,” or “I guess men and women really can’t be friends.”
Screenwriting Tip #353
Reluctant protagonists are tricky. You have to actually show us the moment when they commit to the cause/goal. Why? Because “Oh well, guess I’m doing this now” isn’t a very interesting character beat.