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.
Screenwriting Tip #406
Don’t over-describe. You can do massive crowd scenes, parties, elaborate locations, etc. all in a few simple lines. Save those lashings of descriptive prose for spaces that reveal character, e.g. your protagonist’s bedroom.
Screenwriting Tip #405
Are you as sick of the meet-cute as I am? Try the meet-horrible, the meet-embarassing or the meet-awkward. They’re a lot more fun to write.
Screenwriting Tip #404
Endings are hard, especially for character-driven scripts. Bottom line: don’t settle for neat-and-convenient when you could have messy-and-emotional.
Screenwriting Tip #403
You can cut entire useless scenes and shift their information into the start of the next scene. For example: instead of showing your protagonist working through the night, have her turn up bleary-eyed the next morning.
Screenwriting Tip #402
‘Mysterious’ characters are usually boring as hell, especially if they only speak in vague generalities and only show up when all the work/action is over. Remember: characters are what they do, not what they say.
Screenwriting Tip #401
There are some speech markers that act as bright flags — ways to signal to the audience that ‘this dialogue is important’. “I promise” and “trust me” are two of them. Don’t waste these valuable markers on filler dialogue.
Screenwriting Tip #400
As a writer, your highest calling is to remind us of a universal truth that we’ve forgotten. That truth might be ‘love conquers all’, or it might be ‘explosions are cool’. It’s entirely up to you.
Screenwriting Tip #399
In the first draft, the plot only has to make emotional sense. In the final draft, it has to make logical sense too.
Screenwriting Tip #398
‘These two characters have a troubled past together’ is a conflict generator, not a license to have them sit around and talk about the back-story.
Screenwriting Tip #397
When was the last time you called somebody ‘bro’, ‘sis’, ‘Pops’, ‘neighbor’, ‘good buddy’ or ‘co-worker’? Thanks for the help, but maybe you should trust the audience to figure out how your characters know each other?
Screenwriting Tip #396
If you insist on using ‘SMASH CUT TO:’, your next scene better be really, really exciting.
Screenwriting Tip #395
If more than one of your trusted readers still has issues with your script, you ain’t finished rewriting yet. Get back in there and fix it. You’re only cheating yourself if you send it out half-baked.
Screenwriting Tip #394
You’re actually not the first writer to use the ‘two characters in different locations simultaneously deliver the same line of dialogue’ device. So the least you can do is put an original spin on it.
Screenwriting Tip #393
The problem with ‘cheerful loser’ protagonists is that the audience picks up on their apathy and lack of engagement with the plot. Give them at least one thing to care deeply about. Even The Dude from THE BIG LEBOWSKI wanted his damn rug replaced.
Screenwriting Tip #392
Take time to get the speech patterns of your characters’ age groups right. 20-somethings don’t talk like teenagers, who don’t talk like tweens. Throwing in ‘like’, ‘cool’ and ‘Justin Bieber’ doesn’t cut it.
Screenwriting Tip #391
Stop trying to write ‘exciting’ fight scenes. Throw out your adverbs and just write as clearly as you possibly can — one thing happening after another. Lucky for you, that happens to be the most exciting way to write action.
Screenwriting Tip #390
So you’re writing a period piece. That’s no excuse for having all the characters speak in long-winded imitation Shakespeare.
Screenwriting Tip #389
If you possess some sort of special knowledge of a subject — architecture, French cooking, criminal law, whatever — by all means, work it into your script. Expertise is interesting.
Screenwriting Tip #388
‘Jerk’ characters who keep wilfully forgetting the protagonist’s name just to mess with him — yep, that’s a cliché.
Screenwriting Tip #387
Take a cue from videogames and slasher flicks and give your antagonist a ‘final form’. Just when the protagonist thinks the bad guy’s defeated, bring them back as the worst, most threatening version of themselves.
Screenwriting Tip #386
Don’t leave your protagonist alone to think about things. Cut any scene where he looks through a file or figures out a code. BLADE RUNNER may be brilliant, but those scenes of Deckard hanging out in his apartment are pacing death.
Screenwriting Tip #385
Please, fewer scripts about the film industry, agents, paparazzi, etc. These things are inside baseball — if you don’t know what you’re talking about, they’ll spot it a mile away.
Screenwriting Tip #384
Be careful with ‘Kramer characters’ — wildcards who pop in to annoy the protagonist or comment on her life. Often they’re not funny, they don’t feel real and they lack any kind of arc.