Screenwriting Tip #766
Know the roots of your idea inside out. That includes all major films in the same vein. If you’re pitching a serial killer movie and the pitchee brings up SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, you better damn well know what they’re talking about.
Screenwriting Tip #765
If you absolutely have to compare your script to another movie, don’t compare it to something that flopped commercially, or that nobody remembers. They’re looking for a reason to pass. Don’t make it easy for them.
Screenwriting Tip #764
Choose your next project the way an actor chooses a role. If you want a small audience of like-minded artists, choose the passion project which no one seems to love as much as you do. But if you want your name in lights, choose the story that everybody can get excited about.
Screenwriting Tip #763
If your protagonist is an antihero, a narcissist, a ruthless pragmatist or simply a jerk, here’s an easy way to build a plot: challenge her nature in every scene. Build every beat so that it holds a mirror up and forces her to confront who she is.
Screenwriting Tip #762
Chances are, you’ve been in a relationship with another human being. So write about what being in a relationship feels like for you, not what you think a movie relationship should be.
Screenwriting Tip #761
Don’t use crappy VO or exposition to explain a complicated setting — let the characters do it. E.g. instead of telling us about life in occupied France, have your protagonist complain at length about those damned Nazis.
Screenwriting Tip #760
Make friends with other screenwriters. Nobody else is going to listen to you complain about your Act Two problems.
Screenwriting Tip #759
If you’re writing a story set in a place you’ve never been to… cheat. There are of plenty of free, detailed travel websites out there. Bonus: many of them contain great travel-related horror stories — perfect fodder for your comedy spec.
Screenwriting Tip #758
Dual protagonists — e.g. a romance shown from two different perspectives — are incredibly hard to pull off. If you can play favorites, do so. Pick the one you love the most and write it from their perspective.
Screenwriting Tip #757
It’s a visual medium, folks. Words are your last resort. When you need a truly powerful moment, images are always going to work better than dialogue.
Screenwriting Tip #756
You can only really understand a character from the inside out. Don’t ask “how would an unemployed single mother feel?”. Ask “how would I feel if I were an unemployed single mother?”.
Screenwriting Tip #755
If you’re using newspaper articles or TV news reports in your script, study how those things are actually written. Audiences may not know exactly how a headline is supposed to sound, but they know when it sounds wrong.
Screenwriting Tip #754
Voice over and montage are hard enough to use on their own. But VO over a montage? You better be explaining something unbelievably gripping.
Screenwriting Tip #753
Chekhov’s Gun applies to characters too. If you introduce a character by having everyone else explain how awesome/brilliant/deadly he is, then he has to do something to warrant that description.
Screenwriting Tip #752
So here’s the problem with using the 2012 Apocalypse myth in your latest spec: by the time your hypothetical movie gets released, either we’ll all be dead or we’ll have forgotten all about it.
Screenwriting Tip #751
Nobody is trying to stop you breaking in. They want to read a great script just as much as you want to write one. So write it and make everyone happy.
Screenwriting Tip #750
Have you ever had something unexpectedly wonderful happen to you and thought, “What did I do to deserve this? It doesn’t feel right. Now something bad’ll probably happen”. You have? Then you know how to set up a good Dark Point.
Screenwriting Tip #749
When you introduce a new character, have them moving, acting, striving towards a goal in their very first scene. Show us that character in high gear. If you start them off in neutral, it’s much harder to get a sense of who they are.
Screenwriting Tip #748
Think of Act Three as being like a great final boss fight in a video game. Your protagonist needs to use all the skills she’s learned previously, plus deal with a few surprise threats, in order to win.
Screenwriting Tip #747
Research can define character. If your protagonist is presented as an expert in her field, you probably need to know a bit about that topic. And by “a bit” I mean “more than the Wikipedia page”.
Screenwriting Tip #746
Use the right tools for the job. If you get more work done with a pencil and a two dollar notebook than with your Macbook, that’s okay. The work is what matters.
Screenwriting Tip #745
A general meeting is like a first date. They talk about themselves, you talk about yourself, stories are told… and you both quietly try to figure out what the other one could bring to a potential relationship.
Screenwriting Tip #744
“I don’t know” shouldn’t be in your vocabulary. You’re a professional creator; your job is to have opinions, ideas and “takes” on everything. Replace “I don’t know” with “Good question — let me think about it and get back to you”.
In case you missed it, the new version of this site has been up and running since Monday: http://screenwritingtips.blcklst.com/ Hopefully you’ve had a chance to check it out. It’s faster and shinier than this old warhorse of a blog, and it includes the entire archives and comments stretching back to the beginning of Screenwriting Tips. This will be the new site. Eventually,...
Screenwriting Tip #743
Don’t bother trying to follow trends. There’ll be hundreds of other writers doing the same thing, and anyway, the films at this year’s theaters are a product of last year’s trends.
Screenwriting Tip #742
Always know what you’re going to write next. Then you won’t be crushed when someone else sells a spec with the exact concept of your current script.
Screenwriting Tip #741
Change your working environment once in a while. New surroundings can give you a new perspective on plot problems.
Screenwriting Tip #740
A good pitch gives a sense of the genre and tone. If people have to ask, “So is it funny, or…?” at the end of your pitch, you haven’t done your job.
Screenwriting Tip #739
“He’s got nothing left to lose” is pretty meaningless as a description of character. Doubly so when you misspell it as “loose”.
Screenwriting Tip #738
Which films do you wish you’d written? No, scratch that — which films are you actively, obsessively jealous of? That’s your brand. Write in that genre and style and you’ll always be passionate about your work.
Screenwriting Tip #737
A pitch gets better every time you tell it. So why not start with friends, family and even strangers before going ‘live’ with it.