In your first ten pages, show us something we’ve never seen before. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tentacled star-beast or simply an original joke. Just give us something different.
Rivals bring out the best and worst in each other. A good villain can provoke the protagonist so much that she “crosses the line”, drawing her deeper into the villain’s world. This is the Batman/Joker effect.
Be yourself in meetings. Nobody wants you to put on a huge song and dance show. They just want you to listen carefully, speak intelligently and imply that you have all the answers.
Talk to yourself. No, really. Try speaking in the voice of your protagonist. Sound out dialogue exchanges to see how the words feel. You’ll hear all the problems you couldn’t hear in your head.
If you’re writing a pilot, know your show’s “mythology”. Know the history, tone, atmosphere and driving conflict that informs every episode. Know what made your characters and what could one day break them.
Make everything harder for your characters. Are they negotiating for a bank loan? Make the banker their nemesis from high school. Trying to seduce a girl? Have her boyfriend walk in. Fighting on a rooftop? Start a hail storm.
If you want to preach, join the priesthood. If you want to educate, become a teacher. As writers our first job is to tell a story, and our first loyalty is to the truth of our characters.
Describe the setting when it matters to your characters, not out of some misplaced desire for verisimilitude. This ain’t a novel — nobody cares what the clouds look like when the sunlight hits them just so.
Don’t make the audience do math in their heads. Instead of specific dates and times, use simple statements like “50 years later” or “2 hours until detonation”.
An Act Three speech scene is your protagonist’s chance to show the other characters, and the audience, how much she’s changed. It’s a chance to say and do everything that once terrified her. In mythic storytelling, it’s the moment when the outcast returns to her village with hidden knowledge.
Real people don’t speak in neat thematic statements. If you want your protagonist to wax philosophical, either get them drunk or stage an Act Three speech scene.
Every time you flash back, you kill the pacing stone dead. If there’s a way to convey the information the reader needs while also moving the story forward, use that instead.
Writing means waking up every morning and forcing yourself to fall in love with your story again. Do this every day until it’s finished.
One trick to making your protagonist more empathetic: don’t let them talk too much about themselves. We’re conditioned to react badly to people who always talk about themselves. And this way, when your protag does open up, it’ll be even more emotionally effective.
In comedies, inappropriate humor can be great for stealthy character development. What could be more useful for building empathy and revealing backstory than a character who inappropriately over-shares?
Many scripts grind to a halt late in Act Two. Avoid the Act Two blues — AKA “the bit where the reader goes to get a cup of coffee” — at all costs. Do whatever you have to do. Compress time, break the rules, kill a major character. Just keep them reading.
Before anything else, find the emotion in your concepts. Every good story idea will suggest one or two strong, emotional relationships. Identifying them should be your first task when breaking a new idea.
Over-prepare for important meetings. So what if you end up using only half of your planned material? At least you’ll feel confident knowing you have something in reserve.
Callbacks are your friend. That’s when a line late in the script echoes a similar line from earlier, but with a new meaning or twist attached. It’s easy to make your own: choose the coolest lines of dialogue in Act Three, then go back and seed those same lines in Act One.
If you’re hung up on your first draft because you feel you need a brilliant plot twist, write ‘[BRILLIANT PLOT TWIST GOES HERE]’ and move on. You can fix it later. What matters now is the emotional truth.