Creating a villain? Why not choose someone who has known the protagonist for years and is strongly connected to her life? It’s much easier to hurt your protag with someone they know, compared to someone they just met.
If you’re going to have more than one theme, make sure they complement each other. ‘Race and class’ work well together, as do ‘duality and identity’. ‘True love and Objectivism’? Not so much.
Don’t reject a piece of research just because it doesn’t seem to fit into your concept. Sometimes the strangest real-life facts make the best emergency plot fixes.
Tell us the rules and the stakes at the exact moment when we need to know them. Tell us too early and we’ll forget them; too late and we’ll resent you for not explaining them clearly enough.
Try meditation, isolation, visualization — whatever it takes to block out distractions and focus your mind completely on your script.
At the character bio stage, don’t create characters whose goals fit neatly together like pieces in a puzzle. Instead, give them goals and desires that directly conflict with each other.
In screenwriting as in life, the hardest choice is often the right choice.
When you give someone your script to read, don’t tell them how you think they should feel about it (e.g. “I hope you find it funny!”). Wait and find out how they really feel.
Have one scene that’s just for you. Even if it doesn’t quite fit, even if you know you’ll have to delete it one day, keep it for now. You might need it to get you through the ordeal of the first draft.
Your protagonist gets to be in control during the first twenty pages and the last twenty. For the rest of the script she should be struggling, confused or otherwise on the back foot.
Sometimes it pays to deliberately go against the grain. Write a script about a villain. Give a character an unusual combination of traits. Kill off the natural leader character on Page 30. Pick the option nobody else would pick.
The point of horror isn’t just to scare people. It’s to confront them with difficult, disturbing questions about the world and their place in it.
The protagonist getting wounded and fighting on through the pain is not a satisfying Dark Point. A good Dark Point occurs within the mind of the protagonist. It’s the moment when she either gives up or accepts the fact that she can’t win.
Dream sequences don’t have to look like regular scenes. You can treat them as a chance to break the rules. By writing literary-sounding dialogue, messing with the flow of time or even specifying camera moves, you mark the dream sequence as different.
Imagine the work the actors will do between lines of dialogue. Write for those silent moments and trust that the reader will be smart enough to imagine them.
If you’re going to do the old “open with action then flash back to see how we got there” shtick, at least make the opening action a mystery. Let us meet those characters in their normal life and wonder how they could possibly end up in that situation.
Once you’ve established a style, don’t chop and change. Don’t introduce flashbacks on Page 80 or use CUT TOs in some scenes but not in others.
Superheroes aren’t “super” because of their powers but because of what they choose to do with those powers.
Keep your villain’s motivation consistent. Don’t let them be driven by plot. If they start working against the hero instead of for themselves, that’s when you know something’s gone wrong.
Make your sci-fi protagonist at least as complex and interesting as the sci-fi world she inhabits.