Be generous and reward the reader. Give them jokes, scares, pay-offs and fun moments. Play the showman and give your audience more than they bargained for.
The point of a pitch isn’t to tell a story, build hype or sell a product (although a good pitch does all those things). The point is to make them understand and believe in your vision — to see what you see.
You don’t just have one theme, you have two: your theme and its polar opposite. If your theme is Courage, you’re also writing about Fear; if it’s Power, Corruption, etc.
When writing someone else’s project, try to find your own personal “way in” to the story — the one aspect of it which you relate to and feel strongly about. Once you know what that is, you can approach the entire project from that perspective.
Ignore anyone who wastes your time, drains your energy or causes you stress. They’re not worth thinking about. Save your brainpower for the work.
The only way out is through. Sometimes that means crashing through to the exit and cleaning up the debris later.
Think of your protagonist’s arc in terms of sacrifice. At the beginning of the script, she’s willing to sacrifice very little and gets nothing in return. By the end, she should be willing to sacrifice everything to gain everything in return.
At the early concept stage, work on character before anything else. If you plot first and try to develop character later, you’ll find everything feels forced and confused.
Remember that your outline is just a guide. There’s nothing in it that can’t be changed if you happen to think of a better idea. That includes plot, characters, even the premise itself.
Make friends with your Shadow. And make sure your protagonists get to meet theirs.
If you’re trying to choose between a concept anyone could write and a concept only you could write, pick the one that’s unique to you. There are already too many identical, cookie-cutter scripts out there.
Sometimes the only way to tell if an idea makes sense is by pitching it to a civilian. If they start riffing on it or suggesting similar films, you may have something. If they stare blankly, you may not.
If you find a trick that works in one script, use it in your next one. Hell, camouflage it a little and use it in your next three. There’s nothing wrong with repeating yourself if it improves the script.
It’s cool if one or two of your characters are prone to making jokes during serious moments. It’s just weird if all of them do it.
Try to manage the reader’s attention span. The faster your pacing, the more flashbacks and quiet moments you can get away with.
When a character makes a dark choice, don’t let them off easy. Push the severity of the situation through the immediate consequences of the choice and the reactions of the other characters. Make it mean something.
If you’re wondering where to put the paragraph breaks in your action lines, ask yourself: if you were watching this on screen, would this action be a new shot? If so, paragraph break.
Don’t write a “foreshadowing scene”. Write a character-driven scene that happens to have foreshadowing in it. The goal is for the audience to forget the foreshadowing until it becomes important again, not be sitting around waiting for the set-up to pay off.
How to write exposition scenes: try to think of them as anything other than “explaining”. Possible alternatives include arguing, convincing, berating, concealing or self-aggrandizing.
When you edit a scene always consider the knock-on effect, not just on later scenes but also on earlier ones. For example, if you push back a character’s introduction scene you can’t have people in earlier scenes talking as if they’ve already met her.