(Español) Cámara, diálogo… ¡Acción!

Sorry, this entry is only available in European Spanish.

November scriptwriting tips

While you wrote your nanovel, the guy at Screenwriting Tips has kept his thing running. Let’s see what he’s been up to…

442 You know how time becomes sort of elastic during action scenes in movies? You can replicate that in your script. Short words and clipped sentences when you want the action to skip along, bigger words and longer sentences when you want everything to slow down.

443 What’s Act Three? Act Three is your protagonist’s nightmare scenario, the worst thing that could possibly happen. If it had happened to her in Act One, she’d be curled up on the floor whimpering.

444 Pitching your script as a mash-up of two well-known films is just an opening gambit — it’s the ‘jumping on’ point so people will know what you’re talking about. Once you’ve got them, it’s time to tell them why your story’s different.

446 Look at structure this way: If the driving force of a story is the dramatic question, then it’s your job to keep reframing that question every fifteen pages.

447 Ticking clocks work best when the protagonist fails to defuse them in time, and then has to deal with the consequences. Combine that failure with the end-of-Act-Two ‘dark point’ for fun and profit.

448 Is your antagonist really dumb enough to fall for this obvious trick, come to this meeting without a backup plan, and lose his cool when he shouldn’t? Then he’s not a very scary antagonist, is he?

449 Give the protagonist what they want… right after they’ve realized they don’t want it any more.

450 Never interrupt when your characters are arguing with each other. Let them slug it out, then edit later.

451 When designing your antagonist, remember: evil doesn’t know it’s evil. Evil gets out of bed in the morning and goes to work with a song in its heart, knowing that what it’s doing is right.

454 In ensemble stories with lots of people in lots of locations, keep the boredom to a minimum by cutting at the points of biggest conflict. Cut away right on the twists and the big dramatic questions — the audience will squirm, but they’ll love you for it.

455 Thunderstorms do not automatically make your third act more bad-ass.

457 Scenes sagging? Lacking drama and conflict? Do the Worst Possible Outcome Test. It’s easy: Find the last time your protagonist made a major decision. Ask yourself, what’s the worst possible outcome of that decision? Then write that.

459 Don’t worry that you’re getting too far away from the ideal movie in your head. Not only is that entirely normal, it actually means you’re making progress.

460 The best plot twists are the ones that make a shocking amount of sense.

461 Everything doesn’t have to work out for the best. The mentor character who was dying at the dark point doesn’t have to be dancing at the wedding in Act Three.

462 Steal a trick from video games: Halfway through the story, take your protagonist’s best weapons away from her and see how she does without them.

464 Allowing the audience to know more than the protagonist is best used in Act 1 — it’s good for dramatic irony, building empathy and setting up. Allowing the protagonist to know more than the audience is best used in Act 3 to facilitate the final twist or reversal.

465 It’s best not to stick around too long after the Act Three climax, but don’t leave your audience hanging either. You spent all this time setting up the stakes — now show us the outcome, and how the protagonist’s world has changed for the better.

OK guys, time to disagree ;-)

(Español) Rango de edad

Sorry, this entry is only available in European Spanish.

Scriptwriting Tips October

For all the busy nanowriters out there, here’s a best-of for October at Scriptwriting Tips. Whether you’re writing comedy or horror, there’s something here for you. Hope they help you push forward!

421: For god’s sake, don’t throw away/delete your original notes, no matter how much your idea may have changed. You’ll need them for when you get halfway through the script and realize you have no idea why you were ever interested in this concept.

422: If you can’t explain your screenplay idea to somebody in a casual conversation, you don’t actually have a screenplay idea. What you probably have is a setting, a character or a cool theme — now take it to the next level.

423: If you’re going to break the rules, do it in spectacular fashion. That way it’s obvious that you’re breaking the rules, not ignorant of them.

424: Better to outline too many scenes, characters and subplots than to run out of material in the middle of Act Two. Think of it as scouting out the terrain before taking the best route.

427: Your unique point of view is your most valuable asset as a writer… assuming your unique point of view is interesting.

428: Don’t open a story by having everything that could possibly go wrong happen to your protagonist (husband leaves her, fired from job, dog runs away, etc.). Pick one thing — the one that hurts the most.

432: Jokes can’t save a scene that’s not advancing the plot or affecting the protagonist. Comedy should never be the entire point of a scene.

433: Your screenplay is not about what happens. It’s about who it happens to.

434: You have to truly, deeply, unconditionally believe in your premise. That process starts with being able to sum it up in one or two sentences.

Guest 4: Nothing breaks immersion quite like a character saying, “This isn’t the movies, this is the real world” or “This always works in the movies”. As soon as you do, we remember we’re watching a movie.

Guest 6: Male writers, is getting into the mind of a woman really THAT much harder than getting into the mind of a psychopathic criminal with no qualms about killing? Women would like to be the hero once in a while, too.

Guest 7: Please actually hang out with or talk to minorities before you put them in your screenplay. We can tell when everything you know about us comes from glances and snippets of conversation you hear at the checkout line.

Guest 8: Audiences like thinking they’ve got it all figured out. So give them an “I knew it!” moment…. then pull the rug out from under them.

436: When you’re writing horror, dread is your friend. What’s dread? It’s the man in the mask. It’s the closed door at the end of the hallway. It’s what’s waiting for us when we turn on the lights. A sense of something horrible that can’t be avoided, only delayed.


And stop messing around.

Procrastination from ism studios on Vimeo.

Of human bondage

W. Somerset Maugham

Yesterday we posed a question: Which is the best chosen word in this line?

Her voice was so weak that it seemed to come already from a great distance.

It’s not the verb, “was”, as it doesn’t express action but merely introduces the attribute. It might be “voice”, which is the noun that the sentence describes, or “weak”, which is its main feature. It might even be “distance”, a noun that evokes the weakness even better than the adjective can. All the words in the sentence are common, simple. Any reader will understand them.

But the best chosen word is “already”. The moment I read those seven letters, I knew that the kid’s mother was dying.

Imagine the line without that word. It becomes a correct description with no additional meaning. It is the “already” that places us in context by telling us so much with so little.

I noted the lesson and decided I had to share it with you.

(Español) Cedo la palabra