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Beware! Things That Bring Bad Results:

Don't have one character tell another what he should do, especially through an authority figure. The character should find his own solutions. 

Don't use acts of God and events that come out of nowhere. The characters should make their own solutions, not some outside force. For example, Johnny's need for money shouldn't suddenly be resolved by winning the lottery, or the death of a rich uncle.

Don't have a character say what the story is about or what the moral message of it is. These things should be obvious by the character's actions. That doesn't mean a character doesn't listen to an inner voice, but his motivations should be clear and solutions should be caused by him. 

Don't repeatedly set up a problem in one scene and resolve it in the next. That rhythm loses viewer interest.

Don't give people special powers. Even the science fiction series Star Trek, with its cast of aliens, is about real people facing real life problems in unusual conditions, and the powers the aliens have is very limited. The exception is fantasy stories.

Don't use excessive foul language, sex, and violence. Movies that use these, especially when they are not necessary to the story, are not well received in the film industry. Movies that demean people, or feature gratuitous mistreatment of people or animals, are typically ignored by film industry readers, which prevents them from getting to producers and directors.

Don't number the scenes.

Don't use technical terms or specify camera shots or angles. No one will notice their absence, but their presence is disruptive and often amateurish or erroneous.

Don't give stage directions to the actor unless it is necessary for clarity. The actors' and directors' jobs are to thoroughly analyze a script and plan every word and move. They will decide how to act the play. But keep in mind that the script is first read by others and giving some idea of what you had in mind is often needed for clarity. They can mark it out later.

Don't indicate how the actor got from one scene to the next or what he did in the mean time unless it helps the story. If he is there, we'll know he got there by some customary means and assume he probably didn't materialize. If he was traveling over lunch time, we'll assume he had sense enough to stop and eat. Coming, going, and eating are not what make a story.

Don't spell the action out in great detail in action scenes (scenes with a lot of movement). Give highlights of chase scenes or fights, not blow-by-blow descriptions.

Don't write the way people actually speak. People meander, repeat, change subjects, get verbose and obtuse, but none of these help a script. Scripts need to be as direct as possible without losing the essence of the character or losing the drama.

Don't use quotation marks or he said, she said, or she felt... in dialogue. Dialogue must stand on its own.

Don't use slang words or phrases and foul language. They tend to date your script and obscure the meaning of the dialogue. Movies aren't reality, and excessive realism detracts from instead of enhancing movies.

Don't use flashbacks, if possible. Flashbacks work poorly in film and usually slow the action. When a story is moving backward, it isn't going forward.

Next: Rewriting


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