The Best Kept
Secret In Hollywood
The pros say the secret to effective screenwriting
is rewriting to make the story do exactly what you want it to. If something
doesn't work, I don't hesitate to change it. I get feedback from others,
then rewrite. Rewriting can seem boring, but if you think of it as crafting
a fine story and making it do what you want, then it is more fun. Following
are tips for rewriting:
1) The story seems weak - no pizzazz.
What does your main character have to lose?
If the stakes are too low, there will be very little interest.
2) The story wanders.
Is this a rehash of some plot we already know? Add
new problems. Find different solutions.
What does your main character want? Remove
the scenes, dialogue, events and actions that stray from reaching that
3) A character doesn't act consistently the same
through the story.
Are the subplots taking over the story? Too many
characters with too many motivations will take the story in too many directions.
What does the character want? He should
be trying to achieve that.
4) The plot seems hard to believe.
Are his motives too hidden? Show what they are.
Did you make real characters and put them
in a real setting? Or did you make up
5) The story is like the pages of my friend's life
- it goes everywhere but nowhere.
the characters and setting as you went along, conveniently
adding whatever worked? Real characters work in real settings. Remake your
characters and setting with real limitations.
Are your characters responding like real people might
do, or are they just doing imaginative thing? Make your characters stay
within a normal realm of behavior, unless you're writing fantasy.
Real life anecdotes are difficult to work into a
story, and stories that use them usually play like a series of unconnected
stories, and no one wants to bend the facts to fit the story. If something
that happened in real life fits with your character's motivation, use it.
If not, throw it out.
6) The main character wins every battle very easily.
The good guy and bad guy (or conflicting situation)
should be equally matched.
7) People like the lesser characters better than
A lesser character often steals the show. Either
limit his role, or give his characteristics to the main character.
8) The main character ends the story just like
he began it - same person, same problems.
The main character should change as a result of the
story. He becomes stronger, wiser, discovers inner resources, becomes better
at handling problems, or acquires new abilities.
9) The dialogue is boring and it goes nowhere.
Dialogue results from the conflict when
two characters are trying to reach different goals. What do the characters
10) The dialogue and scenes go on forever.
. .......Giving information makes bad dialogue.
Use conflict situations to give information. If it isn't important to the
character, then he doesn't need it.
Focus on what the story is about. If it isn't important
to the story, don't say it. For example, introductions, entering the scene,
making plans - all can be kept very short.
Less is more. The shorter things are, the more pointed
11) Over half the script is already taken up with
character history and explaining motivation.
Screenplays are not like novels. The first pages
need to be filled with dramatic action, not character history. Older screenplays
commonly began like a novel, but that is less acceptable with today's audiences.
Characterization is shown through the character's behavior (words or actions).
Set the pages aside as a character sketch and begin again, drawing on action
from the pages you set aside. It isn't wasted.
You are free to give this article in its entirety to others (small groups, under 100) as long as the copyright with my name (Dorian Scott Cole) is included. This material is not public domain and may not be sold, mass distributed, published, or made electronically available in any form, without permission from Dorian Scott Cole. Complementary distribution (unpaid - no charge) will not be charged for. Visit the Visual Writer Web site for e-mail address information.
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