top of page

Screenwriting Teaching from Script Magazine Notes-3

32. Script: Vol.7, No. 5-“How Not to Annony a Reader-Part Three” by Ray Morton

1. Hits highlights of past suggestions but then get serious.
2. Learn to write- take a course- read a book- learn the basics- don’t bore the reader with your lack of professionalism
3. Avoid big blocks of type that describe every detail-
4. Avoid big bocks of dialogue without any action
5. These things kill the flow and kill the story
6. it should be a nimble medium-the best ones moves quickly- light on their feet
7. Show don’t tell- the best of advice- telling things that the audience does not see, but only the reader is wrong
8. Reader can’t recommend because the script is not ready to go
9.  do not make the reader sick with gory detail or awful ideas
10. don’t write sequels
11. send him a donut

33. Script: Vol.7, No. 6- Daniel Calvisi teased me with his article “Voice: The Art of Description”.   I never thought I could get away with being “literarily” in my descriptions- trying to keep the writing lean and tight.  Daniel showed me just how to do it, develop this “voice”, by giving real examples that truly illustrated it. Yet, he admits, he is not sure it can be taught. Ouch.
1. consider that a script is sent to a pro reader- voice then is tricky
2 .put yourself in the place of the most passionate fan of the genre
2. use style –written in the present tense- to add voice
3. in the end it is the film that matters
4. help the reader to feel the movie
5. the writer must show what is there- not what is not there
6. introduce a character while he is doing a revealing action
7. we understand these characters instantly through their actions
8. strong voice can be found in the descriptive side of things “tit”
9. rolling a Japanese ten-speed by his side says more than he was rolling a bike next
10. it can’t be taught!
34. Script: Vol. 7, No. 6- “ Writing Great, Unique Dialogue” by Tom Sawyer.
I marked these pages up to where in the end I could barely read it again .One thing I will say that Tom wanted me to say; “Repeat after me: Ideally, every line that a character speaks should be a Character line- that is, it should help define that character, be unique to that character. Ideally.”
1. If you can change the character name above a block of dialogue without rewriting the dialogue, then you are doing it wrong.
2. review this article before starting a new story- ask self about your characters-
3. characters who tell us about themselves are not well written
4. portray your characters as persons who don’t see themselves as others do
5. their insights, pithy observations, views teach us about them
6. write in times without verbal response
7. a look, a stare, a shudder, averted eyes, clumsy gesture,
8. we must write the silences as part of our dialogue exchanges
9. subtext- things that have meaning on more than one level-
10. all of your characters can not say exactly what’s on their mind
11. utilitarian dialogue is boring
12. Crosswalk: respond about something else
13. The Aria: when a bad guy explains himself, or a hero
14. Tombstoning: accidental repetition of words or phrases.
15. Don’t tell your audience what it already knows

35. Script: Vol.8, No.2: Sally B. Merlin in her short but pointed article “Merlin’s Musing’s- Magnificent Momento” pointed out a great truth to learn from Christopher Nolan’s Momento, that is, that it did something very few films achieve- it weaves an ordinary man’s dilemma into something extraordinary.  That prompted me to dig deeper for my own ideas and then try to attach a greater idea to some universal feeling. Then Susan Kouguell in “How to Find an Agent” gave me some sound, practical advice. Step one is that your script must be in perfect shape. (there it is again!)

36. Script: Vol.8, No.3: William C. Martell began his three part series of articles on thrillers with “A Thrill A Minute.”  He demonstrated the patterns or elements that make a good thriller. What he found open some doors in my mind about the protagonist in these thrillers- Isolation and paranoia, a small sin that leads him into trouble, and even the impression that the protagonist is a crazy person. Wow! I went out and bought Breakdown with Kurt Russell. Sure enough, there is all was just as Martell said.
1. breakdown takes a common fear of losing a loved one and turns it into a heart-pounding thriller.
2. Isolation is a key-
3. away from society or from help- cut off-
4. a small sin like peeking through a window (Rear Window)
5. Paranoia works- is someone after me? Is this real?
6. People looks at you like you are crazy- the cop did in Breakdown

37. Script: Vol.8, No.5- John Hill- “Final Checklist Before Writing a Spec Script”
1. 15 point check list before you spend your valuable time beating a dead horse
2. The sad, giant difference between screenwriters and studios is that writers are execution-oriented, buy script buyers are premise-driven.
3. Will your plot, expressed in one sentence, be so wild- yet so simple- that  people will think you are crazy but producers will buy?
4. If your premise is not met with an immediate “oh-woo” then you are not ready to write.
5. Eat this: Agents and buyers focus on how commercial your pages are once your story premise is boiled down to 25 words or less.
6. Check List:
7. Is this genre currently successful
8. Who is the hero?
9. What is his goal?
10. Who is in his way?
11. What is the theme?
12. Is you protagonist a terrific, special three dimensional character that superstars will want to play?
13. What gives this story heart?
14. Can you name something commercial like it?
15. Brainstorm every wild idea
16. Have you planned in the first fifteen pages to:
a. Establish the hero
b. Why and when do we begin to like him
c. Establish the genre and universal tone
d. Big plot hook of the main story
12. What is the end of act one?
13. What is your mid point?
14. What is your end of Act two? Huge reversal?
15. What is the big finish?
Script Vol. 10/Num.2- p. 64- Hill- Writing a thriller.
1. A thriller in Hollywood is sometimes applied to anything with action, yet this is not the true understanding
2. A thriller is a fox hunt. The innocent, average person  is the scared fox- villains the hounds. The fox does not turn and fight but instead he runs.
3. Single biggest problem to solve: Why can’t the fox call the cops?
4. The Pelican Brief, The Fugitive, The Firm, North by Northwest are thrillers.
5. In action films the protagonist is A TRIANED WARRIOR
6. In action the protagonist reacts proactive to the plot danger by fighting, In the thriller the hero responds reactively by running.
7. In action the hero outguns the villains, in the thriller the hero outwits the villains
8. Power of the thriller is that it is about you or me.
9. The hero can be scared and confused but he must turn heroic
10. Slow start, the first death, separation anxiety are requirements
11. Also, the new partner enters to help him
12. In the middle of act two the protagonist

38. Script –V10, # 2, p. 60- “How to write for a movie star”- Staton Rabin
1. write about some famous person from the past- this attracts stars (Einstein)
2. find a fascinating, little known figure in history who had far more impact than most people realize.
3. Attract actors for the lead- lots of lines- lots of exposure- never let them leaf through it at home trying to find their part
4. give them moments to chew the scenery- moments of high emotions- ask self if you were Russel Crowe would you want to play this part
5. find an aging star that needs work for a supporting role
6. make it an underdog role in which they overcome great adversity and triumph in the end.
7. have some good speeches- not long but give the actor something-
8. roles with character-
9. a good role for a star should exhibit the whole panorama of human emotions- cruelty, compassion, tenderness, humor, self restraint and impulsiveness, frustration, laughter, tears and triumph
10. the plot must provide the hero with enough challenges and conflicts to exhibit these emotions
11. good story structure is even more important than dialogue in writing a great screenplay.

39. Script- V10# 2- p.28- “You’re Writing a Picture”- Robin Russin
1 .like poetry- demands economy, precise choices, the specificity of choosing exactly the right words and rhythms to conjure the desired images and emotions.
2.  tone, texture and mood of the film- blueprint-
1. don’t put in camera angle-
2. good example from alien
3. put images in the right order
4. a scenes clarity directs the script without a single shot mentioned- alien
5. Paradoxical pictures- opening of the Matrix
Tone- comparison- implication-Russel Crowe’s LA- Wendell Bud white, 30, stares at the enormous Christmas tree on the deco platform over bullock’s entrance. An LAPD cop, - toughest man on the force.
7. conclusion: work at your descriptions- make them lean but poetic- flavored- magnetic.
Script- Now What- Graham Ludlow- vol.10, num.2, p.68
1. producers are hot to find a good script
2. people think it is easy to write a script- not!
3. no typing mistakes- words- ruins your script
4. in proper format- grammatical errors
5. competitions- pitch festivals
6. be ready to pitch other things
7. one page synopsis
8. list scripts on web sits mentioned-,,
9. a catchy logline is an extremely valuable tool.- make it one sentence-
10. do research on the company you query
11. have a one paragraph or a one page ready
12. options are a choice- be careful with this bob-

40. Script- V10,#2,p.20-“Creating Compelling Characters”- William Martell
1. must make a studio reader care about your protagonist and keep that interest alive for 120 pages.
2. write a one sentence synopsis that sums up the character.
3. the purpose of story is to explore character
4. jump into the skin of the character- worry about him, root for him, feel his pain. His joy is our joy, his anger our anger, his danger our danger.
5. we stop watching and are living the movie with this kind of involvement.
6. finding Nemo was challenging- no hands to gesture with- no feet to walk- no real face-
7. the writers created a point of reference-FAMILY
8. the family is lost- we feel the pain- Nemo the only one left
9. thus emotions creates the  bond between the fish and the audience
10. don’t protect your protagonist- make him feel the pain
11. Marlin becomes overprotective as Nemo is the only survivor-
12. Nemo finds some freedom-
13. Marlin makes a mistake – looses Nemo- we feel sorry for him because he is sorry
14. you protagonist must be actively struggling to solve his problem
15. protagonist goal must be something tangible- something we can see
16. the audience must care about the goal of the protagonist
17. Marlin will have to deal with his fears and swim the ocean- force your protagonist to deal with his fears
18. your character’s flaw is your story- the plot forces him to deal with it.( Hans Hamburg faces his problem with the Nazis)
19. the audience must experience the emotions
20. character flaws, weaknesses and guilt build a bond with the audience for the protagonist
21. if the character doesn’t come close to failure we can’t root for him to succeed

42. Script-V10#3, Quick Fix- Lesley Bracker- Mistakes that writers make-
1. A script based upon a good idea but riddled with problems will not sell
2. Spell check will not correct a misused correctly spelled word- you must or you will look like an amateur.
3. Keep tabs on your secondary characters all the time.
4. Time and Circumstance- Does time lapse realistically?
5. Don’t wonder off the spine of the story-
6. Voice: never have you character’s engaged in exposition- no voice
7. Don’t have every character sound like every other character- give characters a unique voice
8. Reread you script on character at a time- do they each have their own voice?
9. Set up: note that movies set a foundation within the first few minutes and  that they do this visually. Use the set to tell us about the character’s way of life.
10. Using camera angles is script padding- unprofessional.
11. Exposition- the dead giveaway of an inexperienced screenwriter- number one rule- show do not tell-
12. act structure: as you know it Bob
13. REALITY: things must ring true even in a different world
14. Readers want to find a great script!!!
15. Readers who find these mistakes will put your script off- judging the story as of no value because of your sloppy writing

43. Script- V10#3, “Conventional Clichés –part four-Ray Morton”
1. Western – pious settlers, evil cattlemen, heroic cavalrymen, savage Injuns, dance hall girls, cattle drives, saloon fights, horse chases,
2. War Stories- cowardly young soldier, tuff sargeant, etc,
3. Science Fiction: no such thing- all sci-fi are action movies, quest films, coming of age- don’t use Roswell, or calls objects weird things, - have aliens speak good English- etc.
44. Script- Vol.10#3, “Voice-Over’s”-  Bob Verini-
1. Used, abused, endorsed by some, put down by others, yet still alive
2. Purpose is exposition- to help the story along
3. Narration could by a part of the art of the movie- setting the tone, mood, even genre.
4. most first person narrations are written in past tense as an adult looking  back

bottom of page