Posts tagged ‘how to’

September 5, 2012

How to Fail as a Screenwriter

Dave Trottier of Script Magazine has written a clever article offering up the three best ways to fail as a writer. He explains:

If you’re going to fail as a writer, then you might as well get it over with now.  Then you can focus on your day job and watch television all night.  The following 3 keys are guaranteed to unlock the door to instant failure and free you to flop like a floundering fish on the floor.

1. Just say no

Why didn’t you think of this before?  Stop writing.  It’s as simple as that.  Wait for huge blocks of time to open up, and refuse to write until they do.  Now that’s commitment!  Don’t touch that keyboard until your Muse flies down from Mount Parnassus to reveal the 101 master plots.  Failure comes to those who wait.

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August 5, 2011

Finding Your Main Character’s Arc

James Hull has written a great article on about how to figure out your main character’s arc. In most cases, if your main character doesn’t have an arc, you don’t have a compelling story. Needless to say, this article is an important one to read:

Many a story begins with a great character. That flash of inspiration that says I have to write a story about this person. Yet, so many stories stall out just short of that all-important finish line. Why is that?

The answer can often be traced to misplaced focus. So much attention is placed on fleshing out the character and providing them with greater and greater sources of escalating conflict, that the basic logic of their actual arc breaks down. In fact, sometimes it’s not even there at all.

There is a simple dynamic that exists within all Main Characters, defined by the chasm between a problem and a solution.

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July 20, 2011

The Art of the Query Letter

Judy Kellem wrote this helpful article a while back on the art of writing a query letter that if concise, focused, and powerful:

Why are query letters so hard to write?

There you are, confident you have a great script – the story’s spot on, the plot’s firmly in place and you’re madly in love with the characters you’ve created. Now is the moment of pay off where you’ve graduated – a full script in hand – and stand before those terrifying, golden gates to the kingdom of MARKETING. First step is just one brief letter, the hook that you must bait with a perfect “pitch” to get those first bites. How hard can writing a paragraph description of your masterpiece be? Heck, you just cranked out 120 pages of plot and dialogue!

Now five drafts into the query you’re ready to be committed.

For those of you who’s buttons are popping, don’t fret – there is a solution. The keys to writing a great query are the same ones you used to write a great script: FOCUS, VISION and COMPRESSION.

In a query, you have a tiny space to convey an entire world. In those one or two paragraphs you must communicate to your reader a sense of what your main story is, what drives the plot, who your main characters are and what genre you are writing in. Underlying your summary of the story, you must also transmit the mood, tone and spirit of your script so that the reader instantaneously feels brought into your fiction and knows what they’re in for in reading your screenplay. Just like writing a great dramatic scene, EVERY WORD COUNTS. Making every sentence rich with exposition, drama and urgency is imperative.

How do you do this?

Read the rest of the article here.

April 6, 2011

How to Write Violent Scenes

This article from gives some insight into how to write a gruesome scene without alienating your audience. Here’s an excerpt:

If you want to write a scene that depicts the horror of violence and want us to identify with the victim’s suffering rather than with the villain’s sense of power and control, the best way to do this is not to make the violence all the more visible and graphic. The trick is to create empathy for the character before the violence occurs, and then depict “the act” in such a way that we are not compelled to emotionally disengage and detach.

There’s really no way around it. Put “blood and guts” on a movie screen, and you may end up making a movie that appears to be a cheerleader for violence, and your “message” about how bad violence is or how abused and exploited the victim is, can get entirely lost.

Remember that the violence we can see in our mind’s eye is far more graphic and powerful than anything you could ever show us. If you, as a screenwriter or filmmaker, can inspire our imagination, this will make us engage with your movie and its hero rather than turn away.