Welcome to 101 Screenwriting Tips That Don’t Suck! This is – what the hip, tech-crowd calls – a “living document.” (Meaning we’ll continue to update it with tips as we come across them. And I’m TOO LAZY to come up with ALL 101 Screenwriting Tips at once.)
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Screenwriting Tips That Don’t Suck #1: Write Your Climax…FIRST!
Not only will this make you way more excited to finish your script…but you’ll also have a much better idea where your script is headed. (And what your story is actually about.)
Screenwriting Tips That Don’t Suck #2: When in Doubt…Put Your Hero in Danger!
If you find your story wandering off, or just plain uninspiring…it’s probably because the focus has turned toward ANOTHER character. Put yours in jeopardy…and get your story back on track.
Screenwriting Tips That Don’t Suck #3: Make Sure Your Story Has at Least 7 “Set Ups” & “Payoffs”
These can be objects, lines of dialogue…whatever. Just planet them througout your story and you’ll find your tale has more resonance – and more buyers!
Screenwriting Tips That Don’t Suck #4: Don’t Be a Slave to 3-Act Structure
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” is seven acts. Shakespeare wrote in five. Don’t get hung up in ACTS. Think about sequences building to a climax. (And then string those out across your story which BUILDS to the BIGGEST climax of them all.)
Screenwriting Tips That Don’t Suck #5: Obsessions are More Important Than Like-a-Bility
Don’t worry about making your hero like-able. (Is Rick in “Casablanca” nice? How about “Napoleon Dynamite?”) Give your hero a super personal goal they would die for – and that’s all the like-ability they need.
Screenwriting Tips That Don’t Suck #6: Use Location as a Weapon (and a Really Nasty One)
Location isn’t just a place for the under-paid film crew to put the camera. The best scripts use location as an enemy and constant irritant to the goals of your hero. (And a nice visual way to underscore the themes of your story.)
Screenwriting Tips That Don’t Suck #7: Fix Your 3rd Act (In the First Act)
Crappy endings are usually the result of a poorly-constructed first act of your script. Spend time setting up HUGE stakes in the 1st act – and then make sure the stakes END UP being even higher than your hero realized.
Screenwriting Tips That Don’t Suck #8: Use Voiceovers to Contrast (Not Explain)
Voiceovers that “explain” action are dull and undramatic. (Like in “Blade Runner.”) Instead, use them to contradict what the viewer is seeing. (And show the character’s tension and conflict in fixing their problems.)
Screenwriting Tips That Don’t Suck #9: Write What Yer Pissed Off About (Not What Will Sell)
I know you want to quit your day job and prove to the world – and your parents – that you can make a living at this writer thing. But it doesn’t work. Instead write what gets you insanely mad/frightened/passionate…and let the business-types figure out how to cut you a check.
Screenwriting Tips That Don’t Suck #10: Storytelling is Storytelling is Storytelling
Don’t limit your craft by JUST studying films. (And screenwriting guides.) Read novels, watch plays, play video games – always asking yourself HOW is this story hoooking me emotionally? (And what can I rip off from them?)