Everyone Wants A Full Read
It’s well known that script readers will assess a spec script’s first 10 pages to see if should get a full read. Whether we think it fair or not, it’s just the way of the industry. When there are so many submissions out there, this makes sense time-wise.
So for your best chance of getting a full read, here’s my take from the other side of the desk … Ready? Let’s go!
1) Start as you mean to go on!
If you want a full read, then give the script reader a sense you know what you’re doing right from page 1. This means ensuring your screenplay format is super-shiny, but remember that’s the LEAST we can do.
You need to also establish your story and characters right from the very first line. How to do the latter follows in the rest of the article.
2) Write an opening image in every scene
Too many screenplays are just not visual enough. Start your screenplay with an image that sums up the genre and tone of your story, plus who the characters are within it. Also, don’t just do this on the first scene, do it on every scene!
3) Establish what your characters want early on
Too many spec screenplays are very vague on what their characters want. As a result, it feels like we’re ‘waiting’ for the story to really start. Make sure we know your characters’ motivations ASAP.
4) Make sure we know characters’ role functions
Who is your protagonist? Your antagonist? Who are your secondary characters and why they helping/hindering your protagonist in his or her goal? How do we know this? Remember, if characters are what they do (and they are), what ACTIONS are they taking?
5) Check for cheesiness!
The fastest way to turn a script reader OFF your spec screenplay is by including something cheesy in the first 10 pages of your screenplay … Or worse, starting with it on page 1. Yikes!
But how do we know if something’s cheesy? Well good news, script readers are a verbose lot and so are movie audiences … Check the internet!!! Here’s 15 Cheesy Writing Fails To Avoid In The First 10 Pages and here’s 7 More Cheesy Epic Fails.
6) Establish your storyworld early on
Storyworld incorporates stuff like genre and tone, so if it’s a …
- Comedy? Start with some amusing, quirky, or LOL-funny.
- Thriller? Start with something intriguing, exciting, or mysterious.
- Horror? Start with dread, something shocking or creepy.
- Drama? Start with something that gives an insight to the struggles the character faces.
If you want a full read, then ensure we know the TYPE of story we are dealing with from page 1. (Don’t forget either that storyworld is a great place to showcase your writer’s voice).
7) Introduce characters & story TOGETHER
Too many spec screenplays introduce us to characters and THEN kick the story off. Often this happens by characters doing a variety of ‘character-building’ actions or worse, randomly talking about *stuff*.
Great stories happen when we see characters show us what they’re made of. They can only do this by reacting and dealing with situations. So make them DO STUFF.
8) Check for chains of dialogue
Too many writers get swept in writing dialogue and end up writing chains and chains of it. Dialogue is important, but it shouldn’t tell the story. Think of dialogue as the ‘surface layer’ of the story. Really make your characters earn the right to speak.
9) Conquer your scene description
Too many writers believe scene description is about DESCRIBING EVERY LITTLE THING in a scene. Nope! Go through your scene description and ask yourself three questions …
- Is this line visual?
- Does it push the story forward?
- Does this reveal character?
Remember – ‘scene description is scene action’. Scene description is another great place to show off your writer’s voice, too.
10) Check for those ‘weasel words’
Too many spec scripts fall back on those irritating pet peeve words script readers see constantly. Whilst a small thing, these killer words can make writers switch off. If the beginning of your script is full of them, there’s a strong chance you won’t get the full read you crave.
The good news is, these words are easy to hunt down and eradicate … There’s lists of them all over the internet LIKE THIS ONE! So go get ’em, tiger!
To celebrate, I am offering Bang2writers a free mini course called The Foundations of Writing Craft. Using video, worksheets and PDF guides, I walk you through what I call ‘The B2W Holy Trinity’ … Concept, Characters and Structure. It’s for novelists as well as screenwriters.
So, if you want proven methodologies for working on your writing craft, this course will provide the know-how and the resources you need. To grab your free mini course from B2W then, CLICK HERE or on the pic on the left. Enjoy!