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Top 5 Scene Description Mistakes Writers Make

Scene Description Problems Scene description can be the key difference between your spec screenplay sinking or soaring. This is because there’s SO LITTLE good scene description in the pile … But if a writer is great at this craft element, it often follows they’re  pretty awesome at the rest. So, investing in your scene description is a no-brainer! But there’s no ‘right’ way to write scene description, just multiple wrong ways … Are you doing any of these top 5 mistakes? Check it out: 1) Too much ‘black on the page’ First, the classic issue. When writers have ‘too much… Read More »Top 5 Scene Description Mistakes Writers Make

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25 Epic Years of JURASSIC PARK: What Can Writers Learn?

Jurassic Snark Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom came out last week to coincide with 25 years of the franchise. Needless to say, many official critics gave the new instalment a kicking, plus there was the inevitable cries on social media about it ‘not being as good’ as the original. But love or hate the new Jurassic Worlds, there’s plenty for us to learn as writers from the franchise. You ready for another instalment of Movie Lessons For Writers? OBVIOUSLY there will be *some* spoilers for the franchise as a whole,  but only mild ones. So let’s go … 1) Entertainment first, ALWAYS… Read More »25 Epic Years of JURASSIC PARK: What Can Writers Learn?

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How BLADE RUNNER 2049 Confuses All Its Critics

Mild Spoilers Box Office Whoa In a week in which *that* news broke about movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, you’d be forgiven for missing that BLADE RUNNER 2049  apparently bombed at the box office. Of course, this may not be that big a deal in the long run … After all, the original also bombed back in 1982.What’s more, apparently the original didn’t review well at the time (though it’s considered a classic now) … Unlike 2049 which has that hallowed FRESH rating on Rotten Tomatoes immediately (88%, no less.). Once Awards Season and ancillary markets are factored in, there’ every… Read More »How BLADE RUNNER 2049 Confuses All Its Critics

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15 Cheesy Writing Fails To Avoid In The First 10 Pages

Cheesy Writing Fails We all know we have to avoid the cheesy writing fails to get ahead. As all screenwriters know, the first ten pages can be make or break … But now novelists – both self-published AND trying to smash their way out of the slush pile – are finding they have to hit the ground running too. Readers and viewers are more media literate than ever and they simply WILL NOT ‘wait’ for the story to start! When the beginning of your work is SO important, it simply doesn’t make sense to include scenes or elements we’ve seen a gazillion times… Read More »15 Cheesy Writing Fails To Avoid In The First 10 Pages

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How To Assign A Character’s Race In A Screenplay

Race, Variety & Authenticity It’s important for writers to think about race, because representation matters. It’s part of the B2W remit. If you follow me on social media, you’ll know one of my books is titled, Writing Diverse Characters For Fiction, TV or Film. In the course of my research for the book, I talked to a multitude of producers, literary agents, filmmakers, publishers, authors and even actors for their thoughts on this issue, from ALL types of backgrounds, which has been a real eye-opener. I’ve also put my own thoughts under the microscope about what ‘diversity’ really means when it comes… Read More »How To Assign A Character’s Race In A Screenplay

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3 Important Tips About Theme And Story

1) Theme – A Definition Many thanks to Robert Maitland who asks: I’ve written a screenplay and I am struggling to define the theme. I thought I had understood what the theme/premise was, but on sending it to someone they disagreed. I was wondering if you could offer any advice? If we look up ‘theme’ in the dictionary, you’ll see key words from the definition in the graphic above: ‘subject‘, ‘topic’, ‘idea‘, ‘recurs’ and ‘pervade‘. In layman’s terms then, theme is what your story is ‘REALLY ABOUT’ at foundation level. 2) The Importance of Theme Some writers attach a lot… Read More »3 Important Tips About Theme And Story

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What Is The MacGuffin? (Plus How To Use It)

The statue from The Maltese Falcon. The grail from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. “Rosebud” from Citizen Kane. They all have one thing in common: they are MacGuffins — persons, places, or things which the characters are all seeking, but which have little plot value of their own. The MacGuffin is the ultimate “prize” of every quest movie ever made. It is the microfilm from spy movies, the trophy from sports movies, and the mission objective from war movies. The MacGuffin acts as a sort of temporary stand-in, creating an immediate plot point as the story gradually pivots from… Read More »What Is The MacGuffin? (Plus How To Use It)

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Top 10 Words Or Phrases Storytellers Gave Us

Inventing Words Shakespeare was The Don when it came to inventing words and phrases, so we tend to think writers and filmmakers contribute to language a lot more than they do. It’s actually rather unusual for a writer or filmmaker’s words to get assimilated wholesale by popular culture, but here’s my top 10. Enjoy! 1) You do not talk about … An easy one to start. FIGHT CLUB (1999) is an iconic book and film, so whenever anyone says the phrase, “You do not talk about [whatever]” they’re usually invoking this particular scene from the movie. Over the last two… Read More »Top 10 Words Or Phrases Storytellers Gave Us

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8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Drama Screenplay DEAD

Drama can be ANYTHING. Literally, anything. So why am I reading the same stuff??? Whether short film, TV pilot or feature, here’s how to KILL your drama screenplay’s chances in the spec pile: 1) Write about the same-old, same-old These are the facts. Everyone writes dramas about: i) depression/suicide ii) addiction iii) domestic violence iv) terminal cancer v) poverty Sometimes ALL of these in one piece! True story. Now, you CAN write about these things, but you gotta have some authenticity and emotional truth, otherwise DON’T BOTHER (see number 2). Also, make sure it’s not written the same way as… Read More »8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Drama Screenplay DEAD

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11 Expositional Clichés That Will Kill Your Story

Exposition: it’s a cheeky little b*****. Whether novelist or screenwriter, we all need it: too little background info will mean no one has a clue what’s going on … But equally, how much is TOO MUCH? Well, check out these expositional superclangers from the spec novels and screenplays I read: 11) Random Flashback … [… Pssssst Screenwriters! See also: dream sequence; intercut; plus all about montages].  Do you really need this? REALLY? Now, look. Flashback (and indeed flashforward) – when used correctly – is a brilliant device for novels and screenplays. It can be dramatic and intriguing. But when used badly, it… Read More »11 Expositional Clichés That Will Kill Your Story

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My Thoughts On The Final 50 of “50 Kisses”

It was always going to be difficult, honing a list of 1800+ scripts down to just 50. It wasn’t just a case of picking only the “best” writing either, but balancing the “best” with the “right” subject matter too – we didn’t want 50 smoochy-smoochy scripts, or 50 outlandish ones either. The reading team needed to keep that end outcome in mind of “50 Kisses – the movie” as well! NOT easy. And I for one think the reading team did a fantastic job again. I wasn’t able to head the team this year because of other work commitments, but… Read More »My Thoughts On The Final 50 of “50 Kisses”

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Use of Symbolism In Novels

I’ve written before about symbolism with regards to screenwriting, referencing ALIEN and the use of the name Kane as a representation of Cain, from the Biblical story Cain and Abel. Symbolism MUST be simple in screenwriting – there simply isn’t the time to indulge it in great detail. This is why names of characters are often used a “short cut” to symbolism in movies and TV: there’s a Cain in EMMERDALE too, symbolic of trouble – in fact, Cain and Edmund (the troublesome son in KING LEAR) are probably the two most often-used names in movies and spec scripts to… Read More »Use of Symbolism In Novels

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