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Archive for March 10th, 2010

Surprise ‘Em Mar 10


"That's good screenwriting!"

The Wow Factor

Want to know a surefire way to impress someone reading your script? Surprise them!

That doesn’t mean coming up with a twist ending. That means ensuring there are surprises in every scene. Yes, EVERY scene.

Surprises can take on many forms:

  • Actions that contradict a character’s intent
  • Dialogue that contradicts a character’s actions
  • Humorous exploits
  • Payoffs to things setup earlier in the script
  • Snappy comebacks
  • Shocking imagery
  • Reveals that change what we thought we were looking at
  • Beginning a scene in an unexpected way
  • Ending a scene in an unexpected way
  • New complications
  • Thought provoking predicaments
  • Character mishaps
  • Clichés turned on their ear

… and the list goes on and on.

Sometimes we get wrapped up in the function of a scene (e.g. “I just need my characters to fight so one will leave”). The result? It falls flat.

In your spec script there should be no such thing as a “standard scene.” Throw in a surprise (or two or three) in every scene and you’ll dramatically improve both your story and your chances of receiving a “recommend” rating.

What the…?

For some surprising inspiration, here are two bizarre videos that take you in entirely unexpected directions.

An important (and hilarious) announcement from Ronald Reagan… In Spanish of course. Keep watching this one, it’s worth it.


“First these giant teddy bears started crossing the road… and then things got weird.”

Guest Post at ScriptXRay Mar 10

Guest Post at ScriptXRayI’ve been a big fan of the web site ScriptXRay for a long time. So I was very excited by the opportunity to contribute today’s guest post for their site, on the subject of demystifying story structure.

Here’s an excerpt:

Hallowed or Hackneyed?

When it comes to mainstream Hollywood story structure, there tends to be two schools of thought.

1) Hallowed — “There is a mystical reason we humans respond to the same basic story told over and over again.”

2) Hackneyed — “Movies have become far too formulaic, with their clichéd heroes journeys and fill-in-the-blanks beat sheets.”

Both are slightly off.

Please read the rest of this article at and let me know what you think!

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