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Archive for the Category "Quick Screenwriting Tips"

Parentheticals: Always Before Dialogue – Not After Apr 15

Quick Tip

Never end a dialogue block with a parenthetical.

I’ve been seeing this kind of thing a lot lately in the amateur scripts I’ve been reading:


You think that puny gun can kill me?


If you need to indicate an action that follows a block of dialogue, then just write it as an action line following the dialogue. For example:


You think that puny gun can kill me?

Demon laughs.

Note: The first example would have been okay if there were another line of dialogue after the parenthetical (also known as a “wryly”). For example:


You think that puny gun can kill me?


Shit, you might be right.

For more juicy insight on this absolutely fascinating topic (not really), please check out my 10 rules for using parentheticals.

Quick Screenwriting Tip: Pacing With Multiple Locations Jan 24

Quick Screenwriting TipQuick Screenwriting Tip:

As you race toward your thrilling conclusion, be mindful of your scene lengths, especially if you need to cut across multiple locations, with multiple characters.

Longer scenes will slow things down. Shorter scenes will speed things up.

Sometimes you may have some important business to take care of, in one location, that will take many pages to complete. If you can’t trim it, but want to make sure you don’t lose momentum or intensity, look for an opportunity to cut the scene into two or more parts. You can then jump back and forth between locations, and maintain the pace.

Just make sure you end each scene with a “button”1 so the audience looks forward to coming back to the action.

Want me to read your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

  1. Ending on a button means your scene or dialogue ends with a powerful moment; a hook, joke, cliffhanger, reveal, zinger, shocker, etc.
Quick Screenwriting Tip: “Dismay” Character Jan 13

Quick Screenwriting TipQuick Screenwriting Tip:

If your script is fantastical in nature, look for opportunities for a supporting character to react with dismay — especially if your main characters have become accustomed to the world.

Used at the right time, this may:

  • make a moment feel more authentic or relatable
  • provide an opportunity for a laugh
  • remind us of the stakes
  • help suspend the audience’s disbelief

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Quick Screenwriting Tip: Trust Your Instincts Jan 07

Quick Screenwriting TipQuick Screenwriting Tip:

If you think there might be something wrong with your scene, then there almost certainly is.

Don’t be lazy. Trust your instincts. Figure out what’s not working and fix it. Never say to yourself, “It’s just one scene.”

That one scene might make the difference between a Pass and a Consider.

Want me to read your screenplay? Please take a look at my script services.

Quick Screenwriting Tip: Don’t depend on one line of dialogue Oct 21

Quick Screenwriting TipQuick Screenwriting Tip:

The comprehension of a scene or scene sequence should never depend solely on a single line of dialogue.

I’m still surprised by how often I see this mistake, in both scripts and movies. If something significant needs to be revealed in dialogue, that significant detail needs to be reinforced with some banter, or an action. In most cases, multiple times.

If not, the audience might miss it, and be left in the dark later as to how a character knew something, or why a character did something, or to the payoff of a key moment.

Example of how to do it right

In The Shawshank Redemption (SPOILER ALERT), written and directed by Frank Darabont, imagine if Andy (Tim Robbins) had simply said to Red (Morgan Freeman), “Tell you where I’d go. Zihuatanejo.” — and just left it at that. We’d probably be left scratching our heads at the end when Red shows up on the beach.

No, instead Red repeats the location (Zihuatanejo) back to Andy. On top of that, Andy has the following dialogue:


Mexico. Little place right on the Pacific. You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific? They say it has no memory. That’s where I’d like to finish out my life, Red. A warm place with no memory. Open a little hotel right on the beach. Buy some worthless old boat and fix it up like new. Take my guests out charter fishing.


You know, a place like that, I’d need a man who can get things.

Red stares at Andy, laughs.

It’s an important point, with a huge payoff later, so the dialogue reinforces it in the audience’s mind.

And when Red retrieves the package that Andy’s left for him, we are again reminded of the destination reveal:


Dear Red. If you’re reading this, you’ve gotten out. And if you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further. You remember the name of the town, don’t you?

Never rely on one line of dialogue alone for the audience’s understanding or enjoyment of a key section of your movie.

Need someone to read your script? Please take a look at my script services.

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