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Archive for the Category "Quick Screenwriting Tips"

Quick Screenwriting Tip: Deus Ex Machina = Bad Aug 24

Quick Screenwriting Tip

Avoid a deus ex machina ending to your story.

What is deus ex machina? According to Wikipedia:

A deus ex machina (Latin for “god out of the machine”) is a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new character, ability, or object.

I feel the need to bring up this writing tip after reading Dean Koontz’ recent novel, Relentless. The ending was so contrived, so preposterous, I had to check the spelling of the author’s name twice to make sure it was indeed that Dean Koontz.

The novel was a good reminder of why it’s important to properly establish the rules of your world in the beginning of the story.

For example: If your story’s a western, with no sci-fi components, then it shouldn’t end with the hero saving the day after discovering an alien laser gun hidden inside a spittoon.

Can you think of any movies that use deus ex machina successfully?

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Quick Screenwriting Tip: Don’t Sweat the Backstory May 08

Quick Screenwriting Tip

Don’t get hung up on writing character backstories. What’s important is knowing how your character will react to situations right now.

We all react differently to trauma and events. For example, someone who grows up in an abusive household may become an abuser themselves, become a crusader for the abused, or just carry on unaffected and lead a normal life.

Backstories are therefore irrelevant for the most part. What matters in your screenplay is how your characters react to things at this moment in their lives.

The only time a backstory will be important is when an aspect of your character’s past will be brought up, or depicted, in the movie — and will have a direct bearing on the plot or another character.

A Simple Rule

If you know what your character would say and do in any situation, you’re ready to start writing the dialogue and actions for your character.

Quick Screenwriting Tip: Redundant Parentheticals Apr 28

Quick Screenwriting Tip

If a parenthetical provides obvious information, it should be removed.

Example of UNNECESSARY parenthetical usage — (angrily):



I’m going to kill ALL of you!

We know Jake is angry because of what he says and how he says it. The parenthetical is redundant and slows down the read.

Have you eliminated all of the unnecessary parentheticals in your script?

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Quick Screenwriting Tip: Proof for homonym errors Apr 26

Quick Screenwriting TipWhen proofing the final draft of your script, don’t forget to do a homonym pass.

While we’re blazing through our first draft, it’s easy to inadvertently mix up words or contractions that sound the same in our heads. We need to weed-out any of these remaining grammar traps at the end of the writing process.


  • there, their, they’re
  • your, you’re, yore
  • to, too, two
  • its, it’s
  • dam, damn
  • should have/should’ve, should of
  • could have/could’ve, could of

A simple automated spell check isn’t going to catch these errors.

It’s always worthwhile to have someone else (with a solid command of grammar and spelling) read your script for such mistakes before you send it out. Often times when we read our own work, we see what we intended to write, as opposed to what’s actually on the page.

Quick Screenwriting Tip: Spacing after FADE IN: Apr 23

Quick Screenwriting Tip

Make sure you only have one blank line after FADE IN:

If you’ve set up your screenwriting software to use two blank lines above your scene headers (triple spacing), you need to ensure that there is only one blank line (double spacing) after FADE IN:

Failure to do so may brand you an amateur right out of the box.

This rule also applies to all other transitions.

Correct Line Spacing:



Want me to personally read your script and let you know if it’s ready to go out? Please take a look at my professional script services.

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