NonFiction ~~- The 10 Commandments Of ScreenWriting

Larry Brody's Script Checklist

Communication 5220 Characters =~5.2Min. Reading Time

1CONSTANT CONFLICTConflict is the key to audience interest.
Make sure conflict is in every scene.

2SCENE STRUCTUREEvery scene is a mini-story with a beginning, middle, and end.
Build to a climax by starting each scene as close to the end as possible and ending with a verbal or physical WHAM!
3ACTIONCharacters are what they do, not what they say or think – because when they talk they may be lying and there’s no way we should be able to hear them think.

4POWER DIALOGProducers judge writers by their dialog.
Your characters need to speak cleverly/colorfully/more interestingly than in real life – even the boring ones have to be cleverly/colorfully/interestingly boring.

5NO DEAD BEATSAudiences are trained to look for clues in everything that is said and done in a scene so make sure everything a character says and does moves the story forward in some way.
No sneezes unless the character is going to have a cold.
And no colds unless that’s going to affect the outcome of the story.

6ESCALATING NIGHTMAREMake sure something is always at stake for your protagonists…and that the stakes build as the story moves on.
To put it another way: Make your leads’ lives increasingly miserable and the audience will root for them more.
This goes for villains as well as heroes.

7NO DIALOG EXPOSITIONDon’t have characters say things the people they’re talking to already know, just so you can give the information to the audience.
Let the audience get the info gradually, naturally, by seeing it unfold.
Oh…and having characters talk to themselves is really, really, really cheating unless they’re totally insane.

8SHORT POWERFUL DESCRIPTIONSDescribe the action colorfully, so that your description has a visceral effect, but don’t overwrite it.
For that matter, don’t overwrite anything.
Keep all your descriptions as terse as possible.

9NO SIT & TALKCome up with things for your characters to be doing even if they’re in a scene that’s just a verbal exchange of information.
People sitting and talking, or sitting and eating and talking are dull, dull, dull.

10VARIED LOCATIONSVary your settings/locales between exteriors and interiors so the audience doesn’t get claustrophobic.

11VARIED PACINGVary your pacing between direct cuts from one time/place to another and direct action such as letting us see a character actually leave one place and enter another nearby setting in real time.
For reasons related to our primitive brainstem, when you do this the audience feels more like a part of the characters’ lives.

Write so clearly that no reader will ever have to read any heading/description/dialog twice in order to understand it.
Having to reread pulls the reader out of the universe you’ve created and you may never get him or her back in.
Speaking of bumps, if the professional showbiz type reader finds anything s/he can’t follow, that reader will always blame the writer.
Throw the reader off and the response is likely to be, “This is confusing…” And into the trash the script goes.

13PROTAGONIST-DRIVENYour hero or heroes have to be genuinely heroic.
That doesn’t mean everyone has to be Captain America, but heroes do have to drive the action in every scene.
That’s how we know they’re heroes: They have more personal power than we do, even when they’re being chased or tortured or just plain suffering miserably.
By this I mean that they always take some kind of action in response to their circumstances/problems, and that action always causes the other characters in the scene to have to adapt to the hero, to follow his/her lead one way or another.

14FULLY-FLESHED WRITINGDon’t expect the events in your teleplay to speak for themselves, no matter how powerful they may be in theory.
Your job is describe even the most exciting event in the most exciting way possible.
In other words, your job is to write.

15PASSION & ENERGYPassion and energy sell.
At the heart of every sale is one essential characteristic: soul.
As in strength, conviction, integrity.
Every reader wants to be moved.
They want to be caught up, unable to stop turning the pages.
So use your words to grab ‘em by the throat and don’t ever let go.
Let me sum it up this way.
When writing your teleplay, do whatever it takes to create characters who feel as passionately about their chosen cause as you do about writing, and then put them into a series of situations that test their belief.
Write this with language that races as quickly as your totally absorbed mind.
Make your work stand up and shout.
A great writer writing a great teleplay is like a great rider galloping on a wild horse.
Don’t break the beast. Go with it and share the breathless exhilaration of the ride.
Your audience will end up richer for it by far.
And emotionally, spiritually, and, yes, financially, so will you.