Monday, September 10, 2012

Screenwriting Tip of the Day - Sept 10th

"Kill it in the first three pages."

The rule of thumb has been: the first ten pages must hook the reader if you want to have your script read in its entirety. This rule still applies today, but it's been rumored (more like becoming standard) that some readers including producers are focusing on the first THREE pages to determine if it's worth continuing. So my two cents for the day are this: nail it in the first three pages.

So you're saying, "Wait, wait, wait - I'm supposed to fit the elements of a solid ten-pager into three pages now? What - are you crazy?!?" First, yes, crazy is as crazy does. Secondly, it's nearly impossible to squeeze ten pages into three; that is, in the opening scene.

But there are several elements that you must NAIL within the first three if you want to keep them reading. Otherwise, you're wasting your time and paper. So what are these elements?

1. Audience (reader) must know which genre they're about to get wrapped up in. Comedy? Throw in something absurb! Drama? Someone's crying, weeping over a tombstone in the rain. Action? Blow something up on the first page! Not only will this hook, but we'll understand the genre and get set a tone for the next 100-ish pages.

2. Introduce your main character. We need to know who we're going to be rooting for ... that person, animal, or robot that is going to be the hero whether they like it or not. And forget the physical attributes - no one wants to read, "Tall, dark, and handsome." Ick! Have your character wear something that speaks of their personality ... or body language that reveals their temperment. This is where people watching comes in handy. Go to your local coffee shop and look around at the other folks - what do you see? Translate what your eyes see into your mind's word processor. This is a great exercise for the muscle in your noggin and just may lead you to the development of a new character.

3. Leveraging from the genre pitch, you need you have a real hook. HOOK 'EM! Show us something we've never seen before ... or perhaps we have seen it before, but you figured out a way to show it better. Grab our attention. Shake us! We want to fall in love with your story, so give us a good reason. This would be a great time to reveal or foreshadow what or who the antagonist will be in the story.

4. Make sure your writing and formatting is super, duper clean. You don't want your first three pages to wreak of amateur and/or lazy writing. A professional reader or producer can immediately deduce whether they're getting involved with a virgin writer or "old pro". And no one wants to be your first ... so make us believe you've been in the game. White space. Clean, concise, and creative action lines (the three C's as someone has shared with me). Engaging dialogue, but keep it natural. Replace "and" with a comma. This will help you maximize your three pages. And for Pete's sake, check your spelling and grammar!

So tell me what you think in the comments below.

Have anything you want to add to this?

Remember, we're only talking first three pages, not ten.
Now stop reading - GO WRITE ... either a comment or work on your script!

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