The opening ten to twenty pages of your script are so important in really selling top execs and producers your script. If it doesn’t grab ’em, then you got no chance. The first page is the most important of those early pages. The first impression of your script really matters. Here are 5 writing tips from us on how your opening page can stand out and shine from the rest…
1. STRIKING VISUALS OR AUDIO
Find a striking image, sound, or quick sequence of events to start on. If you can immediately make the reader visualize or “hear” your script, it makes it so much easier for them to visualize the rest of the story.
2. NAIL THE GENRE
You need to immediately establish the genre. In some ways, you can combine this with Tip #1 (sci-fi is a great genre for this). But sometimes you need to immediately set the tone of a tense horror, or the light-heartedness of a rom-com with how you write, and how your characters act.
You got a sci-fi? Show us some cool advanced tech. Horror? Give us a murder scene. Rom-com? Give us a visual that we associate with romance (sunsets, weddings, restaurants) and throw some funnies in there.
3. AVOID THE EARLY ICK
You don’t wanna put off the reader with anything yucky. Whatever happens on page one sticks with the reader throughout the rest of the script. You don’t want something icky to stick with them, do you? You have to make us care before you hit us with anything vicious, sick or distasteful
Generally, keep things subtle and ambiguous. If you want to set up a murder, avoid showing and describing the actual act with too much detail.
4. PLEASE NO VOICE-OVERS
You wanna do some world-building, set up the story, tell us all about the characters. I get it. But please, please, please try and avoid voice-overs. they just ooze with laziness and lack of creativity. Ditto for title cards, by the way.
Same goes for info-dump title cards (at the beginning and end of the script – especially for biographical stories…) Your script should be providing all the necessary info the story needs to. These types of voice-overs and title cards should not be necessary for a good script.
5. TRY TO AVOID DIALOGUE
If you don’t start with a strong image, then you’re probably beginning with a dialogue-heavy exposition scene. Bad. If you can effectively open your script without dialogue then you’ll more likely hook whoever’s reading your script.
These all fit in with each other, too. If you’re avoiding dialogue, then you’re avoiding voice-overs. Your striking image can also visually announce the genre of your script and set the tone; a horror film can start with a gruesome murder, for example. Don’t overdo it on the visuals, though. Don’t give us something too visceral and gratuitous – that’ll either put us off with the ick, or give too much of the game away. It’s a delicate balance to manage, but such good practice to get into.
Pretty straight-forward writing tips, right? Seems so obvious now that you see these written down, but you will not believe how many writers fall into the trap of lazy voice-overs and give us no idea of what the genre is.
Just remember to KISS – keep it simple, stupid.
See what we would say about the opening page of your script (and all the other pages!) with our Script Mentoring services…
After praising Second and Third Placed David Kurtz and Simon Bowler, we finally get to our Winter 2018 Writing Contest Grand Prize Winner. And again, it’s a writer who’s come back to us, improved, and won!
It’s been two years since Tyler True won the monthly contest for his script LOVE IS SOMEWHERE ELSE. He’s been improving as a writer all that time and has finally reached the pinnacle of his career – winning the Grand Prize in WriteMovies’ Winter 2018 contest! (We’re joking, of course, but still a great achievement.)
It’s been great to see Tyler’s progress over the past couple of years and we’re delighted that he, David, and Simon have all improved upon previous placements. So proud…
Here’s Tyler’s reaction to his big win…
“I am so incredibly grateful to all of you for this prize! I think I was even sleeping with a smile on my face, which hasn’t left since I woke up. It’s just so fulfilling to realize that somebody else sees the same potential in this script that I do. I can’t wait to sharpen this up and take it to the industry!”
Here’s a little bio on Tyler…
“I’ve had various jobs on the ocean, such as a tug boat driver and commercial scuba diver, led me to the other end of the spectrum and into the skies. After serving 5 years as a pilot in the Canadian Air Force, and completing a degree in Psychology, I decided to quit the military and follow my passion to be a writer. Four years of full time writing, while working sparingly as a diver, has resulted in numerous screenplays and an autobiographical book about my debaucherous and adventure filled life.”
And here’s the logline to Tyler’s winning script, SLAVE SHIP:
A devout African man chooses to work on a slave ship in order to ensure the safe passage of other Africans sold into slavery.
There’s only one way for you to see if you’ll be our next Grand Prize winner. Take a chance with our Spring contest now!
We continue our celebration of our Winter 2018 Writing Contest top three winners – who all improved on previous placements.
Last time we commended Simon Bowler, who broke into the top three for the first time after winning two special TV awards. (Check out that article here.)
Today, it’s all about David Kurtz – our Summer 2017 Contest Third Placed winner who re-entered the Winter 2018 Contest to finish in Second Place!
We’re sure our previous Development Notes prizes have helped David out (we’ll let him tell you all about that, though!) but this is a great example of how every draft and version of your script will improve – so never give up!
Here’s what David said about his Second Placed finish…
“Doing well at the WriteMovies Screenwriting Competition brings great rewards – and you don’t have to win! 2nd and 3rd place receive the highest quality script Development Notes (+ INKTIP freebies!) – notes that have the ring of screenwriting experience and authenticity. Their readers really work at understanding what your script is all about – to you!
They not only make detailed proofreading corrections – but they offer suggestions that make you feel like you have a co-writer. For me, the most important help I’ve gotten is to give me the courage to edit – to remove scenes and dialogue I loved but knew deep down didn’t serve to move the story forward. (I save all the edited cuts to possibly be used in another story – this makes letting go easier.)
I assume that most writers (like me) are on a tight budget, but I would suggest saving money on lesser competitions to use on these amazing Development Notes. If you move up toward the top they will be free!”
Here’s a little background on David:
“I retired to Northern California from Massachusetts several years ago and took up writing screenplays – not golf. I’m a “gen Boomer” devotee of 1930s to 1950s movies that feature dialogue, romance, and humor. I naturally tend to write contemporary takes in those genres that might appeal to younger audiences as well as all age groups.
My writing education has been limited to basic composition at college, a creative writing class with a Tufts University professor and a beginner’s screenwriting course at Santa Rosa Junior College. CHARMER is my first “completed” script.”
And here’s the logline to David’s winning script, CHARMER:
A burned-out middle-aged accountant and a young daredevil woman put their polar opposite lifestyles aside when they team up on dangerous hostage-rescue mission.
Check out our script mentoring services for yourself. You could improve your script AND gain free entry into our Spring 2018 Writing Contest. View our services here…
The Winter 2018 Writing Contest was a special one for us as we saw 3 previous winners all improve on past results! We had a previous Monthly Contest winner win the Grand Prize, a former third placed winner came in second, and an Honorable Mention and TV award winner broke into the top three.
Today, you get to meet the Third placed winner of our Winter 2018 Writing Contest Simon Bowler. Simon won the first ever “Best Teleplay and pilot award for Summer 2017. Then he won it again for the Winter Contest AND came Third overall!
A testament to Simon, and how well he used our past Development Notes prizes to improve on his previous draft.
Here’s what Simon said about his Third Placed finish…
“With WriteMovies development notes I was able to climb up from semi-finalist to finalist, to a being a winner three times in a row, which has been an extraordinary validation of my writing and has been hugely encouraging. I now look forward to working with WriteMovies to the hone the script, a pilot for a mini-series, into the best iteration possible, and to start focussing on how to market the project. The writing process, as any writer knows, is a lonely one, so to have the recognition of a triple win with WriteMovies and their continued support will make that journey all the more bearable, and hopefully, successful.”
Here’s some background on Simon:
“Originally from London, where he produced documentary films for the BBC and Channel 4, Simon has spent over twenty years in Los Angeles producing, writing and directing television docs and reality shows. Simon recently switched to drama and besides the multiple award-winning “Insurrection” mini-series (of which he’s written three episodes), he has written two award-winning plays (both at this year’s Austin Film Fest), a feature film, and is developing a classic horror anthology TV series.”
And here’s the logline to Simon’s winning script, INSURRECTION:
INSURRECTION tells the interwoven stories of three men – a farmer, a slave and a senator – whose dangerous battles against slavery led to the American Civil War. Farmer John Brown, slave Frederick Douglass, and Senator Stephen A. Douglas.
With two television awards up for grabs in our Spring 2018 Writing Contest, the chances of your pilot script winning has never been higher… enter here.
By guest author Calix Lewis Reneau, writer/director of www.childthemovie.com and producer and creative of features, television, print, music, and new media.
“You’ve probably heard the writing advice to “murder your darlings.” This means to be ruthless in deleting clever writing that doesn’t serve the greater purpose of your work. I’ve learned that a writer must take this a step further. To get the best story on the page, we must be willing to kill the story in our minds.
If you’ve ever tried to explain a dream you’ve had after waking up, then you can understand this. In your dream everything was vivid, real, logical, connected – a complete story. But as it immediately fades, even the simplest narrative detail slips from your grasp. Worse, when you can remember the precise details, they sound pedestrian and disconnected in the telling.
The same is true of the story you have in your head which you’re so passionate to tell. For reasons too complex to relate in a short article, we humans don’t think in a simplistic, connected, linear fashion. On simple fact can help reveal to that complexity: there are more than one hundred trillion synapses (neural connections) in your brain, at a minimum. That’s a thousand times more than the number of stars in our galaxy. And your connections in your brain are unique in all of history to you alone. What you think, what you see, what you feel, what you dream – your story – has never been before, and will never be again.
The story you want to tell is meaningful to you for the same reasons you are so invested in your dream when you’re having it at night. It’s immediate. It’s real. It’s consists of more than what can be put in words on a page, or images on a screen. The story is made up of your unique emotional connection to the material which drives you. It finds meaning in your personal history. It finds context in your life and worldview.
In short, the story in your mind is your story alone. It can never be anything more than that.
As writers, we’re compelled to share that story, impossible though it might be to do so. That’s where the skill, the talent, the hard work come in. The job of the writer is not to tell the story in our heads. It’s to translate the unique inner experience into a tangible form which will hopefully lead others to a similar journey. To laugh, to cry, to learn, to grow, or just to be entertained.
This translation requires that we understand the connective elements that we share. Functional communication requires two parties: someone to say something, and someone to hear it. You have something you want to say, need to say. As a writer, the fundamental task at hand is to say it in a way which will clearly give your intended audience what you want them to have. It’s no use to complain that others can’t enjoy the dream you had last night in the same fashion as you did. The hard work that sets successful writers apart from all others is the learned ability based on innate talent to take that powerful inner experience and craft something that leads others to their own unique powerful inner experience that is reflective, that is connected through our common humanity.
To do this, we must be ruthless in “murdering our darlings” at the most fundamental level. This means recognizing from the start that the story in our heads can’t ever function as the story we want to tell. But that’s okay, because once we accept that, the story in our heads can become the powerful inspirational genesis for the stories we put out into the greater culture using our skill and talents of translation as writers. Your focus, passion, ability, and self-discipline is the refiner’s fire which will burn away the dross of self so you can change the world with the stories you have to tell.”
Calix is a full-time creative working in features, television, print, music, and new media. He has written professionally for just about every type of media imaginable, including a stint as a top-selling greeting card writer. These days he spends most of his time juggling projects at his own production company which are in various states of entropy, from nascent ponders to completed features winding their way through post production and into distribution. His job title at Calix8 Productions – “iconoclast gadfly” – pretty much explains his approach to work, life, and the mysteries of the universe.
You can learn more about Calix at his poorly-maintained personal website – www.calix8.com – and see the trailer to his most-recent completed feature film (as writer/director) at www.childthemovie.com.