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critique First Ten

Scene 1 is perfecto, but it falls apart at Scene 2 when you take me inside Loraine’s house and I go blind. I wonder what her house looks like inside?

Respect your script. That awesome description you wrote to start off Scene 1, you have to do that every single time you write a slugline. I see you did it right in Scene 5, too. Fix the rest. It’s the only flaw I see at a glance.
 
What sticks out at me right away is your passive sentence structure. Passive sentence structure overall? Is just plain weaker than active sentence structure.

For instance, your first master scene location heading... You say "A man is walking..." It's just as easy to write, "A man walks his dog without a bag."

Are you talking about a doggie bag to pick his crap up with? If so? I doubt you need to even have that in your description because nobody is going to notice it on screen if this were made. Nobody's going to say to themselves, "Why doesn't that guy have a bag to pick up his dog's crap?"

I think you could really tighten it up... Plus? If this is a spec script? You don't need any scene numbers.

EXT. SUBURBAN NEIGHBORHOOD - DAY

Cookie cutter, middle income homes. A man walks his dog. A school
girl runs after a missed bus.

Next, you have mid 20s JAMES. I assume he's intricate to your story since you've gone to the trouble of introducing him. If he is? Your intro isn't bad but maybe give us just a bit of his personality so we know a little something about him. Doesn't have to be much. An adjective or two is all you need.

Same with LORAINE. Give is a bit of her mindset. Her personality. Is she the neighborhood busy-body? Is she in everyone's business? Give us a little more flavor. Again, you have passive sentence structure here too. "...LORAINE is clawing through the cracks in her blinds." Just say, "...LORAINE claws through her blinds, fixated on James."

Most of the time? Less is more.

Overall? I think you have a bit too much overwriting... You don't need all the description you're using. Using so much can bog down the read and skew the one-page per minute concept, we try to adhere to when writing screenplays.

For instance...

You wrote:

A preppy teenage girl, PENELOPE, with a small Chihuahua breed
arrives in front James.

No need to say Chihuahua breed when Chihuahua works fine all by itself... But again, if PENELOPE is intricate to your story? Give us just a little more about her besides being preppy. Any main and supporting characters should get good introductions. Don't get too bogged down in what they're wearing but IF writing all that helps you get this first draft out of you? By all means... Use it to do just that. In your rewrite however... Consider cutting a lot of that stuff unless it's really germaine to the story.

I'm pretty much seeing the same thing again and again in these pages so I'm not going to go through each page... Hopefully, you get the gist.

If not? Just ask!
 
Last edited:

mlesemann

Staff Member
Moderator
I agree with @Unknown Screenwriter re descriptions and over-writing, but I think one place where you could use a bit MORE is what's currently scene 11 (and yeah, cut out the screen numbers). We could use more re James' financial plight before he's "rescued" by Uncle Malcolm's will. You don't need a lot - just a few bills open on the table that scream FINAL NOTICE will do it. A text on his phone while he's opening the letter could add to the sense of pressure.
 
Funny the things that bug us! :lol: It doesn't bother me if the software spits out screen numbers, but there are several phrases that really distract me from the storyline, which is a lot of distraction in just ten pages. They're all in the descriptions rather than the dialogue, so you should be able to purge them without affecting the essence of the screenplay.

The first has already been mentioned by @Unknown Screenwriter : A man is walking his dog without a bag. Why would the dog have a bag? Or is it the man who doesn't have a bag? If it's the man, why should he have a bag (and what kind of bag)? What else doesn't he have? Jeez, there's a lot of unanswered questions here ... what line are we on again? :hmm:

Then JAMES shuffles through his mailbox Huh? Oh, no, he doesn't shuffle through it, he shuffles through the contents ...
LORAINE, is clawing through the cracks in her blinds - clawing through them like a zombie? That's a very active description, whereas the context seems to be someone spying - a passive state.
She's almost pressed up against the glass trailing James - .... ??? :hmm: so she has clawed her way through the blinds, and is now sandwiched between them and the window pane? This has the makings of a comedy, by the sounds of it ... hang on, somehow she's got outside, and is trailing James so we're back to the zombie motif.
A series of windows gives her full access Getting confused now - why would zombie Lorraine need a series of windows, surely one window would be enough to give her access to James' house?

OK, I know this is being pernickity, but writing is writing, and if you're creating a mental image using the written word, you need to use the right words. I'm at the end of page one, and I have formed a very clear impression of a zombie woman under the influence of religious artefacts working up an appetite for her neighbour. But, as I read on, it seems that's not at all what the story is about.

A few other examples:
increasingly fades in value - something that is decreasing (fading) can't be simultaneously increasing; and what "value" is referred to here? If you're talking about property values, we've gone from James' "decrepit lawn" to a "pink condominium" so that's surely an increase in value ... ?
James stands peering out of his kitchen window through open blinds - kind of hard to peer out through closed blinds, isn't it?
The mail box tag whirls up in the air - did the truck hit it?
James emerges in the morning mist freshly dewed from the synchronized sprinklers - James got "dewed" by the sprinklers? Didn't see that happen earlier ... :no:

Again, these confusing and/or contradictory descriptions are enormously distracting, and we haven't even moved on to the next location and the new set of characters yet. As it happens, when we do, because you've cut right back on the descriptions, the problem goes away! ;) At least until the eight-ball incident. Does James have a job? Yes, says the ball "indefinitely" - but James answers "No" ... :hmm:

And in contrast to all of that, as @mlesemann point out, what feels like a key moment for James (and the plot?) is reduced to just four lines. No build-up, no tension, no context. Just an apparently emotionless reaction from James.

So there are hints of an interesting plot ahead, but trying to find it in another 30 pages of confusion wouldn't be an enjoyable read. :mope:
 
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