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critique Looking for feedback on hard boiled/detective screenplay: Traceless

Hi all,

I'm looking for feedback on the pilot for my dark hard boiled detective tv show: Traceless.

It has adult themes throughout and is looking to add to the genre consisting of programs such as: Mindhunter/True Detective/American Gods/The Wire etc.

I've had feedback from family and friends but now I would really like some feedback from other writers if possible?

A quick two line overview: A young woman is found dead in the Wyoming wastelands naked and bound to a stool whilst holding a bishop chess piece. With no obvious leads, follow Detectives' Davids and Roberts down the rabbit hole.

Any feedback is gratefully received and will be taken on board to improve my writing.

Thanks all,


  • Chapter One - He Who Sings Softly.pdf
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IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Hard boiled/detective stories are my favorite. This is a difficult read
because of your format.

Not what you're looking for - I understand that - but it's difficult for me
to get through all the directing and camera work to get to your story.

Again I understand that this isn't what you're looking for and it's not quite
fair, but I keep getting distracted by some props and set dressing underlined
and some in uppercase. For example: Roberts has his "note book and pen"
but Mathers and Davie use a "THERMOS CONTAINER". I'm now wondering
if these props have different meaning to the story.

Some actions are in uppercase, some are underlined and some are not. And I
wonder why you are drawing my attention to things like breath condensation so
many times.

Dialogue shouldn't be centered.

For me, the format should be standard - I can accept styles I don't like (like the
Syd Fields "angle on" style and we see/we follow) - but too many uppercase and
underlines and non-standard format bogs me down. I'd love to just breeze through
the screenplay for its story and characters without the camera angles, direction
and visual distractions.
I went through your first 6 pages very quickly, knowing that @directorik had already taken a look. It is indeed a very difficult read. Looks like you used a wordprocessor to write the script which, in and of itself isn't a bad thing as long as you still adhere to basic screenplay format.

From what little I read? I would go ahead and read this script if you go back and try to bang it out in proper format. If you're not using screenwriting software, there are threads here on Indietalk that talk about a myriad of free programs available. You might try importing your script into one of these and start cleaning it up so we can read it.

It's difficult at best to read a screenplay that's not written the way a screenplay SHOULD be written. One of the other things I noticed right off the bat is a LOT of overwriting. Long instances of action/description that would be better used in a novel. I worry from just seeing those instances that you may not actually have 60 REAL pages of screenplay. An abundance of overwriting can easily inflate overall page count.

I'm also fairly familiar with Wyoming... So I was wondering what industrial city wasteland you're depicting in your story or is it just made up?

Anyway... Once you get this cleaned up and into proper format? I'd be happy to read it and give you my thoughts. Please pay attention to the overwriting as well... i.e., inflated page count.

Good luck!
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Hey Ben, if you don't have screenwriting software to type this up, it would be a good idea to try and replicate the correct screenplay format using the margin and spacing settings in whatever word processor program you are using. As @directorik said, the dialogue shouldn't be centred (or spaced) and a 60-page read is hard with the all the unusual quirks you have going on.

Just my opinion, but 60 pages is a lot to ask strangers to read. As a suggestion, if you are looking for help it might be better to get some feedback on the strength of your story first by posting a detailed treatment of the plot for people to comment on. Then, perhaps a 5 or 10 page extract of the script itself for people to critique the actual execution of the writing (and formatting).

I've only read about 15 pages so far so can't really comment on the strength of your story as yet, but to me much of it reads more like prose than a screenplay. Too many instructions for the actors of and too much description of the settings and camera shots. I can see what you are trying to portray, but a lot of this is down to the director to decide and shouldn't really be in a spec screenplay.

The descriptions need to be snappier and avoid being passive. It makes it a lot easier to read when the descriptive text flows. Have a look through instances where you've written "is" and "are" as a starting point and change them. For example, instead of Freddie Mathers "is waiting", put "waits". Instead of "There are" large pools of water from the night before, you could just leave the words "There are" out altogether.

On a positive, I thought the dialogue I've read so far is pretty good to be fair. Quite natural and in keeping with the theme. And despite the over-describing, the scene visuals you are going for work well overall, I think the story could work. You just need to compact it all down and say more with less words. And get the formatting right.
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