Review this scene?


IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Your first line is a fine example of telling not showing. You know the
old saying, “Show, don't tell.”

Yes the bartender is wiping the counter (show) but then you tell the
reader that it's in preparation of opening. How does the viewer know
that without reading the script. He could be wiping the counter getting
ready to close up. Or just general cleaning.

A dialogue anomaly; in 1889 no one is accustom to being immediately
up to date on anything so Alec's line (How am I just hearin') doesn't
make sense. He is likely to go weeks without current news. Not because
he's always working but because the newspaper comes out once a month.

But it's a nice set up. Introduces a question right off.


Staff Member
There's a very famous movie named Seven.. personally i would try to choose something more unique.

Where did she hear how tall the giants were? I would have assumed her knowledge came from the newspaper but she seems to know more than she is letting on.
I saw the "show, don't tell", but I wasn't sure how to change. I'll do it over. I guess I could still say he's wiping the counter, but show that it's in the morning, that way the reader will know he's opening the saloon.

You're right, that's an anomaly. I could change the setting, but I don't really want to. There has to be another way.
what questions do you have about it?

She heard about the size of them through like hearsay, but her knowing more about the robots that she's letting on could be interesting.
And yes, I know there's a movie called "se7en." It's kinda just a placeholder.


Staff Member
You could show a sign that has the hours - noon to 1 AM or whatever. Then show the clock.

Or (better), someone else sticks their head in first, and the bartender says "You know we don't open till 10," and the guy leaves.


IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
They say each other's names too much. In casual conversation we rarely call people by their name.

It is evident he is opening AFTER the dialog line of not being open yet. So you do not need to do anything else and you can simply take the description out about getting ready to open. But she would probably know and the line may stick out.

If you want to make it evident earlier, saloons used to open early in the day. The bar and tables would have been cleaned the night before, he would be doing a dusting. You could have dust particles show in the sun and a rooster crow, for example.

Also he could be turning chairs down, off tables. Super obvious he is opening.

Why was he cleaning glasses in the last action line? They should all be clean. This suggests someone was served. Was this on purpose?

...better that I stay here, not than.

Instead of "How am I just now hearin' about this?" you could throw in some foreshadowing or a red herring that shows he doesn't know, a line about how he served whiskey to some rather tall fellas last night.

Also, the Metal Giants in the headline... so he utters the word Giants but is not phased by METAL??? Sounds like sci-fi right? Or armor, or robots? Metal would get my attention as well as Giants. Pretty sure he'd want to read up and not just pass it off... ;) They seem pretty casual about it!!!

Good luck!
1. Don't use bold.
2. Don't use parenthetical, they are almost always unnecessary.
3. Don't write anything that the viewer doesn't know: Alec Barnes(19) wipes off the counter as he gets ready to open to the saloon. We don't know why he wipes off the counter. Instead describe a bit the scene: empty saloon, dawn.. etc
4. When you use - or better -- to cut a dialog because someone interrupts the speaker don't also write that as an action:
instead of:

You sure I coul-

Alec interrupts her.

It’s better if I stay at the
saloon. Trust me.

you can write:

You sure I coul-

It’s better if I stay at the
saloon. Trust me.

About dialog, there is something not plausible. Alec and Mary, obviously, know each other very well. So, at that moment, Mary has a newspaper that says about the bank robbery. The fact that she run to the saloon so early in the morning to show the newspaper to Alec means that probably she got it today morning or maybe yesterday night, doesn't matter. Alec is surprised, asks when it happens and she says that the robbery took place a week ago or so. We could also assume that she had a small chat with the kiosk owner and he told her how tall the robbers are and that they robbed just about every bank in the state and now she says these news to Alec. Then Alec wonders: How am I just now hearing’ about this? Until now everything ok. (His wonder of course is not logical as directorik explained but let's forget for now the year 1889).

But then it comes the weird response from Mary: Always working might have something to do with it. As if it would be normal for him to know these news if he didn't work too much and also as if she didn't learn these news today morning but she new, even from hearsay. But, given the fact that they know each other so well, why she never said to him any of these news until today given also the fact that she seems very interested about these news? The only explanation would be that she was f.e. in another town for weeks and she came today, but then, they don't react as that is the case.

You could write it like this:
Yep. They’ve robbed just about
every bank in the state.

How am I just now hearin’ about

I'm also just read it Alec.

She looks at him like she admonishing him.

Because I went to buy the newspaper to learn what happens outside of the saloon.

Alec keeps wiping nervously.

Seriously Alec, you’re always in
this saloon. Working.

(my english are not perfect)

Something like that.
Last edited:


IndieTalk Founder
Staff Member
Also we don't know the context of this scene. Is he one of the robbers? Is he the leader? And playing dumb? Etc. Just saying, it's a bit hard to critique w/o proper context, but hopefully what everyone has offered helps.


IndieTalk's Resident Guru
I saw the "show, don't tell", but I wasn't sure how to change.
Describe the bar - empty, chairs upside down on the table. The second
line of dialogue indicates the bar isn't open. There are many ways to show.
You're right, that's an anomaly. I could change the setting, but I don't really want to.
Easy there. No need to change the setting. Change that line of dialogue.
What was it like in 1889? How would a bartender speak? He sees a
newspaper once a week - how old is the paper Mary shows him? Today's
paper? Last weeks paper? His line suggests he is usually instantly up
to date on everything, but in 1889 he is likely to not know of a bank
robbery for many weeks. Just change the line so something less 21st

I know there's subtext in this short scene that you will get into later.
I think it's a fine set up.
I echo much of what people above have said.

Also it's a bit clunky after the superimpose and visually you're superimposing that over the character in the Saloon.

My recommendation?

Establishing shot of the Saloon from outside, closed sign in the "winder". Super that. Then transition inside to him wiping down the bar. (or an even better suggestion below)

Then it appears to me that you are intending to have him have some kind of Telekinesis.

Why is a coin left on the bar? IMHO I'd have him spot it on the ground, retrieve it, place it on the counter and then have your super be over that with a "Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Territory" (it wasn't a state yet) and then have the DATE be borrowed from the bottom of the coin (Morgan Silver Dollar anyone?)

Then have him focus on it, concentrate, etc. and then says it "floats/levitates up and hovers".

Also you need to switch around the next action. Mary bursts in BEFORE the coin drops. Something along the lines of "floats slightly above the counter. MARY MARSHALL (23) bursts through the Saloon doors. Alec's concentration is broken. The coin drops to the bartop" or something like that. Keep the actions sequential if possible. Coin hovers, Mary bursts in, Alec loses concentration/is startled, whatever, coin falls.

Heck I'd even do it thus (this is my purely amateur suggestion which could be crap so grains of salt and all):


A wooden clapboard saloon. Glass winders and closed sign on the door (or sign on the door reads "Closd" or whatever)


ALEC BARNES (19) moves down the bar wiping it with a rag. He spots a coin on the ground and retrieves it, wipes it and places it on the bar.

C.U. - Shiny Morgan Silver Dollar - 1889
SUPERIMPOSE: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Territory

Alec looks around to make sure he's alone. His eyes and face turn serious as he focuses on the coin. It jiggles and then lifts a foot into the air and hovers.

The Saloon door bursts open as MARY MARSHALL (23) rushes in, newspaper held before her.

Alec's concentration broken/shattered. The coin drops to the bar.

Mary, blah, blah blah.

I know but blah, blah blah.

Mary lays the newspaper on the bar, blah,blah, blah.

Now, excise Alec's "when did this happen" because he can read and has a newspaper right in front of him.

Actually that whole thing gets a little weird. First the bank robberies happened a week ago. Second Mary just brought in a newspaper that is reporting on them. Third Alec is asking why he hasn't heard about something that happened a week ago but supposedly just got reported in the paper. How would he have heard about it before then if the newspaper is just reporting it?

I think the newspaper itself can help you out because the details would be there and Alec would be able to glean them from there (same as the "Giants" he read).

"This newspaper's a week old!" "Says here they've hit banks in Blah, blah, blah before this!"

I get the intent to transition from the news items to the "you're spending too much time working" dialogue and my challenge would be to make that happen more natural.

Maybe something along the lines of "You don't have to worry. They're robbing banks, not saloons and you never leave this place anyways." or some such.

A couple of grammar items. "I think it's better THAT I stay here." Than means he should take the Deputy job instead of staying there.

You could also condense much of the dialogue. Especially things where the same thing is repeated without adding much.


That’s nice and all Mary, but I
think it’s better THAT I stay here.


It’s better if I stay at the
saloon. Trust me.

That kind of stuff.

Good luck and it sounds interesting! Keep writing!
I would let you read the whole script....if there was a whole script. This is based on a short story I wrote when I like 16 maybe? 4 or 5 years ago? You could read that if you wanted the whole story, but I wasn't that good back then.

And thanks to everyone who replied. I've been busy with college, so I haven't been to revise the scene yet. But I definitely will.