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Your screenplay is wrong. Here's why.

When scripts come to you, there are some that you can immediately rule out. If a writer doesn't even take the time to check spelling, grammar, proper formatting, it's a sure bet that the rest of the script won't improve. It may seem unfair, but a reader's job is not to proof a script. So #1, make sure you have proofed everything and used good formatting before you submit. When others comment on it in this forum, it's not being petty. If it looks messy, I would stop after page 5.

Reading through the list, I have to agree with the reader's observations. Readers vary on what they like and also must weigh in what the studio wants. In one case, the production company wanted a strong female lead. Most of the scripts I reviewed had a female lead who was more of a 'companion' to her protective male 'support'. While it's not necessarily true, male writers should have female reviewers check the portrayal and dialogue of their female characters. And vice versa.

I would also make a distinction between a "stereotypical character" and role (trope). It's okay to include archetypical or trope characters because they often define the story. At issue is how they are developed. In poor scripts, they are introduced and NEVER CHANGE. There is no character development or "arc". As a result, the reader (and audience) has no feel for them. If I don't care what happens to a character by page twenty, I can't recommend it.

The only one I would say is not a serious flaw is "The hero isn't as strong as needed." For some films, that is the point and can be a profound message. For me, it breaks formula. In real life, even heroes have limits and sacrifices must be made. Having said that, this only works if you have pushed your hero to his/her limits.

What I do see frequently are scenes strung together to highlight special effects or action with no logic connecting them. Often they are considered a reason unto themselves. The writer/director may think it's cool to have a zombie ripping off a guy's arm with blood spurting, the stoic strong guy getting tortured by the villain only to turn the tables, etc. These cliche vignettes are often tossed in because "they're expected". Fine. In a movie you're shooting for your friends, film away. If you're trying to sell this piece, you need to be less "expected" and more relevant. Yes, those scenes may happen but they are driven by the story and not just tossed in plot devices because they're cool. If you could take out the scene without it changing the context of the movie, then it's probably gratuitous.

The other big flaw, especially with new screenwriters, is they try to "direct from the page". They detail shots, go into elaborate detail over locations, costume, actions, etc. They fail to realize their role is to tell a great story and create a blueprint for other professionals to take over. Unless you are the director, you don't need to worry about camera shots and transitions. Really. You learned it in school, nice, now forget it until you are asked to write the shooting script. This appears in "Script is the writer's ego trip" on the list.

Often submitted scripts will have caveats. These don't preclude consideration. What I would take away is that nearly a third (97 of 300) were moved along for further consideration and roughly a tenth of those (8) were good to go as written. I don't think the reader's intention was to say that all writers suck. Most writers have good ideas but really need to hone their writing style. That only comes from reading and practice unfortunately. Screenwriting is part art and part craft.

What I particularly like and appreciate is that it covers a wide variety of genres and scripts. The average script length of 107 pages is something to note. If a script is over 120 pages, it raises red flags. As a general practice, I will give a script until page ten to catch my interest unless it is horribly formatted in which case I stop at page five. By ten I should want to continue on. By page twenty, I should know main characters, care about them, know a bit about their strengths and foibles, the general problem/issue they face, and the obstacles they need to overcome generally. Then it should provide that hook that makes me want to jump into "act two" where the major action and struggle occurs. A good script will hint at it. Even non-linear scripts make you aware of the driving issue of the movie.

It's hard to say how to write a "good" screenplay without coming across as being "formulaic". Write a good story by developing believable characters the audience cares about making reasonable choices under the most difficult circumstances from which they must learn and grow from the consequences. The "craft" comes in by pacing this story to fit into under 120 pages in a standardized format. Saying it sounds outlandishly dull, yet it is the foundation of all screenplays. It is easier to tell others how their writings deviate from that ideal so they can work to improve it. This list is a useful tool if you turn its criticisms around to help guide your writing.

  1. Start your story beginning page 1.
  2. A scene should be meaningful and relevant such that removing would diminish the story.
  3. The story should come first, not the structure.
  4. The script should not be inflated beyond the story's natural length.
  5. No character is purely good or evil but are the result of their decisions.
  6. People should act reasonably within their character.
  7. Men and women should be treated as vital equals.
  8. Avoid talking head sequences and not use dialogue when visuals would work better.
  9. Conflict often goes dormant, not away.
  10. Make your protagonists unique with strengths and weaknesses that deviate from the "expected".
etc.

Thanks for finding and posting this.
 
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less "expected" and more relevant

Noticed something about the writing in the show Homeland; often they will give you redundant outs to the tension of a particular plot conflict. That is, they give you the out that you see coming, that would force a character to make a moral decision, only to introduce a new out to alleviate the situation. This serves two purposes; by playing on our expectations of the 'inevitable out', the plot both proves to be unexpected by defying the conventions of more simply written shows, and providing a 'character test' that develops the character without requiring a coincident plot limitation, or hastening developments.
 
Noticed something about the writing in the show Homeland; often they will give you redundant outs to the tension of a particular plot conflict. That is, they give you the out that you see coming, that would force a character to make a moral decision, only to introduce a new out to alleviate the situation.
It's the "ram in the thicket" scenario.
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis 22

You gotta plan your "bad situations" with some thoughtfulness.

Point the audience in one direction - THEN! - let the protag off the hook with a backdoor.

Now, if you wanna go advanced story writing do this the first couple times and then on the third time FORCE the protag to make a hard decision.
If done right it'll be extremely uncomfortable when THERE ARE NO GOOD SOLUTIONS. Only less-bad decisions.
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
...Someone's gotta point out the positive around here, ya know?

You always take every discussion of poor scripts as negative. I see
it as positive. Everything on that list is something writers can
address and overcome. It's a very positive list of corrections writers
can make to make the scripts more sellable.

I don't like it that most of the thousand plus script I have covered
are poor. Reading and covering a bad script isn't an enjoyable job.
Finding that rare gem is. If more writers were to understand that
the screenplay is very different than then novel (and I do not mean
format) and that “rules” are not something to break and avoid but
to treat with personal style and creativity, there would be more good
scripts out there.

For clarity; I am not talking about scripts written for filmmakers to
produce an/or direct themselves or the final, finished film or TV show
– only the script being written to sell.
 
The funny thing about Homeland is the feeling that the outs are redundant.. that is, not that the inevitable out is a painful sacrifice in a crisis, followed by a release that lets them off the hook from that crisis - but that the outs are two ways of resolving (releasing the tension of) the crisis. Having seen many shows/films, we are perhaps geared to expect that initial relief from the crisis, and the new quality of momentum that results. This approach to writing seems to 'fake out' the mind with one release (and a glimpse of the new momentum that would result), and a switch to another
 
Noticed something about the writing in the show Homeland; often they will give you redundant outs to the tension of a particular plot conflict. That is, they give you the out that you see coming, that would force a character to make a moral decision, only to introduce a new out to alleviate the situation. This serves two purposes; by playing on our expectations of the 'inevitable out', the plot both proves to be unexpected by defying the conventions of more simply written shows, and providing a 'character test' that develops the character without requiring a coincident plot limitation, or hastening developments.

Do you have an example of what you mean here (appropriately spoilered, of course)? I've watched all of Homeland and am struggling to see where you're coming from (or, more likely, I've just forgotten) :).
 
You always take every discussion of poor scripts as negative. I see
it as positive. Everything on that list is something writers can
address and overcome. It's a very positive list of corrections writers
can make to make the scripts more sellable.

I don't like it that most of the thousand plus script I have covered
are poor. Reading and covering a bad script isn't an enjoyable job.
Finding that rare gem is. If more writers were to understand that
the screenplay is very different than then novel (and I do not mean
format) and that “rules” are not something to break and avoid but
to treat with personal style and creativity, there would be more good
scripts out there.

For clarity; I am not talking about scripts written for filmmakers to
produce an/or direct themselves or the final, finished film or TV show
– only the script being written to sell.

D-R,

I know what you are saying. Much of my opinion on this is based on the overwhelming amount of "doomsday" posts regarding screenplays. I'm betting out of the 1000 or so scripts you have read only a small fraction did their homework and put forth the necessary effort to create a quality product. Most were probably bad at best and some had potential.

What I HATE is that everyone seems to pay the price for these "Script Writer Wannabes".

If you could mathematically eliminate the scripts that can't make it past page 1 through 10, I think the odds would look muck brighter for the future Screenplay writer. What I am saying is that if people only focused on the ones that showed some potential all the way up to the amazing scripts ...then this profession wouldn't look so bleak.

How many scripts could you have eliminated within the first 10 pages? What would your stats look like for the scripts that remain? Would you still say "Most were bad." or would you say "Most had potential?"

-Birdman
 
I would also make a distinction between a "stereotypical character" and role (trope). It's okay to include archetypical or trope characters because they often define the story. At issue is how they are developed. In poor scripts, they are introduced and NEVER CHANGE. There is no character development or "arc". As a result, the reader (and audience) has no feel for them. If I don't care what happens to a character by page twenty, I can't recommend it.

FSF,

Okay, I agree with most everything you wrote ...except for the above.

"STAR WARS - A NEW HOPE"

What type of Character Arc did Darth Vader experience? ...None! How did he develop over the script? ...He didn't!

What type of Character Arc did Yoda experience? ...None! How did he develop over the script? ...He didn't!

This will be my best example:

"STAR TREK - Wrath of Khan"

What type of Character Arc did Kahn experience? ...None! How did he develop over the script? ...He didn't!

"STAR TREK - Into Darkness"

Khan DID have a character change in this version. He changed many times from bad guy to good guy during the script.

Now ....Be honest: Which KHAN was better? The Ricardo Montalban version (rubber chest and all) ...or the Benedict Cumberbatch version? Which Khan represented the best "Bad Guy"? ...Don't you lie to me, boy!

-Birdman


P.S. Khan's, Moby Dick Quote: "To the last, I will grapple with thee... from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!" Another: "He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him. I'll chase him round the Moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition's flames before I give him up."
 
Do you have an example of what you mean here (appropriately spoilered, of course)? I've watched all of Homeland and am struggling to see where you're coming from (or, more likely, I've just forgotten) :).

Sure; for example,
when Carrie angles to get in the interrogation room with Roya. The idea is that if she can just get in the room, she'll be able to crack the terror code with her usual savant like ways. But there is push back, and an order from Estes not to let her get near the room. She then manages to outsmart them and slip into the room, w/ Quinn finding out he is too late to stop her from behind the two way mirror, as he looks in on the interrogation. Everything in the show's past so far suggests that Carrie can work her magic if only she can bypass the obstacles from management, and here she has done it. The beginning of the interrogation leads us down this path - that she is saying just the right things to Roya, and Roya is just about to tell all. But then the opposite happens; Roya lashes out and we realize Carrie has been completely ineffective. It is only afterwards, that Carrie discovers Roya has inadvertently revealed a critical piece of Nazir's nature when she said he 'never moves'. Then she returns to the site where he was last.

Early on in the show, Saul refuses to take the lie detector test that would reveal who is the mole. We give him the benefit of the doubt because of who he is, and Brody has been the focus of suspicion. But it is early on in the show where we are still becoming accustomed to the characters, and this plants the initial seed. Saul then takes and fails the lie detector test on the question of who provided the razor to the detainee. Brody passes the test. The show, which has established a reputation by this point for flipping the script, seems to have done it again, and the audience rushes to connect the dots. But later, it is in fact confirmed that Brody is the mole.
 
"STAR WARS - A NEW HOPE"

What type of Character Arc did Darth Vader experience? ...None! How did he develop over the script? ...He didn't!

1) The villain doesn't necessarily need his own arc. Being "cartoony" and not having an arc are two separate things. Look at Clarance Boddicker from Robocop. He had zero arc, but was an incredible villain.

2) This is a terrible example because by the end of the trilogy, Vader did have a character arc. Cutting out a section of it and saying "See? No development here!" is tantamount to acquiring any arbitrary interval and complaining that there was no development in it. Han didn't show character development through 98% of the movie, would you criticize every single other scene because of that?

What type of Character Arc did Yoda experience? ...None! How did he develop over the script? ...He didn't!

1) Yoda wasn't in A New Hope.

2) He influenced change, whether or not he changed himself. A movie isn't necessarily a journey for every single character in it! In fact, even if you tried to do that in an archplot, you'd probably just wind up diluting your story.

"STAR TREK - Wrath of Khan"


What type of Character Arc did Kahn experience? ...None! How did he develop over the script? ...He didn't!

See the rants under Yoda and Darth about how not every character needs a journey.

"STAR TREK - Into Darkness"

Khan DID have a character change in this version. He changed many times from bad guy to good guy during the script.

Now ....Be honest: Which KHAN was better? The Ricardo Montalban version (rubber chest and all) ...or the Benedict Cumberbatch version? Which Khan represented the best "Bad Guy"? ...Don't you lie to me, boy!

Villains are somewhat a product of their time. They each worked damn well in the stories they were placed in, and neither would necessarily improve the movie if they were transposed into each other's films. Cumberbatch would likely overcomplicate the narrative of the original, and Mantalban would be too over-the-top for a modern villain.
 
"STAR WARS - A NEW HOPE"

1) The villain doesn't necessarily need his own arc. Being "cartoony" and not having an arc are two separate things. Look at Clarance Boddicker from Robocop. He had zero arc, but was an incredible villain.

...Okay, I agree! But villains are "main Characters" and the "Reasons Your Screenplay Is Wrong" list declares that the Robocopesque characters are a no-no. I say that's not correct.



2) This is a terrible example because by the end of the trilogy, Vader did have a character arc. Cutting out a section of it and saying "See? No development here!" is tantamount to acquiring any arbitrary interval and complaining that there was no development in it. Han didn't show character development through 98% of the movie, would you criticize every single other scene because of that?

...The people in the theater were watching ONLY ONE MOVIE ...NOT THREE! You can't walk over and tell people in the audience, "Don't worry, Darth becomes a nice guy two movies from now". ...So the example still stands. Darth was a great villain ...and ZERO character arc. His "Lack of Arc" is what people were paying for and what put Star Wars on the map.



1) Yoda wasn't in A New Hope.

...Okay, you've got me on that one. But the little green bastard stayed in the same "Lack of Arc" zone in every movie he was in.



2) He influenced change, whether or not he changed himself. A movie isn't necessarily a journey for every single character in it! In fact, even if you tried to do that in an archplot, you'd probably just wind up diluting your story.


...Then there should have been a qualifier on this thread's, "Reasons Your Screenplay Is Wrong" list to cover that issue. Right now, anyone reading that list is probably hitting the backspace button on their Yoda-like character's dialogue.



Khan vs. Khan

Villains are somewhat a product of their time. They each worked damn well in the stories they were placed in, and neither would necessarily improve the movie if they were transposed into each other's films. Cumberbatch would likely overcomplicate the narrative of the original, and Mantalban would be too over-the-top for a modern villain.

...Sorry, but you can't play mix-n-match with movies. You get what you get. You have to judge them by their final product. If you compare the two STAR TREK PRODUCTS, the original "Cartoonish - Non-ARCing" Khan had a more effective impact. Sorry, but true! ...You can't say the Edsel was a great car just because Ford made the Mustang many years later!


-Birdman
 
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directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
What I HATE is that everyone seems to pay the price for these "Script Writer Wannabes".
Not in my experience. No one with an excellent script is paying any price
for bad scripts. Most writers who think they have an excellent script do not.
But tell them that and they say you're being negative.

What I am saying is that if people only focused on the ones that showed some potential all the way up to the amazing scripts ...then this profession wouldn't look so bleak.
Again, from my experience this profession looks far from bleak. I am very
optimistic about this profession. Writers are selling more than every before
because there is more product needed.

How many scripts could you have eliminated within the first 10 pages? What would your stats look like for the scripts that remain? Would you still say "Most were bad." or would you say "Most had potential?"
I have only eliminated scripts within the firs ten pages when there are typos,
misspelling and egregious grammar mistakes. I have never eliminated a script
within the first ten pages for any other reason.

As a professional I have three choices; I "pass" meaning the script is bad, I
"consider" meaning it's not up to sellable standards but has potential. I
"recommend" meaning it has great potential to attract talent and an audience.
So no, I would not say most had potential because most do not.

I pass on 95%, I consider 4% and I recommend 1%. If more writers paid
attention to the list posted on the first page the considers would jump to
35/40% and the recommend to 10/15%. The needs of producers, prodCo's
and studios in not scripts with potential, they are not script consultants, they
are looking for script that will attract talent and audiences.
 
FSF,
"STAR WARS - A NEW HOPE"
What type of Character Arc did Darth Vader experience? ...None! How did he develop over the script? ...He didn't!

What type of Character Arc did Yoda experience? ...None! How did he develop over the script? ...He didn't!

"STAR TREK - Wrath of Khan"
What type of Character Arc did Kahn experience? ...None! How did he develop over the script? ...He didn't!

"STAR TREK - Into Darkness"
Khan DID have a character change in this version. He changed many times from bad guy to good guy during the script.

Now ....Be honest: Which KHAN was better? The Ricardo Montalban version (rubber chest and all) ...or the Benedict Cumberbatch version? Which Khan represented the best "Bad Guy"? ...Don't you lie to me, boy!

-Birdman

P.S. Khan's, Moby Dick Quote: "To the last, I will grapple with thee... from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!" Another: "He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him. I'll chase him round the Moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition's flames before I give him up."

What makes these characters memorable? You've seen probably hundreds of stories on television and film, yet certain heroes and villains stand out. Why?

In the "New Hope", Vader is Tarquin's and the emperor's right hand man. He is imbued with the dark side of the force. He is the all powerful evil wizard who destroys his teacher ... until this pitiful kid comes along. As Luke grows in the force, we see Vader becoming less powerful. Lucas had created a simple morality play with archetypical characters of the hero's journey. By itself, I agree, the first Star Wars has very simple characters. However it was envisioned as part one of three.

Most Star Wars fans feel that "Return of the Jedi" is the jewel (2nd in the trilogy when Yoda first appears). ;) Each character is given a fuller development. Vader is Luke's father. Leia is his sister. The relationship between Luke, Leia and Han is more fully developed. The dynamic between Vader and Luke is far from simple.

What makes Yoda memorable? Not because he was a powerful good wizard like Kenobi. We see how Luke transforms under his tutelage. Yoda vacillates between rejecting and embracing Luke as the liberator. When Luke becomes aware of his family ties that throws a wrench into Kenobi and Yoda's plan. Luke is "reckless", Yoda is disappointed. Now you have these powerful face-offs which lead to the set up for the final picture in the trilogy.

There we get to see the resolution of the developing arcs. The father's sacrifice and redemption, Leia admits to knowing she snogged her brother, the triumph of good over evil, natural order over technology, etc. While "A New Hope" is complete and rather flat in itself, over the course of the trilogy the characters are developed.

In "Wrath of Khan" you missed the beautiful developments. Khan did not see his actions as evil but as just vengeance for the death of his wife. His target was Kirk who abandoned the colony. Playing out on the screen is the story of fathers and their 'kids'--Kirk and David, Khan and Joachim, Spock and Saavik, Scotty and Ensign Preston. Kirk and his estranged son David grow closer due to the conflict. Khan and his son grow more divided because the obsession. Spock shows pride in his 'pupil'. Preston, Scotty's pride, acts heroically and dies. Khan's slow lapse into blind obsessive vengeance is an arc. I actually kind of felt sorry for Khan.

A cartoony or flat villain would simply "be evil". In a lot of action movies, the villains are simply bad and not terribly memorable. Why is Hannibal Lector memorable in "Silence of the Lambs"? It is, in part, the wonderfully evolving relationship between his character and Clarice. With Clarence Boddicker and Dick Jones in "Robocop", you actually enjoy it when they get their comeuppance. They are developed in a way that you want to hate them. When you can't really say you feel anything for a character (especially the hero), that's when you have a problem.

I do appreciate what you're saying. Sometimes a movie just needs a stereotypical character. But in a well developed script, even these characters are enriched. Unfortunately when reviewing a script, it is subjective. As mentioned, 89 scripts were tentatively considered. Having flat characters doesn't necessarily mean "pass". However, having rich characters that you want to know about and follow raises your chances significantly of being considered. Having one of those problems will not blackball a script. Most rejected scripts violate three or more from the list.

A quick composite of scripts I've read and would pass on would read something like this.
  • The main characters all have the same voice or start out arguing/fighting.
  • They are all stereotypical college slasher fodder: cheerleader, jock, nerd and so forth with no development.
  • The build up is inexorable with twenty three pages of talking in hallways/library/classrooms about dating, drinking, drugs, sex and a trip to some spooky locale.
  • By page 24, they might actually start into the movie's plot.
  • Usually there's at least one machete, one decapitation scene, a naked-in-the-shower set up, sex-in-the-car scene, floating/eye glowing/projectile vomit scene and the chase sequences with assorted gore.
  • And if they're a film student, it often has to have "found footage" with lots of shot/transitions in the script.
  • The script doesn't have a final resolution but is left "open for the audience to interpret".
  • And somehow, every author thinks it's an original idea.
I get that it's a date movie--scare the girl into your arms then you make out, ignoring the rest of the film. For a script you're trying to sell, the first four can be deal breakers. None of these is bad by itself but the additive effect is "pass". While it is often hard to believe, so many scripts DO share similar story lines. Sometimes it's a matter of who wrote it better with less need for a re-write.
 
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Seriously? You believe Vader in Episode IV had ZERO character arc?

Yikes!

In case I missed something the fifty times I've probably seen him ...No! He had no appreciable arc at all. He started out as "bad guy" and flew off in his little Tie Fighter at the end as a "Bad guy". He didn't help out at the Red Cross or try to rescue a beached Manatee somewhere along the way. Same level of "rat bastard" all the way through.

9:00 addition: I thoroughly enjoy your. "Pass List" criteria. I have laughed my ass off reading them and I agree with most of your list.


I have only eliminated scripts within the firs ten pages when there are typos,
misspelling and egregious grammar mistakes. I have never eliminated a script
within the first ten pages for any other reason.


---

As a professional I have three choices; I "pass" meaning the script is bad, I
"consider" meaning it's not up to sellable standards but has potential. I
"recommend" meaning it has great potential to attract talent and an audience.
So no, I would not say most had potential because most do not.

I pass on 95%, I consider 4% and I recommend 1%. If more writers paid
attention to the list posted on the first page the considers would jump to
35/40% and the recommend to 10/15%
. The needs of producers, prodCo's
and studios in not scripts with potential, they are not script consultants, they
are looking for script that will attract talent and audiences.

...Okay, I can go along with that. What I was wondering, though, is what would be the percentage if the "spelling errors and egregious grammar mistakes" scripts were eliminated from the math? ...I imagine they make up a large percentage of your "Pass" category?

What is the ratio brake down if the "spelling errors and egregious grammar mistakes" aren't figured in? My argument is that THESE PEOPLE are the ones who make the profession seem so bleak.

-Birdman

P.S. I have yet to read a script posted on this forum that would make it past "Pass" and 100% have had extensive spelling, grammar and formatting errors ...and I haven't been here long at all.
 
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In the "New Hope", Vader is Tarquin's and the emperor's right hand man. He is imbued with the dark side of the force. He is the all powerful evil wizard who destroys his teacher ... until this pitiful kid comes along. As Luke grows in the force, we see Vader becoming less powerful. Lucas had created a simple morality play with archetypical characters of the hero's journey. By itself, I agree, the first Star Wars has very simple characters. However it was envisioned as part one of three.

...Here's the deal. When I saw Star Wars at the theater (Yes I am that old) it didn't matter that there was going to be more movies. I paid my money to see that movie ...and that movie was exactly what I got. Nothing more - nothing less.

And there isn't a script writer on the face of this earth that can submit a script and explain off lack of character arc and other "script issues" by saying, "Hey, it'll get better in later movies". We don't get that privilege!




In "Wrath of Khan" you missed the beautiful developments. Khan did not see his actions as evil but as just vengeance for the death of his wife. His target was Kirk who abandoned the colony. Playing out on the screen is the story of fathers and their 'kids'--Kirk and David, Khan and Joachim, Spock and Saavik, Scotty and Ensign Preston. Kirk and his estranged son David grow closer due to the conflict. Khan and his son grow more divided because the obsession. Spock shows pride in his 'pupil'. Preston, Scotty's pride, acts heroically and dies. Khan's slow lapse into blind obsessive vengeance is an arc. I actually kind of felt sorry for Khan.

Character Arc: "Characters begin the story with a certain viewpoint and, through events in the story, that viewpoint changes."

Saying Khan changed from being pissed off to being really pissed off isn't really that much of an arc. Had he started out as a family loving farmer into a ferocious gun slinger hell bent on vengeance (Jose Wales), then YES, there would be an arc.

I'm sorry, but I say Khan had no arc. He was the Darth Vader of Star Trek. Same goes for Zorg in "The 5th Element". ...These characters are fun just as they are. ...But try putting one in a Spec Script and suddenly you end up on a "Why your screenplay sucks" bulleted list posted in a discussion forum.

-Birdman
 
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...Okay, I agree! But villains are "main Characters" and the "Reasons Your Screenplay Is Wrong" list declares that the Robocopesque characters are a no-no. I say that's not correct.

Darth was a great villain ...and ZERO character arc. His "Lack of Arc" is what people were paying for and what put Star Wars on the map.

...Okay, you've got me on that one. But the little green bastard stayed in the same "Lack of Arc" zone in every movie he was in.

...Sorry, but you can't play mix-n-match with movies. You get what you get. You have to judge them by their final product. If you compare the two STAR TREK PRODUCTS, the original "Cartoonish - Non-ARCing" Khan had a more effective impact. Sorry, but true! ...You can't say the Edsel was a great car just because Ford made the Mustang many years later!

...I'm starting to get the impression that we're both arguing the exact same point, and just misconceiving that the other is trying to disagree. I'm trying to argue that villains don't absolutely need arcs and that the article doesn't even try to really argue that they do. By what you said above, it looks like you're saying the same?
 
These characters are fun just as they are. ...But try putting one in a Spec Script and suddenly you end up on a "Why your screenplay sucks" bulleted list posted in a discussion forum. - Birdman
I agree with you. But an arc doesn't have to be extreme, the character simply has to change based on the actions and decisions that s/he made. And there are ways to make even stock characters more interesting and three dimensional. Your antagonist and protagonist need to stand out in contrast. No one is completely bad or good. Flaws make for good writing. If you read scripts on any of the script communities, you get a quick sense of what is meant by characters who have the same voice, are cardboard throughout, and/or really invoke no level of interest. I wish I could share some of the bad scripts to illustrate that.

Lucas' first draft "Star Killer" did not make the grade. It had lots of work done with others to help get it the point of becoming "Star Wars: A New Hope". You mention films which automatically means they had to meet a level of consideration. Until you read the less successful scripts, it's hard to know just how flat characters can be. Khan and Vader have broad arcs compared to some of the villains/antagonists you may encounter. Or heroes for that matter.

Perhaps we should start a "bad script" competition akin to the "bad writing" competitions. The OP's shared list is a good starting point.

Every good script deserves good character development of its main characters. The dynamics of your characters in a sense IS the story. Your writing should reflect that you care about your own work. We all make an occasional typo or grammar mistake. I can be a tad forgiving. But when it's on every page, it's like going to a formal wedding in bermuda shorts and sweatshirt. The script stands out and is judged accordingly.

I do appreciate Birdman's points and want to echo that one element by itself will not necessarily ding the entire script. While there are more scripts being written, there are also more independent production companies looking. Technology has made it possible for anyone to be a filmmaker. If you think your script is the golden ticket to wealth and fame, you will probably be disappointed. That doesn't mean your script can't be made into a movie and distributed by the new video venues. Like Directorik, I feel that today the opportunities have increased. Some scripts could be good with some work. Liability issues often limit what comments can be given ("You said if I fixed X it would make the script acceptable. I fixed it, now Studio Y needs to make the movie."). Many things weigh into a rejection including its projected budget based on locations, props, effects, time period, etc. It's not always transparent and usually only the rejection is seen on the writer's side ("Thank you for your submission. It has been reviewed and doesn't meet our needs at this time."). When you get to the final version that you want to submit to a major studio, it can help to have the script reviewed professionally.

There are inexpensive script review services. They don't represent scripts but can help you polish them. Submitting to contests, often you can pay extra for feedback. As always, there are bunches of scams to separate desperate screenwriters from their money, so be careful and do your research.
 
Many things weigh into a rejection including its projected budget based on locations, props, effects, time period, etc. It's not always transparent and usually only the rejection is seen on the writer's side ("Thank you for your submission. It has been reviewed and doesn't meet our needs at this time.").
Bingo.

This is why writing spec scripts is largely such a waste of time effort and energy, and why so many actually produced films are by writer/directors.

You can write a perfectly good story with all sorts of delightful character arcs, nuanced character development, twists and turns, red herrings, and clever plot twists.
You can even tailor it to a general budget range.
But... there's no way on earth to tell what the producer's actor, location, and effects pool is - and those are the PRIMARY reasons why perfectly good screenplays, rare as they are, are rejected ON TOP OF the general screener reasons of the screenplays most often submitted are technical and structural train wrecks.


Perhaps we should start a "bad script" competition akin to the "bad writing" competitions.
:lol:

Oh, wait. I meant: :devil:
 
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