Screenwriting problems

  • Picking favourites. You hand out all the cool lines to them and make everyone else look lame in comparison. Usually they are not even the main character but you secretly wish you could make a spin-off about them. Thinking about having more than one kid in the future? You’d better sort that out first.
  • The middle part. You’ve got a fantastic opening scene and an epic showdown in the end. You know what the story is about more or less, but you have no idea what goes in between. You’re obviously gonna have to fill in that gap sooner or later but for the moment you are content just replaying the heartbreaking final dialogue between the main character and his brother in your head, weeping silently instead of typing.
  • Avoiding exposition. Yes. Exposition is a sin. Hubris. A criminal act. It’s the enemy and you’ve been conditioned to resist and fight it to the very end. Then your dialogue ends up looking somewhat like this:

JOHN looks at MARY while picking up one of the fallen oranges

JOHN

I guess…all oranges  are citrus fruits. But not all citrus fruits are oranges. 

MARY lovingly caresses the side of his face

MARY 

You should have noticed John. You should have been able to tell. 

You ask your friends if they liked the script, and they’re like ‘ I don’t know what the hell you’re on about’. You proceed to lament the fact that your friends are shallow and dense and you insist that one must look deeper to uncover the true meaning of John’s words.

  • Trying to get into the character’s head. Not only this will ruin your mood but it will create complications such as: There’s two characters having an argument, you get to relate to both characters’ point of view and realise you’re playing tic-tac-toe against yourself. No one is right, no one is wrong and these guys are both you. It’s like throwing punches against Tyler Durden; you’ll only end up hitting yourself.
  • Projecting. I do it, you do it, we all do it. Each character’s personality is unavoidably filtered through your own experiences and personal ideals. I don’t think there is a way to avoid this one- at least I haven’t found one yet. The good news are that people who haven’t met you personally won’t be able to tell.
  • Slang. When you see phrases such as ‘ that was like…awesome, mate!’, I am willing to bet that it has been written by a non-British person who lives in the UK. I have been bombarded with American slang for years and suddenly I had to get used to using words like ‘fag’ for cigarette, or ‘cheers’ instead of ‘thanks’. Cultural shock, as we say here.

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