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Old 04-21-2018, 07:58 AM   #1
Future_Screen
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The biggest mistakes of screenplay writing

What are the biggest mistakes which you can make when you write a screenplay? Often, I hear it’s something simple like camera advices. But there must be more than this. Do you know some?
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Old 04-21-2018, 09:54 AM   #2
directorik
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Poor and/or inconsistent format is the biggest mistake. Readers are
accustom to a specific format - it make reading a screenplay fast
and easy.

Grammar and spelling. You may be surprised how often these are
overlooked.

Overwriting. Many screenwriters move from term papers and school
assignments to the screenplay. No Purple Prose.

But those (and your example) are just technical. Easy to overcome
as you point out - "something simple".

The biggest mistakes are in character and plot. That's what dooms
a screenplay.
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Old 04-21-2018, 11:43 AM   #3
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I've seen screenplays with "camera advice" in them, e.g., Cut to, close up, etc.. So I guess in this modern era no one cares.

The main mistake that I see is that people are not dramatic writers. They write too much like they are journalists.
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Old 04-21-2018, 03:36 PM   #4
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A lot of beginning screenwriters include actions that actors can't portray such as thinking or remembering.
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Old 04-21-2018, 11:39 PM   #5
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The pacing is too slow and the events aren't dramatic enough
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Old 04-22-2018, 03:05 AM   #6
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Being unable to create huge emotions is the biggest mistake you can make.
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Old 04-22-2018, 08:17 AM   #7
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Telling instead of showing. Film is visual. Rather than using long segments of dialogue to explain something, you should show it if at all possible.
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Old 04-22-2018, 08:27 AM   #8
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@El Director Show in a script. how do you do that?
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Old 04-22-2018, 11:11 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El Director View Post
Telling instead of showing. Film is visual. Rather than using long segments of dialogue to explain something, you should show it if at all possible.
But some screenwriters flood the film with continuous dialogue. That's their style of writing e.g. Aaron Sorkin's writing.
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Old 04-22-2018, 01:12 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Future_Screen View Post
@El Director Show in a script. how do you do that?
You use the action format to describe what is happening (being shown). A simplistic version is a character that needs to go to the store to get stuff for dinner.

A new writer might stage it as:

Our hero looks at the recipe for dinner.

HERO
Damn. I don't have what I need. Guess I'll go to the store.




A more seasoned writer might;

Our hero glances at the recipe, then to the fridge. He opens the door and finds it's almost completely empty.

HERO
Damn.

He slams the door.



Like I said, that's a simplistic approach to the concept, but I think it makes sense. The first example was tell. The second was show. Both examples give us the same information, but the second is more interesting.

Last edited by El Director; 04-22-2018 at 01:14 PM.
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Old 04-22-2018, 01:18 PM   #11
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That's also called "on the nose" dialog.

So there's my contribution.

Writing on the nose is a screenwriting term that refers to dialogue or action in which the character's innermost thoughts and feelings are fully expressed by what the character is saying or doing. There is no nuance, mystery, ambiguity or surprise (as there is in real life).
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Old 04-22-2018, 08:10 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by indietalk View Post
That's also called "on the nose" dialog.

So there's my contribution.

Writing on the nose is a screenwriting term that refers to dialogue or action in which the character's innermost thoughts and feelings are fully expressed by what the character is saying or doing. There is no nuance, mystery, ambiguity or surprise (as there is in real life).
This!
Last summer I had a script with 2 pages of on the nose dialogue about how tired the main character was.
Took my black marker and left 2 action lines and 1 line of dialogue on those 2 pages. We shot 2 shots and it told just as much as those 2 pages.


The question is: which mistake is bigger?
The obvious things like grammar, spelling and syntax should be perfect, otherwise it makes it unreadable.
Format should be clear, otherwise it makes it unclear what is going on.
No camera notes, otherwise it distracts from the story. (It reminds the reader that the story is fiction.)
No on the nose dialogue, because it is unnatural.

These things are things you can check, or let someone else check it. It is the technical side of writing (how to write), so these mistakes can be avoided given there is enough time to work on it.

Next comes the content: what to write.
Common 'mistakes':
- boring story
- dull dialogue
- little emotion
- inconsistent behaviour
- plot holes
- deus ex machina
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Old 04-23-2018, 01:59 AM   #13
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My biggest problems with other peoples' screenplays and story synopses is how derivative and shallow the content reads. Even if it is another zombie apocalypse, boy meets girl, bank heist, etc., at least give me an interesting perspective and character angle.

I agree with most of the points that have been brought up so far - continuous or on the nose dialogue, deus ex machina, action over exposition, etc.
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Old 04-29-2018, 05:21 PM   #14
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Lack of conflict

After having read over a thousand amateur screenplays, I can definitely say lack of conflict is the biggest and most common mistake in screenwriting.

A screenplay is a narrative about a character who diligently pursues a significant goal but encounters obstacles that result in a climatic ending.

So in order to have dramatic conflict:

First, your character must a worthwhile goal. Saving the world or reconciling with an estranged family member. Something that will change their life.

Second, he or she must constantly strive to attain this goal. The character must be pro-active. Almost nothing can be given to the character. They must work for anything and everything.

Third, there must be forces that oppose and stand in the way of achieving the goal.

When I first began writing, a much more experienced writer excoriated me for a scene I had written because I had made a situation too easy for a character. He recounted a scene from The Three Stooges where the guys wanted to get into a high society party so they stole some fancy clothes but were still refused entrance. The man at the door said only people on the guest list and reporters were
admitted. So the guys stole the knobs off a vending machine. Moe presented a “PRESS” button. Larry flashed a “ PRESS” button as well. Curly had a “PULL” button. It was silly but showed how they had to overcome an obstacle in a rather clever way.
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