Archive | July, 2009

If It Doesn’t Buy You Something, Take It Out

The more I write and the more I read, I find I return to this mantra again and again: If it doesn’t buy you something, take it out. Screenplay beats to me are a commodity. You have to buy the beats in the beginning of your story to cash them in later on in the […]

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Screenplay Openings: Most Beginnings Are Overwritten

This article follows up on Screenplay: The Importance of the First Five Pages. In the last batch of scripts I read for one of the screenwriting competitions, I would say about 30% of the screenplays had beginnings that were overwritten. It’s not uncommon. In several cases, the real story didn’t start to pick up until […]

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Fighting for Your Craft

I’ve been back in LA this week. And from the minute I got here, all I’ve wanted to do was go back to Santa Fe. There’s a specific energy here in LA for me that’s a little bit like living beneath a veil. Everything is a little bit obscured. I chalk this phenomenon up to […]

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Q&A: Simple Present vs. Present Progressive (“-ing”) Verb Tense

Michael asks: Is it ever okay to use the “ing” present tense to describe action? “The Complete Screenwriters Manual” says no, but I don’t buy it. Monica says: Thanks, Michael. Great question. Here’s the deal with what I refer to as active verbs vs. passive verbs and screenwriting. The standard for screenwriting is to use […]

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Subject Matter: Don’t Write About Writers or Hollywood, Please

Today I’ve read a couple of stories about Hollywood aspirings – aspiring writers, directors, actors, etc. In this reading season I’ve probably read a number of these kinds of scripts. Please, people, no. Don’t do it. Ninety nine times out of one hundred, your life as an aspiring writer isn’t interesting enough to warrant a […]

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Screenplay: The Importance of the First Five Pages

The opening five pages of your screenplay give me a ton of information about the breadth and scope of your project. As with the opening of a novel or any other literary work, the opening of your screenplay should be a microcosm of the world of your script. It’s the first taste – but as […]

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The Small Character Drama: Life or Death Stakes

I’m not someone who generally loves small indie movies that blow some minor human drama into a hysteria for the ages. I love real stories – stories with action, externalized drama, physical obstacles, where something transformative happens. To me, most small character dramas that I read don’t offer up enough dramatic stakes to warrant a […]

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Look at It From the Reader’s Perspective…

I just got through another big push of scripts. There were a handful of recommends, but overall many of them were dismal. When writing, just get the words down on the page. Get through that first draft. But, then rewrite. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. As you get closer to the time you’re going to send your […]

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The Scoop on Line Edits

A lot of writers really get all bent out of shape and neurotic about the level of control with the words on the page. In most cases, I look at this as a writer who’s inner critic has run amok. This is one of the many ways to self sabotage. There was one girl in […]

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The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations

I attended a seminar years ago with Jeff Kitchen wherein he passed out a xeroxed sheet of the thirty-six dramatic situations as identified by Geroges Polti, culled from the original French-language book, which was written in the 19th century. I didn’t understand much else from his talk (it was a lot of fancy jargon to […]

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