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Descriptors: Be Precise

Don’t forget when you’re writing to use precise descriptors that evoke something very clear in the mind of the reader. Even in screenwriting, the quality of prose to some degree either engages or repels the reader and thus the experience of your screenplay. Try to avoid descriptors that are ambiguous, contradictory or confusing, because the […]

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The Script Reader’s Top 10 Screenplay “Dos”

The following is a very basic list of items that get my attention as a script reader. If your script addresses each of these points, you’re probably doing a good job. I will be excited to read your script. So, here we go, a list of my top 10 screenplay “dos” when reading: DO keep […]

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The Script Reader’s Top 5 Screenplay “Do Nots”

The following is a very basic list of items that do not impress me as a script reader and, more often than not, will get your script a resounding pass. If your script contains any of these points, consider rewriting before sending out. So, here we go, a list of my top 5 screenplay peeves […]

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Example of How To Introduce Your Protagonist (Erin Brockovich)

One of my favorite scripts is “Erin Brockovich,” because I love the writing. It is abundantly clear, sparsely written, and dense with meaning. This script captures worlds of information with just a few simple, extremely well chosen words. To my mind, that is excellence in screenwriting. Please read this excerpt of the opening of the […]

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To All The Haters

Recently I got a comment on the blog that I decided not to post because it was clearly from a Hater. “Hater” is the term I use to describe angry, reactive people who are foul and negative only to assert their hostile position – however, in most cases, their position isn’t fueled by logic but […]

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Writing Down the Page

“Writing down the page” is an expression that basically means the thrust of the story moves down the page with action, description, dialogue and carefully chosen sparse elements, so the reader’s eye is continually pulled down the page and then to the next page. You should aim not to get the reader’s eye stuck in […]

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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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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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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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Screenwriting Punctuation for Dummies

I’m a stickler for proper English grammar. I get really annoyed when people justify their horrible grammar with excuses, as though it’s snobby to use subject-verb agreement. It’s not. It’s our language. If you want use English to a professional end, you should have a level of mastery. I’ll admit it: my skin crawls when […]

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What, Technically, is a “Beat” in a Screenplay?

A writer friend of mine emailed asking me to better describe what is a screenwriting “beat.” Here’s the skinny. This is actually a point of confusion for many people, and I recall it was very confusing to me when I started at film school because there are actually three kinds of beats, but people just […]

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