Are there devices one can use in improving one’s technique?


Work is the only device I know of. Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself. Even Joyce, our most extreme disregarder, was a superb craftsman; he could write Ulysses because he could write Dubliners. Too many writers seem to consider the writing of short stories as a kind of finger exercise. Well, in such cases, it is certainly only their fingers they are exercising.

Truman Capote Paris Review Interview (The Art of Fiction, No. 17) (via the-library-and-step-on-it)

Congratulations to Lyza Jo! The winner of the ScriptAnalytics Final Giveaway!

Prizes included:

- A Movie! “Schindler’s List” [Blu-ray] (1993)
- A Book! “Getting It Write” by Lee Zahavi Jessup
- A Print! A motivational art print with a quote to inspire writers.
- An entry into an even bigger raffle to win free script coverage with ScriptAnalytics!

After months of bi-weekly giveaways, this giveaway was our final one. In two weeks, we’ll randomly pull one name from our previous pool of winners and offer them our service for free on one of their screenplays!


Film4 interviews Shane Meadows on Screenwriting


Shane Meadows made his name with award-winning short films before becoming an acclaimed writer-director, winning BAFTAs for both his feature film This Is England and its follow-up TV series. asked him for some advice on screenwriting…

What advice would you give to new screenwriters looking for that elusive original idea?

I think if you are looking for an original, elusive idea, it’s over before you have begun. At least start with something you know you can start work on. If you are looking for the brand new, next big thing, you keep throwing the paper in the bin. Whereas if you start off with the local cleaner who shit himself at work and got sacked, at least it’s a starting point.

I think the secret to making an original film is just having something you can work on. Not trying to think of something that isn’t you. Anything that actually succeeds is only deemed original when it actually comes out. Most successful writers come about through writing that life long project.

And the truth of it is, we all want to write that kind of script but they only come about two or three times in a lifetime - something original. Trying to write something original is a means to an end. What I do is write something I care about and worry about whether people think it’s original later.

How do you build on the idea and transform it into a fully written script?

For films, what I do, is go away and write for weeks and have a really condensed period to write a draft. Then I come up and get a group of actors together who I think will hopefully be right for the part, get them to improvise with the script. Tape all of the sessions and then go back into writing. I like working backwards and forwards like that.

How do you find inspiration when you’re experiencing writer’s block?

You’ve got to be able to bottom-line yourself. Sometimes you can’t find inspiration. Sometimes it is not about looking for the good idea that will save the script. Sometimes it’s about looking for the bad idea that is pulling it down.

So I always look through the script and think: Is this character actually worth anything? Should I not just pull him out and pull up space for other people? I don’t want to sound negative. Sometimes if you are looking for the inspiring thing, sometimes it can actually be something in the script that is holding it back. It could actually be a case of just killing Colin.

How do you manage to simplify complex issues into a compelling narrative?

What you have got to appreciate about script writing is that you never write the perfect script straight away. Don’t ever send a first draft of anything to anybody. I would totally advise against it. Because you believe it’s fantastic, the minute that somebody reads it they can generally pull it apart.

So I think the secret is, prepare yourself for a long haul when you are writing. It takes a long time to whittle your characters down and whittle your story down to something that is important.

Inevitably, you are making a story about something that means something to you, so you will overwrite it. You will put everything in that you think is important. It’s about cutting that stuff down and being able to let people tell you it’s bad.

Any advice for writing effective comedy?

Comedy is impossible to write. If you’ve seen something that makes you laugh, this is probably the most important link to comedy. People can’t help laughing at something that somebody else is laughing at. It’s infectious, especially if that person is creasing up. If you have seen something funny, you should try to emulate that with your writing, or filmmaking. The chances are that you are showing people how you see it, and if it’s funny to you, it is likely to be making people laugh at the other end.

Whereas, if you are trying to write a comedy that does not even make you laugh, then you are never going to make anybody laugh. So I think the secret to writing comedy is putting it across in a way which you find funny yourself. It sounds simple but a lot of people do not do it.

How do you make sure every part of your script will work visually in the film?

I don’t ever see a script as a finished piece. It’s never finished. If you sit there watching it, crying your eyes out, and then you don’t need to make it - it’s finished. I always leave 20-30% left to do. Here’s a good tip: I listen to music whilst I am writing, and I listen to a song. If I have got an idea of a scene whilst I am listening to music, I write that down in the script, and suggest that the person reading the script listens to the song.

What is the best way to persuade people to invest and make a film out of your script?

What I have learnt through experience is that if you’ve got the idea inside, and the person you are going to sell this to is probably meeting you for the first time, then what you have got to think is how much the idea is important to you. You have to really, really simplify the story. You have to come across as somebody with high energy though obviously not to the point where you are totally unfocused.

Everybody expects directors to be passionate, but at the same time you have got to be slightly bombastic with the way you present yourself. You’ve got to believe in what you are selling, first and foremost, so when you go to sit around the table with somebody, you’ve got to say, “I can’t live if I do not make this film! I am not going to move on until I have made it.”

The greatest tip I can think of is to say what I have said to lots of potential buyers: “If you don’t make it, I will make it and I will make it with somebody else.” They have said to me, “Okay fine.” When I made TwentyFourSeven a lot of people turned it down. And when it finally got it made, you can go to that film festival and those people who turned it down come up to you and go, “Oh, I wish I had made it now.” It can be one of the nicest feelings in the world when they say that.

So when you try to sell your script, it’s not about pinning your hopes on somebody whose work you totally respect. Finding the right person is the most important thing. So if your script is banging around for 12-18 months, don’t worry about it. Wait until you meet the right person, because inevitably you will always find that person. The most difficult thing is getting your first film made. If they didn’t believe in you the first time, once it is made, they will next time.



Low Hanging Fruit - 5 Simple Script Fixes


Contest deadlines are looming. Here’s 5 easy things you can do to spruce up your script.

1 - Scene Headings/Slug Lines

Go through and check your scene headings, make sure they’re formatted well, that they make sense, and that they’re industry standard. It’s a small thing, but readers are just looking for reasons to chuck your script in the bin. Don’t give them an easy out. Check out my other post for more info on scene headings.

2 - Cut Filler Dialogue

It’s good to write dialogue in a way that sounds like more natural talking, for instance, most people say “I’m gonna” instead of “I am going to”. However, it’s easy to take that overboard and write in your character’s verbal filler. Go through and dump the “uh”, “well”, “so”, “like” and other filler words, especially when they pop up at the beginning of a new chunk of dialogue. Your script will come off as that much more crisp.

3 - Active Scene Description

Go through every scene description and kill every place where you use a gerund (verbs ending in “ing”) and turn it into the pure present-tense form of the verb.

"John is eating" -> "John eats"
"The kids are watching" -> "The kids watch"

This will make your scene description sound much more active and present, and help the reader visualize it as action. Then do:

4 - Describe with Verbs

It can be tempting to separate scene description into describing a thing, and then showing a character interacting with that thing, or to just say what a character is doing in a generic way without really revealing anything.

"Tom sits on the couch"
"There’s a gun on the table. Andy picks it up"

These are fine, and will serve, but we can look at every line as a way to reveal something about the character through their actions (this is show, don’t tell, distilled) and describe the scene through interaction.

"Tom slumps into the couch, trying to become one with the cushions" or "Tom perches on the edge of the couch, head in hands" - these both tell very different stories about Tom’s current state without him ever having to follow it up by saying he’s tired, or tense, or whatever.


"Andy fumbles the revolver on the table, cringes as it clatters to the floor" - Andy’s nervous around this gun.
"Andy snatches the gun off the table and levels it at Tom, now giving Andy his complete attention from the couch." - Oh shit, Andy’s gonna shoot Tom because he didn’t pay his share of the rent!

5 - Cut the First and Last Line from Each Scene

This might sound drastic, but go through each scene and cut the first and last line of dialogue and see how it reads. I’m betting it’s an improvement on most scenes.

It’s just something to try. You don’t have to keep it that way, but most people tend to overwrite the dialogue in their scenes to try to “introduce” or “close” the scene too hard. Last lines, especially, often end up undercutting what would otherwise be a punchy close to a scene. Give it a try!

Go through your script 5 times, working on one of each of these at a time, and in an hour or so you’ll be in that much better shape. Good luck out there!


Why your opening scene should be your best


Audiences and industry readers that read your screenplay will only have one first impression of your script, so make it a good one.

Opening scenes can (and should try to) do a number of things:

  • Capture the audience’s attention and immerse them in the story (what is this character’s world - and why do we care?)
  • Put the remainder of the film into context
  • Set the emotional tone of the film - this will raise expectations for the remainder of your film. You can work with these expectations, or you can subvert them later on for effect.
  • Allude to the genre of your film. Not always important, but helpful in putting your plot and characters into context.
  • Establish setting: time and place.

Think of your opening scene like a subliminal message to your audience that tells them what is to come. Opening scenes are crucial for any medium in screenwriting, however they are particularly important in short films as the audience has the option to click out of your (assumedly online) video at any time. More on writing for short films.


How to format a script: The jargon explained by IdeasTap



Screenwriters! Get your claws into this awesomely helpful list of screenwriting terms. Scribble them on post-it notes, make them into posters, tattoo them to your body, or simply favourite this post…

[Source: IdeasTap]

'Playwright and scriptwriter, Isla Gray, brings us this great glossary of scriptwriting terms to help you format your script on the page. She’s even thrown in a downloadable template, too…

Download Isla’s example script here.


Non-dialogue sections of the script detailing what you see on screen, also known as scene direction.

Character name

Tells us which character is speaking. Appears centred above dialogue IN CAPITAL LETTERS.


Can appear bracketed under each scene heading to list the characters appearing in that scene e.g. (FRANKIE, JACK, ALEX). If you are writing for a specific television programme the script team will outline whether or not they adopt this formatting.

Continuing dialogue

Dialogue spoken by the same character that continues uninterrupted on a new page or after interrupting action. Marked by the character’s name with [CONT’D] added in brackets e.g. FRANKIE [CONT’D]


A transition command at the end of the scene to demonstrate that the action moves to a new scene, jumping location and/ or periods of time. (See “Transitions”) 


A transition command at the scene end to demonstrate the action moves to a new scene immediately, jumping location but not time. (See “Transitions”)


Single-spaced lines of speech under the appropriate character name.

Dual dialogue

When two characters speak simultaneously, formatted side-by-side within the script.


A version of the script. Each new draft is numbered chronologically e.g. First draft, Second draft etc.

EXT. (exterior)

Appears at the start of the scene heading to indicate that the scene takes place outside.

First draft

The first version of the full script.


For screenplays, Courier (New) 12 point is standard.

FX (or SPFX)

Shorthand to outline special effects.


Information printed at the top of every page. For example, the left hand side can be the script title, on the right hand side the page number.


Cutting back and forth between two scenes occurring at the same time when appropriate e.g. INTERCUT SCENE 7 WITH SCENE 8.

INT. (interior)

Appears at the start of the scene heading to indicate that the scene takes place inside.


A transition command at the end of the scene to demonstrate a super-fast transition from one scene to the next.

O.S. (off-screen)

Dialogue spoken by a character who’s present in the scene but does not appear on-screen when their dialogue is spoken.


Appears within a line of dialogue to show what action a character is doing at time of speaking.

Producer/ Director draft (P/D draft)

The version of the script read by the production team for the Producer/ Director meeting. This version will be redrafted after notes to deliver the Shooting script.

Scene heading (slug line)

This is one line of text in CAPS at the beginning of every scene telling the location and time of day the scene takes place e.g. INT. CAFÉ – DAY

Scene numbers

Appear at the start of every scene on the same line as the scene heading.

Scriptwriting software

Programmes include Final Draft, Movie Magic Screenwriter and CeltX. CeltX, Page 2 Stage, Five Sprockets are free and available on the web. Scriptwriting is possible in MS Word, but be ready to change the margins repeatedly for the various elements.

Shooting script

The version of the script used during production shooting. This should be your “final” draft, but it can include ongoing amendments.

Spec script (speculative script)

A non-commissioned unsolicited script.

Title page

The first page of a script detailing the following information – SCRIPT TITLE and writers name (central). Writer contact information or agent’s details (bottom left or right hand corner).


Marks the end of a scene and instructs how the action moves to the next scene e.g. CUT TO:, CUT TO CONTINUOUS: Formatted capitalised at the right hand side of the page.

V.O. (voice over)

Dialogue spoken by a character who isn’t present in the scene (and therefore does not appear on-screen) when their line of dialogue is spoken.


Like in all good glossaries nothing ever begins with Z.


Storytelling is joke telling. It’s knowing your punchline, your ending, knowing that everything you’re saying, from the first sentence to the last, is leading to a singular goal, and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understandings of who we are as human beings. We all love stories. We’re born for them. Stories affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning. And nothing does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories. It can cross the barriers of time, past, present and future,and allow us to experience the similarities between ourselves and through others, real and imagined.
Oscar-winning writer/director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E)

Notes from a Screenreader: Bang a Gong



Photo via Go Into the Story.

Theme is the beating heart of the screenplay, the proposition about the human condition that your story explores—the big issues. Love. Faith. Resilience. Trust. Power. Courage. All the goosebumpy things.

The theme, that single, simple thesis that creates clarity and scope and resonance through the arcs of your story, is a gong that should be struck in every scene for maximum impact.

John August calls it genetic. If you cut out any one of your scenes, you should be able to plant it and grow your whole script.

This is accomplished with good scene work.

  • The B story is an echo of the A story. Relate them so that the resolution to both confirms the thematic question. Cuts your work in half, doubles the resonance.

  • Location, location, location. Make sacred spaces in your story to elevate and amplify important beats. Your breakup scene could take place in a Tunnel of Love, at a bus stop, in an elevator—which setting tells more of the story? It makes a big difference.

  • Get out your machete. Little suckers sprout from the main trunk of your story, bits and pieces of genius that pop up spontaneously in the writing process. Kill them. They may be good, but they belong somewhere else if they are not banging your gong.

Consciously choose theme when conceiving all the elements of your scenes. Find a way to make it ring.


Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

Congratulations to Emily Jane! The winner of the ScriptAnalytics Spring Giveaway!

Prizes included:

- A Movie! “Chinatown” [Blu-ray] (1974)
- A Book! “The Screenwriter’s Bible, 6th Edition” by David Trottier
- A Print! A motivational art print with a quote to inspire writers.
- An entry into an even bigger raffle to win free script coverage with ScriptAnalytics!

And if you entered the giveaway and didn’t win—stay tuned! This week we’ll be starting a brand new giveaway so there’s even more chances to win!