Five Guidelines for Writing a Screenplay that Doesn't Suck

3. Open your ears and don't think of England.

For some reason, I got a lot of scripts in which traditionally American characters -- cowboys, gangsters, hillbillies -- kept slipping into British or Australian slang. Don't do it. It's jarring and weird. Margaret Thatcher would never look regally into the distance and say, "Howdy, y'all." If you're having trouble with dialogue, watch a bunch of American movies and try to get a feel for the voice.

John_Wayne_portrait.jpg
John Wayne delivers his famous line, "Let's sweep some chimneys, guv'nor!"

2. Don't be a creep or a weirdo.

If it helps your mental state to write situations that are thinly veiled as your life -- misunderstood up-and-coming screenwriter with very impressive goatee and fedora, say -- tells off all his enemies, and then finds the babe of his dreams while also exposing the real truth about 9/11, that's great. Just know that it's self-indulgent and one-dimensional and devoid of actual conflict.

1. ... But don't take my word for it!

One of my favorite pieces of writing advice ever is from Raymond Chandler, author of The Big Sleep: "When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand." The first draft of his novel The Long Goodbye ended when the room got so full of men with guns in their hands that the fire department had to be called and all the men had to go home. That's not true, but my point is: Don't give up! Keep trying new things, and most important of all, keep writing.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go work on my top-secret script, Vampire Cop 3-D.

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AndrewChamings
AndrewChamings

Nice article. I also read for a well known SF based film company. The most cliched and common opening shot? A slow pan across an unkempt bedroom, finding the tired hero slowly waking before being startled by his alarm clock. @andrewchamings 

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