When Is Your Screenplay In Distress?


Ever started writing a screenplay and ended up in knots? Determined to quell your screenwriting demons you plowed through to write 100 pages of screenplay. Then you read it and decide that you lost your way at some point. What are some of tell tale signs that your screenplay goes from nailed it to failed it?

MAIN CHARACTER’S GOALS ARE UNCLEAR

This can range from your main character not having a clearly defined goal at the onset of the story to spending too long trying to determine what their goal is. Also, an inexplicable change in the main character’s goal is also a problem and will disorientate your audience. This is not the same as your main character initially pursuing the wrong goal (external desire) and later changing goals to satisfy their emotional need.Decide your main character’s goal before you start writing.  It may change. It may be refined.  This is not the same as your main character initially pursuing the wrong goal (external desire) and later changing goals to satisfy their emotional need.

CHANGING YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS’ BEHAVIORAL LIMITS

This relates to abrupt changes in your main character’s behavior. This is more than putting them under so much pressure that they crack and unleash their inner beast. It’s more about an unmotivated change or behavior that’s too out of character that it will confuse your audience. Sure, if people are placed under enough strain they act in bizarre ways, but even so, your characters should behave in an organic fashion so your audience can understand them.

INAPPROPRIATE TIME FRAME

Your story should have the right entry and exit points. Don’t start your story too early in the prequel or end it too late in the sequel.

CHOPPY GENRE AND PLOT

This occurs when there are inorganic changes in the genre and feel of the story. Again, this is often a function of insufficient outlining because the writer doesn’t fully understand their story. What may begin as a drama may end becoming a thriller or horror. This is not the same as a hybrid genre which must contain elements of each component genre. Unanticipated tonal changes such a comedic flourish in a heavy drama will jar your audience and interrupt the flow of your story.

FORCED PLOT

These are often contrivances used to fill pages. They can be the introduction of artificial subplots which don’t service the main plot or simply, irrelevant plots. Forced plots can also upset the logical story. This can happen when the writer inserted something because they thought it was cool, or were simply freestyle writing and not taking into account the previous story sequences.

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