Feedback on the First Page of Your Script [STPS #10]

I looked at the first pages of some scripts recently posted for feedback on reddit, to see if I could spot any common issues. Turns out I could.

 1.  Character intros are over-written.

Original:

INT. KENNEDY’S ROOM – DAY
A woman by the name of KENNEDY, a short blonde girl, is sitting within her bedroom staring out of the window.

Suggested revision:

INT. KENNEDY’S ROOM – DAY
KENNEDY (16, short and blonde) stares out the window.

a. You don’t need to say that she’s a woman if you’re using the pronoun “she” for the character.

b. You don’t need to call her both a woman and a girl.

c. If the slugline says that the scene is in her room, you don’t need to repeat in the action line that she’s sitting in her room.

2. Action lines are over-written.

Original:

HIDEO (mid 30’s Japanese male, glasses, well dressed, chubby build with a kind face) is walking through a large industrial, harshly lit room. Hideo is walking through rows of mature marijuana plants, with his shoulders brushing against the leaves as he passes. He can be seen counting a large bundle of CASH.

Suggested revision:

HIDEO (mid 30’s, Japanese) walks between rows of mature marijuana plants, counting a large bundle of CASH.

This also has issues with #1, #5, and #11.

3. There are things in the action lines that the audience can’t see or know.

“They both work for the same boss.”

How do we KNOW they work for the same boss, just by looking at them?

“TESS (25, sleep deprived) sits upright on her bed, facing her tightly locked door.”

How can we SEE that it’s tightly locked (as opposed to simply CLOSED) unless you show us that there are multiple bolts or something?

4. There are basic mistakes in grammar, word usage, and punctuation.

“Shes” should be “she’s.”

“Its fine” should be “it’s fine.”

“Hi mom” should be “Hi, mom.”

“I already talked to her, it’s okay” should be “I already talked to her. It’s okay.”

Sentences should start with capital letters. They should end with punctuation – usually a period.

Don’t ignore the little squiggles. Fix your mistakes when they’re flagged.

5. There are too many present continuous (“-ing”) forms of verbs rather than simple present.

Simple present (walks, talks, eats, hits, etc.) is the default for screenplays.

Original:

HIDEO (mid 30’s Japanese male, glasses, well dressed, chubby build with a kind face) is walking through a large industrial, harshly lit room. Hideo is walking through rows of mature marijuana plants, with his shoulders brushing against the leaves as he passes. He can be seen counting a large bundle of CASH.

Suggested revision:

HIDEO (mid 30’s, Japanese) walks between rows of mature marijuana plants, counting a large bundle of CASH.

That’s not to say you can never use an “-ing” form. In the revised example above, “counting” works because he’s counting as he walks.

6. Major characters are introduced with no description at all.

“A MAN rinses his BLOODY hands into a rusty looking sink.”

Is this guy 19 or 90? Asian or Caucasian? Clean or grubby? Is he wearing a business suit or cargo shorts?

Give us SOME kind of a picture if this is the main character.

See this podcast about character intros in general.

7.  “We see” is used when it’s really not needed.

I’m not totally against “we see,” but it should be reserved for when it’s the best way to convey something to the reader.

“We see Peter tinkering with his web shooters” can be just “Peter tinkers with his web-shooters.”

8. Action/description lines are too long.

Keep them to no more than four lines (NOT four sentences) except in very rare situations.

Long blocs of text tend to make the reader tune out and skim.

Think of each action bloc as a single shot. Many/most can be just one or two lines.

9. There are TOO MANY CAPS.

Suddenly, it BURSTS open, and a group of six ARMED MEN flood into the room. They’re dressed like soldiers, but their EQUIPMENT and CAMOUFLAGE OUTFITS are more than well-worn. ASSAULT RIFLES raised, they quickly spread out and search the room.

Vivian opens it and EXITS the bathroom.

Pools of green waste dot the wild, moon-like landscape. TOXIC, LIME- COLORED RAIN eats away at the sign. It hangs high above the entrance to a MINING BAY that is steeped in billowing SMOKE – as white and as striking as the SHOWER OF LIGHT coming from a nearby star.

Reserve caps for character intros, non-human sounds, and REALLY important props and actions, or it feels like YOU’RE SHOUTING YOUR SCRIPT AT US.

10. There’s no description after the slugline.

Give us at least one sentence of description to tell us what we’re looking at before a character starts talking.

11. Scene descriptions are over-written.

Original:

Outside the window of the hotel room is rows and rows of tall buildings located in Downtown Chicago.

Cars honk, the occassional ambulance can be heard, and smoke comes out of the chimneys visible on top of the shorter buildings.

You could just say “The window looks out on downtown Chicago.”

(Also, that’s not how you spell “occasional,” and “downtown” doesn’t need to be capitalized…)

 

Yeah, you could say that a lot of this is trivia. But it’s the kind of trivia that can get you off on the wrong foot with a reader, and it’s easy enough to fix — so why not make an effort to make a better first impression?