The Most Common Screenwriting Mistakes

(A discussion on the misc.writing.screenplays newsgroup)


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----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Paul H. Soares, Jr. <paul_soares@yahoo.com>
Subject: Most common mistakes
Date: Wed, 27 Oct 1999 19:20:04 GMT

Hiyas all - 

What are some of the most common mistakes made by new screenwriters?
From a *reader's* perspective, that is. What turns them off the most
and screams *novice!* when they read a script? 

TIA
Paul

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: "NMS" <nmstevens@email.msn.com>

There are so many...

Okay.

First mistake -- misspellings, bad punctuation, incomplete sentences, and
generally writing like you're twelve years old.

Second mistake -- errors of format, presentation, and packaging (things like
decorating scripts, using tiny brads so that the script falls apart, or
tying the script with ribbons).

Third mistake -- errors of length -- feature scripts that are 60 pages
long -- or, far more frequently, 180 pages long.

Fourth mistake -- Dull, confused beginning. Basically, by the time you reach
page four or five, you should have a decent sense of what the story is going
to be about, or, at the very least, what's happening on the page should make
you want to read more. If it doesn't, chances are, the reader won't.

Fifth mistake -- No story. It's surprising how many beginning writers forget
to include this -- or think that they have when they haven't. A story
consists of a central problem of overwhelming importance to somebody, who
then acts to solve the problem, faces obstacles of increasing severity over
the course of the movie, and who then either solves it or fails to solve it,
said success or failure being a statement of the theme of the story.

A story *isn't* about somebody sitting around his living room, moping,
having fantasy sequences and flashbacks, followed by some kind of cathartic
"acting" moment which is supposed to make it all mean something. This is an
important distinction.

Sixth mistake -- Indistinguishable and cliched characters. The characters
are indistiguishable if they speak in the same voice, fail to have clear and
distinct agendas, and if the reader has to keep flipping back to remind
himself of who is who. They are cliched if the writer writes to established
"type" rather than creating unique individuals with specific needs and
clearly defined distinguishing characteristics (by which I do NOT mean a
lisp or a French accent). Thus an accountant is written the way accountants
"are" -- a hit man is written the way hit men "are" -- a scientist is
written the way scientists "are" -- only of course, none of those people
"are" any one particular way. They are simply depicted frequently in movies
a certain way, and it is simply a brand of writerly laziness to take a
pre-formed character off the shelf rather than coming up with one yourself.

Seventh mistake -- "On the Nose" dialogue. People in love telling each other
how much they love one another. A woman who's angry because her husband is
cheating on her and also because her father did just the same thing to her
mother and she knows that she's repeating the same pattern -- SAYING to
somebody how she's angry because her husband is cheating on her and also
because her father did just the same thing to her mother and she...etc.,
etc., etc.

In real life, people who talk about themselves and their feelings and their
problems all the time are crashing bores. It shouldn't be surprising that
the same kind of people in a script are equally boring if not more so.

Eighth mistake -- Totally derivative script.

Ninth mistake -- fudging. That is, the writer has some significant story
problem or logic problem that needs solving, but they kind of hope that if
they dance fast enough, nobody will notice (by the way, just about
everybody's been guilty of this one at one time or another).

Tenth mistake -- no ending. Scripts both pose problems and offer solutions.
But, as in life, problems are a lot easier than solutions.

There are, of course, other problems, like unnecessary characters or a
dramatic problem that isn't sufficiently focused or properly dramatized --
but that's already getting into fairly sophisticated ground. Most scripts
never even reach the point where it's worth addressing issues like that.

There are probably other things that bother others, but the above is what
pretty much got an automatic "no" from me when I was working as a story
editor.

NMS

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: joannkb@aol.com (JoannKB)

I can't emphasize these two points enough:

> Fourth mistake -- Dull, confused beginning. 

> Seventh mistake -- "On the Nose" dialogue.

I can't tell you how many times I have seen (or written) "Overlong first act"
and "rushed, abbreviated third act" in coverage.  Many beginning writers use
the first 30-50 pages of their script just to get their bearings.  This is 
fine to do in the first draft, but rewrites should pare down the script's 
beginning to what's necessary and interesting.  If you protract your set-up,
then you'll end up rushing your climax and resolution just to bring your 
script in under the page maximum.

And I just as often see the phrase "on-the-nose dialogue."  Beginning writers
often underestimate their audience, thinking that they need to hit the reader
over the head, lest they miss some brilliant moment in the writing.  You can
usually afford to be much more subtle than you are in the first draft.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Craig Franck <clfranck@worldnet.att.net> 

> Can someone elaborate more about 'on the nose' dialogue? Is it just
> talking in an unrealistic manner (comic book dialogue) or something more
> specific?

No subtext or purely dialogue-driven scenes. You have the characters
blurt out what might better be expressed in some other way or perhaps
just hinted at. Showing is almost always better than telling in movies.
A good maxim is to only add dialogue as a last resort. Movies where you
can turn the sound down and still get the gist of what's going on are
normally well written and acted.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: "Joe Myers" <boomwrt@primenet.com> 

NMS wrote:

lotsa good stuff, beginning with,

> There are so many...
> 
> Okay.
> 
> First mistake -- misspellings, bad punctuation, incomplete sentences, and
> generally writing like you're twelve years old.

A given.  If you can't write, you can't write screenplays.

> Second mistake -- errors of format, presentation, and packaging 
> (things like decorating scripts, using tiny brads so that the 
> script falls apart, or tying the script with ribbons).

I just got though a passle of Zoetropy scripts.  Two of 'em in a
"better-looking typeface" than Courier.  Another one that might have been
written in the right format but, instead, got to me in 10 pt. Courier text
format.  It was, easily, a 120 page script....got to me in 68 pages of text
format.  Throught the read, It was difficult to discern which was the
dialogue and which was the action.

> Third mistake -- errors of length -- feature scripts that are 60 pages
> long -- or, far more frequently, 180 pages long.

The one Zoetropy script that came in the right format was 169 pages. It
might (*might*, I emphasize) have been an interesting 98 page story. On the
other hand, I know a lot more than I used to know about the people who
volunteered to knit afgans at American Legion posts in Louisiana, 1941.

> Fourth mistake -- Dull, confused beginning. Basically, by the time
> you reach page four or five, you should have a decent sense of what the 
> story is going to be about, or, at the very least, what's happening on
> the page should make  you want to read more. If it doesn't, chances are,
> the reader won't.

Vonnegut's Law:  Throw away your first three chapters.

This, of course applies to novels, not screenplays, but Kurt's observation
"the first three chapters you write are for *you* not the reader" can be
adapted to s-plays.

> Fifth mistake -- No story. It's surprising how many beginning writers
> forget to include this -- or think that they have when they haven't. A 
> story consists of a central problem of overwhelming importance to 
> somebody, who then acts to solve the problem, faces obstacles of 
> increasing severity over the course of the movie, and who then either 
> solves it or fails to solve it, said success or failure being a statement
> of the theme of the story.

This, for me, is a "Yeahbut."

One of my all-time favorite films is "Amorcord."  But Fellini wasn't 
writing a spec.  I write, nearly every day, on  my own private "Amorcord."
But it's not likely to be a spec I try to sell first time out.  Because, 
if you're going to sell your first script, it's probably got to follow 
the formula NMS outlines above.

> A story *isn't* about somebody sitting around his living room, moping,
> having fantasy sequences and flashbacks, followed by some kind of 
> cathartic "acting" moment which is supposed to make it all mean something.
> This is an important distinction.

Yeah.  (no but)

> Sixth mistake -- Indistinguishable and cliched characters. The characters
> are indistiguishable if they speak in the same voice, fail to have clear
> and distinct agendas, and if the reader has to keep flipping back to remind
> himself of who is who. They are cliched if the writer writes to established
> "type" rather than creating unique individuals with specific needs and
> clearly defined distinguishing characteristics (by which I do NOT mean a
> lisp or a French accent). Thus an accountant is written the way accountants
> "are" -- a hit man is written the way hit men "are" -- a scientist is
> written the way scientists "are" -- only of course, none of those people
> "are" any one particular way. They are simply depicted frequently in movies
> a certain way, and it is simply a brand of writerly laziness to take a
> pre-formed character off the shelf rather than coming up with one yourself.

*THIS*  is the real reason I responded to this post.

This may well be the central problem facing a newbie writer.  It's the
conundrum faced by the writer who was told by Samuel Goldwyn, "I'm tired of
all these old cliches, give me some new cliches."

Unless your script takes us to an entirely new paradigm, (a fire watcher in
an outpost in the Brazilian rain forest dazzles natives by teaching them
slight-of-hand  magic which prepares them for the return of Christ to the
earth, for example) you're going to be faced with "Yeahbut, cops don't act
that way" if your cop isn't somewhat cliche.    The key here, I guess, is to
show us things we know but show it to us differently, from a different
perspective, or in a new way.  (Whatever the hell that means)

> Seventh mistake -- "On the Nose" dialogue. People in love telling each other
> how much they love one another. A woman who's angry because her husband is
> cheating on her and also because her father did just the same thing to her
> mother and she knows that she's repeating the same pattern -- SAYING to
> somebody how she's angry because her husband is cheating on her and also
> because her father did just the same thing to her mother and she...etc.,
> etc., etc.

Do a quick Word Search of your script.  If the words "because," "since,"
"that's why" show up in your dialogue, chances are you're in trouble.

> In real life, people who talk about themselves and their feelings and their
> problems all the time are crashing bores. It shouldn't be surprising that
> the same kind of people in a script are equally boring if not more so.

Bogie's Law:  "Fiction, unlike real life, has to make sense."

> Eighth mistake -- Totally derivative script.

Yeah, right.  You don't want to be pitching the second "Life from an
insect's point-of-view" or "An asteroid's heading toward earth" script.  Or
the thirty-fifth "Beautiful college-aged kids in an out-of-the-way location
are systematically killed by an unknown maniac" script, for that matter.  To
borrow a phrase from a fellow contributor to mis-writing-screenplays,
"Eighth mistake, my ass."  If you''ve got a shootable "Son of Sixth Sense"
send it and sell it.

> Ninth mistake -- fudging. That is, the writer has some significant story
> problem or logic problem that needs solving, but they kind of hope that if
> they dance fast enough, nobody will notice (by the way, just about
> everybody's been guilty of this one at one time or another).

After reading at least a dozen scripts in which the a) kid, b) dead cop, c)
dead lover, d) unconscious lover somehow miraculously shoots the bad guy
just before he delivers the death blow on the hero....I dunno.  Maybe it
doesn't work in a spec script from an unknown...but the regulars in
Hollywood seem to get away with it all the time.

> Tenth mistake -- no ending. Scripts both pose problems and offer solutions.
> But, as in life, problems are a lot easier than solutions.

Yeah.  Whatever happened to "THE END....or is it?"

> There are, of course, other problems, like [snip]

Giant Mechanical Spiders

Characters talking in paragraphs at a time

Stories that might mean the world to people living in Hog Bluff, North
Dakota but have not relevance whatsoever to anyone who's never been there.

Joe Myers

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: "NMS" <nmstevens@email.msn.com> 

Joe Myers <boomwrt@primenet.com> wrote:
> NMS wrote:
> (snip)
> > 
> > Fifth mistake -- No story. It's surprising how many beginning 
> > writers forget to include this -- or think that they have when 
> > they haven't. A story consists of a central problem of 
> > overwhelming importance to somebody, who then acts to 
> > solve the problem, faces obstacles of increasing severity over
> > the course of the movie, and who then either solves it or fails
> > to solve it, said success or failure being a statement of the 
> > theme of the story.
> 
> This, for me, is a "Yeahbut."
> 
> One of my all-time favorite films is "Amorcord."  But Fellini wasn't
> writing a spec.  I write, nearly every day, on  my own private 
> "Amorcord."  But it's not likely to be a spec I try to sell first 
> time out.  Because, if you're going to sell your first script, it's 
> probably got to follow the formula NMS outlines above.

I have to agree with you about the above. Not only in respect to movies like
"Amarcord," but even something like "Radio Days" which is one of my favorite
Woody Allen movies.

While it's always possible to twist any movie to fit some sort of paradigm,
I think, in all seriousness, that neither of these movies are stories in any
traditional dramatic sense. If there is a central problem to be solved in
them, it seems to be simply the problem of "life" generally, and how you get
through it. But really, they seem to work more as exercises in
stream-of-consciousness -- creating a vivid sense of, time, place, and
people through a number of interconnected characters and anecdotes.

But it take a consummate artist to pull off something like that. With
traditional stories, you create short and long term expectations which can
carry you across the slow spots. Even if nothing all that fascinating is
happening on screen right now, an audience is prepared to wait, because
they're expecting things to happen later. Deprived of the expectation that
traditional dramatic structure imparts, if you hit a scene where nothing
much of interest is happening, you're in serious risk of losing your
audience, because it is only what's happening on screen at any particular
moment that will keep them interested.

Clearly, Fellini pulls this off, in a number of his later movies. Others
have tried and not done nearly as well.

NMS
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: mkword@aol.com (Mkword)

There's only one truly bad mistake new writers can make ... and that's not
realizing when they have nothing of interest going on in their stories.

If you've got a compelling story, all the other rules can be broken.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: "Edward Feit" <efeit@javanet.com> 

Although, as others have written, there are many mistakes, here are some
listed in no particular order. I'm not going into plot here, because these
mistakes ensure that readers stop after the first few pages.

1) Long descriptions, especially at the opening.
2) A succession of one-sentence paragraphs (tough to read)
3) "On the nose" dialogue
4) Listing the music to be played during the movie
5) Writing a logline at the beginning of the script
6) providing a synopsis at the beginning of the script
7) Telling instead of showing
8) Lack of a compelling hook
9) Gross ignorance of standard screenplay format
10) Failure to describe characters
11) Overly describing characters
12) Using strange dialects or any dialect unless absolutely unavoidable.
13) Anachronisms - having a character use something long before it's
invented
14) Failure to establish the hero's identity

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Joyce Harmon <jlharmon@crosslink.net> 

Jeff S Miholer wrote:

> Raanmed (raanmed@aol.com) wrote:
> > Before we leave this, would someone remind me what the difference 
> > is between a passive and active voice?
> 
> Active: I haven't read your script yet.
> 
> Passive: Your script hasn't been read yet.

And Jeff has also underlined the *other* problem with passive voice 
(besides the fact that it's just kinda flabby) -- passive voice allows 
you to leave out the action (or non-action) taker.

"I ate the cupcake" is active, "the cupcake was eaten by me" is passive,
but the latter too often can become merely "the cupcake was eaten".

BTW, though passive voice should be used with caution in the descriptive
narrative of a screenplay, it's perfectly permissible in the dialog, 
if the person speaking would speak passive voice. Bureaucrats, for example,
rarely use anything *but* passive voice.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: bast10312181@cs.com (Bast10312181)

> From a *reader's* perspective, that is. What turns them off the most
> and screams *novice!* when they read a script? 
> 
> TIA
> Paul

Chicago Screws.
Offers to screw.
More than two brads.
Supergluing brads.
Directions in the spec script.
Any more dialog than is absolutely  necessary.
Pages of action where nothing really happens.
Lots of "Hello."  "How are you?"  "I'm fine." dialog.
Titling the cover.
Using anything but Courier 12 or Courier New 12.
Bolding, italicizing, underlining.
Placing your script in transparent plastic covers.
Name dropping unless you really know the person.
Using lots of CUT TOs.
Misspelled words.
Badly used or misused punctuation.
Sentences that are too long or compound. Passive writing.

These last four are the most important "don'ts."

Don't even think about submitting a spec script until it's been 
proof read by you and two other people who know English.

And I forgot.  NO scene numbers.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: lgrantt@earthlink.net (Lou Grantt)

Besides the list of common things that Bast posted, there are story
things, too. The most common problem I see in newbie scripts is a flat
main character. Secondary characters are usually well-crafted,
dimension, and fun to read. Main characters - whew - it's an odd
phenomenon but even experienced writers still have problems writing a
protagonist with depth and dimension. I've examined this at length
with each of them and find different reasons most every time, but it
often boils down to "I like the character and don't want to show them
as ugly/flawed/angry/negative in any way." And this isn't a conscious
thing on the part of the writer. It doesn't come out until we talk
about it a while.

Readers read a lot of scripts that prompt a "who cares?" response, and
mostly because they just don't care if the main character achieves
his/her goal or not. 

Lou

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Stephen Greenfield Sg1@Screenplay.com

Lou wrote:
> The most common problem I see in newbie scripts is a flat
> main character.

I think I've got an idea why this might be -- and it doesn't have to do
with any theory of story:

Writers -- especially new writers -- tend to write about their own
experiences, their own life.  But who does a writer usually have the
biggest blind spot about?  Themselves!  Sure, they know the events that
have happened, but how many writers can write about themselves with real
honesty and criticism?

I've been there with this issue -- and it took many drafts to fix the
problem.

Stephen

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: lgrantt@earthlink.net (Lou Grantt)

Stephen Greenfield wrote:
> Lou wrote:
> 
> > The most common problem I see in newbie scripts is a flat
> > main character.
> 
> I think I've got an idea why this might be -- and it doesn't have to do
> with any theory of story:
> 
> Writers -- especially new writers -- tend to write about their own
> experiences, their own life.  But who does a writer usually have the
> biggest blind spot about?  Themselves!  Sure, they know the events that
> have happened, but how many writers can write about themselves with real
> honesty and criticism?
> 
> I've been there with this issue -- and it took many drafts to fix the
> problem.

I think Viki King talked about this in her book. The main character is
you. No matter if you're a Harvard grad and your mc is a garbage man.
No matter if you're the church librarian and your mc is a bloodthirsty
action hero. You still invest far too much of yourself in the mc to be
objective about him/her and write him/her dimensionally. Until you've
written a few scripts and get those (unconscious) inhibitions out of
your system.

Lou

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Brian Anderson <socrates@flash.net> 

    There have already been a lot of good posts on common mistakes, but
none so far that directly address your specific question.  There are a
lot of blunders a novice writer can make, but frankly, writers tend to
fret over non-story-related things that a reader could care less about. 
I've read over 500 contest scripts entered at Austin over the years, and
from my reader's perspective, these are some of the things novice
writers really should be concerned about.

1)  LACK OF CONFLICT, ACT I.  I can't count the number of scripts I've
read where the story starts on page 30.  Many new writers use Act I to
show their protagonist in his daily life before Plot Point I turns his
world upside down, but his daily life is typical, conflictless, and
DULL.  This is not what Syd Field meant.  Get the story going early 
and fill us in on backstory as we need it.

2)  LACK OF CONFLICT, ACT II.  Often the new screenwriter knows the
beginning and the the ending of his story, and all he needs is 60 pages
of script in the middle.  Those 60 pages serve one purpose, to forestall
the final conflict, but what they typically do is forestall ANY
conflict.  The problem is usually one of story structure to begin 
with -- in terms of the story itself there is really nothing stopping 
the protagonist from ending the story 60 pages early, and "Act II" is 
just a lot of things happening to delay the hero from doing so.  New 
writers are more prone to write a script because they love the set up 
and the ending, and they feel they can keep the reader occupied through 
the middle.  But that's a writer's perspective, not a reader's.  The 
reader doesn't want to be occupied through the middle, the reader wants 
to be engrossed from beginning to end.

3)  ON THE NOSE DIALOGUE.  By "on the nose" I mean the characters are
saying exactly what the writer wants the reader to know.  Often this
takes the form of naked exposition, where one character simply lays out
facts to another character.  "On the nose" is also used to describe
dialogue where characters say precisely what they mean, especially in
emotional situations.  In good dialogue, a character's meaning is
implied by what he says -- or implied by what he does NOT say.

4)  LAME DESCRIPTION.  By "description" I mean anything you put at the
left margin of the page.  Many new writers are creatively hobbled by the
fact that they can only write what the audience can see or hear.
Although they express themselves freely in the dialogue, they write
flat, factual description.  If you're writing an action sequence, it
should be exciting.  I've read car chases with descriptions like, "The
vehicle accelerates away at a high rate of speed," and read battle
scenes that would have been too dry for history books.  If the
description doesn't carry the tone and pace of the story, your script
will fail.

5)  PASSIVE PROTAGONIST.  This is the yang of #2's ying, but it happens
so frequently that it deserves special recognition.  A hero is not just
someone to whom bad things keep happening.  He is the one who takes
action that forces change in his world.  If he's not forcing change,
especially change through conflict, make him.

6)  OVERWRITING.  The majority of contest scripts are overwritten.  But
the ones that aren't ashamed to be overwritten, the ones that start the
first scene with a three-line description of a sunset, those are the
ones that scream novice.

7)  TINY BRADS.  In all the scripts I've read, I never noticed or cared
how many brads the writer used, as long as they held the script
together.  Your script WILL fall apart if you use one inch brads.

8)  BONUS PROBLEM:  This isn't one that raw novices make, but one that
some slightly more experienced intermediate-level aspiring screenwriters
do.  I mention it here only because I saw so much of it in last year's
entries at Austin.
    Intermediate writers realize how important the first few pages are,
and they often decide to open with a bang to really get things going. 
Then on page four or so the script cuts over to the real beginning and
we... start... all... over... at... the... very... beginning.  You can't
just slap an exciting scene onto the front of a dull story and think
you've hooked the reader.  The reader falls off that hook as soon as the
story takes a sudden turn into Dullsville.  Don't just start your script
with a hook, start your STORY with a hook.  An artificial opening is an
admission that your story doesn't have a hook.

BUT THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF ALL that new writers make is not something
you can point to in a script.  All of the problems listed above are
symptoms of something else, some deeper, underlying problem.  Most often
the problem is the choice of story.  A weak story brilliantly executed
is still a weak story, and what really keeps a reader's attention is
story.  When we want to see how something is resolved, we keep reading
through bad dialogue and lame description.  I don't think story choice
can be taught, because I think everybody thinks they already understand
it.  It's only after a few painful, first-hand experiences that writers
realize their ability to choose a good story isn't as strong as it could
be.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Allen Glazier <AGlazier@Slamdance.com> offered a sample script, followed
by explanatory comments. PLEASE NOTE: The margins and format shown here 
are NOT standard, but were adapted for the purposes of this document.

[begin sample of "Very Bad Things" in screenwriting]

INT. FRAT ROOM - DAY

Two college buds, DAN and DON, sit on a couch. Dan is 22, 167 pounds, 5 
feet 11 inches, has curly brown hair, a pug-nose, a 10 1/2 D shoe size, an 
innie belly button, and is missing both his wisdom teeth. Don is a Tom 
Cruise-type with a hint of Brad Pitt.

"You Don't Know This Song" by The Obscures blares in the b.g. It's followed 
by "Can't Get The Music Rights" by The Wishful Thinkers. On a notepad, Dan 
jots ideas for a screenplay.

                   DAN
            (parenthetically)
       Hey, Don, think characters with similar names would 
       confuse readers?

                   DON
       Nah, why would it?

DENNY walks into the room. Denny's the kind of guy who looks like a closed 
book until you open it. Three years ago he got dumped by his first love. 
It was during spring break. He's never owned a cat. Denny's followed by 
DONNA, a "typical" English major.

                      DENNY
          Hey, guys. What's up?

                      DAN
               (welcoming)
          Hi Denny! Donna!
               (quizzically)
          Just wondering if it's bad for my characters to have 
          similar names.

                      DENNY
          Who gives a crap.

                      DONNA
          Yeah, that's dumb. Just come up with a good story.

Hold for three and a half beats. Dan sweats profusely.

                      DENNY
          So you're really writing a screenplay?

CANDY, an aerobicized hotty who could easily pass for a supermodel, enters.
She's gorgeous in a visually stunning way and exudes a comely attractiveness.
(Note to the director: the actress should be very pretty.)

Candy flashes a beauty queen smile, oozing sexuality in an erotic fashion.

                      CANDY
          Hi Dan, Don, Denny, Donna!

The song "Let's Distract The Reader" by Grand Annoyance PLAYS as we...

SMASH CUT TO: 
[end of sample]

The above wasn't a response to recent scripts but instead an attempt to 
illustrate a number of questionable techniques I've seen in the past:

1) obsessively precise character description 
2) character description citing popular actors 
3) overly abstract character introductions or introductions that contain
   information not on the screen. 
4) emphasizing that a character is cliché by calling him/her "typical" 
5) overemphasis on whether a character's attractive or not, especially 
   when it plays no role in the story. 
6) use of redundant language in description 
7) overuse of "beat" (yes, I have seen examples where the writer specifies
   how many beats.) 
8) "Sweating profusely" appears in an amazing number of scripts. 
9) obsessive use of specific songs 
10) overuse of SMASH CUT, etc. 
11) choosing character names that are very similar for no real reason 
12) overuse of parenthetical acting cues. 

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Steve Robinson-Smith <Steve@writer500.freeserve.co.uk> 

I'll agree with most things that are said here.

The most important thing is story!!! Story, story, story and focusing on
that story and not getting lost in your own naval.

Think guys Hollywood is almost story bankrupt. If you can't tell a
simple story how the hell can you write a script!!!

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