by Jim Cirile
Eight managers. Your script. Sound good? Of course, there is a catch — you have to get through the reader gauntlet first. Get Repped Now, a promotion from Coverage Ink, offers a panel of eight top literary managers who will read all the screenplays and teleplays which score a “consider” or better for script, submitted before Nov. 5.
Coverage Ink readers are a tough crowd. In order to land that coveted “consider,” you must demonstrate you’ve got the goods. Here are five things that can make a big difference in your writing and flip that “pass” on its ass. Effectively utilizing these five recommendations should turn even the grouchiest reader into a passionate advocate. Let’s go!
1) Subtext is Your Friend. Story pros agree: the main way to add snap, crackle and even pop to your dialogue is to employ a second level of meaning — the words say one thing, but what’s REALLY being said is something else. One of the most recurrent problems we see in screenplays is flat, on-the-nose dialogue. But dialogue rich with subtext engages the reader on a whole ‘nother level and demonstrates you’ve got chops. Doing this well is deceptively difficult, and it takes practice to master. Here’s a great article to get started: http://www.charles-harris.co.uk/2013/05/dialogue-with-subtext/
2) Don’t Forget the Ol’ Razzle-Dazzle. Know what’s really tiring? Reading a screenplay with a flat voice. Uninspired word and phrasing choices like “He stands and leaves. He walks down the street,” have a soporific effect. You’re a writer — show off! Where’s that panache, that sizzle, that je nest sais quoi or whatever? Turn a phrase and be a cunning linguist. One should never “walk” — they should slink, sashay, saunter, sway, sally, swish, snake, and slither; never walk. And that’s just the esses.
3) Brevity Is the Soul of Wit. Another terribly common malady is overwriting. So many scribes don’t properly edit themselves. Finished a new draft? Good. Now put on your editor hat and go through the script playing the “What can I cut?” game. Scrutinize every paragraph, every single line. If a sentence has 15 words, can you say the same thing in 10? Or five? Or cut it and just do it with a look? The more you tighten your craft, the brighter the sheen on the script.
4) Complicate Your Characters, Not Your Plot. Alas, so often we see the other way around — underdeveloped characters, needlessly complex plots. Movie throughlines are generally pretty damn simple — somebody needs to do something urgently, but someone else is trying to stop them. That’s pretty much all you need. As for characters, shoot for dimensional and layered. So many writers forget to detail their protagonists in Act 1 and just jump right into the story, which prevents us from getting to know or care about them. There’s a reason why most books tell you to put the inciting incident between page 10-15.
5) Surprise! By far the best way to win a reader over: have a surprise on every page. Think about it. Any time you can jolt someone out of their torpor, zig when they thought you were going to zag, you add a soupcon of awesome sauce to your brew. Think about the tropes, what’s expected — and then do the opposite. And beware stereotypes like Latina sexpot or donut-eating cop. Try Eskimo sexpot or a vegan, yogi cop instead. If you can hit the reader with something they didn’t see coming, you will win incredible goodwill.
Get Repped Now runs until Nov. 5, 2017. Visit www.getreppednow.com for more info.