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Screenwriters Column

The Screenwriter's Column

LINDA'S KEY RULES FOR WRITING SHORTS
by Linda Cowgill

Ten rules for a successful short script:

  1. Know who you're making your film for. If it's for yourself, that's who you have to satisfy. If you're making it as an entry into the industry, your film needs to work dramatically as well as technically. Competition is stiff.

  2. The longer the story, the better the film has to be. Length comes down to what the story dictates. But if a film is over 15 minutes it really has to be great to keep people watching.

  3. Write the script you can produce. Don't write a script with production values you can't effectively achieve.

  4. The best ideas are simple. Focus on one main conflict, develop and explore it in surprising ways.

  5. Set your film up in the first 60 seconds. If you're writing a ten minute (10 page) movie, you can't take the first 5 pages to introduce your characters before getting to your conflict. Establish your conflict as soon as possible.

  6. Make sure conflict escalates. Know what your character wants (the goal) and what's preventing him from getting it (the obstacle), and make sure your audience understands it, too.

  7. Try to develop the conflict in one main incident as the set piece of your project. Many great short films develop the conflict in one incident to great effect, exploring character in ways feature films rarely do because they rely more heavily on plot.

  8. If your film is less than 5 minutes, one type of conflict might be sufficient to satisfy your audience. But if your film is over 5 minutes, you're going to need to various obstacles or complications for your hero to face.

  9. Just because your film is short doesn't mean you can't have an effective mid-point and reversal. Anything that keeps your audience from guessing your ending is an asset.

  10. Make sure your ending is the best thing about your great film. Your pay off is what you're leaving the audience with and it's how they're going to remember you.
  11. back to top



 

SCREENWRITER'S
COLUMN

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creating characters who work for you, not
against you

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conflict: a writer's best friend!

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five tips for new screenwriters

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incorporating emotion into your plot: preparations & consequences

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ensemble films: the gang's all here

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the principles of drama

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the essence of character

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the sequence of story

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the art of plotting

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plotting a story not just telling one

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non-linear narratives: the ultimate in time travel

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linda's key rules for writing shorts

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the emotional pattern of plot

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ten ways to strengthen your plot

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recommended films

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q & a

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resources

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© Copyright 2003 Linda Cowgill and Plots Inc. Productions. All Rights Reserved.

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