On my other blog I have a section dedicated to Fatal Flaws of the Novice Screenwriter. Here’s an a couple of additional flaws I should’ve included…
The Implausible Escape/Getting Out of a Sticky Situation
If your lead character makes an “amazing” escape in the latter half of your story, make sure you establish the escape route, or the plausibility of the escape, early on in the script. For instance, I once critiqued a script where the main character, a woman, was on the run from the law. At one point very late in the story, the woman drives to a small airport, steals a plane, and flies off into the wild blue yonder…leaving frustrated cops on the tarmac below. Problem was, for the first 90 pages of the script, the writer never hinted that this woman could fly an airplane. But there she was, at the controls, flying with ease. I’m not saying there had to be a previous scene with this character droning on and on about her years flying for United Airlines, but there should have been some indication that she had knowledge of piloting an airplane. Just clue us in so we’re not rolling our eyes, saying, “Oh, come on!”
In another scene from the same script, the woman, again on the run and with cops hot on her tail, rushes into a corridor. Just when it looks like she’s cornered, she pushes a hidden button on the wall…then a secret door appears and she ducks through it. Huh? I could understand it if this particular location had been her house or office, but it was a location she wasn’t familiar with and not previously established in the story. I’m still scratching my head at that one.
Yes, movies are supposed to be heightened reality, but puh-leeze, make it a plausible, non-eye-rolling heightened reality.
The set up & the pay off
In the James Bond movies, does Bond merely whip out some fantastic device and save the day? Sure, but the device is introduced early in the story by good ol’ Q. Well, usually. For instance, there’s a scene in You Only Live Twice where Bond needs to crack a safe. So he simply reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a rather bulky safe opening device. Two problems with this: 1) The device was never established, and 2) Bond wasn’t even expecting to open a safe! It’s a silly moment in an otherwise classic movie.
Remember in Jaws when Roy Scheider uses the compressed air canister to blow up the shark at the end of the movie? Of course you do, it’s a great scene. Anyway, we believe that scene because the canisters are established early in the story. About 45 minutes into the movie, Scheider accidentally topples the compressed air canisters. Richard Dreyfuss snapped at him, “Dammit…you screw around with these and they’re gonna blow up!” It’s a very brief moment, but it sets up the explosive ending of the movie.
Some new book news!
Yesterday I got word from the folks at The Writers Store that they’ve included my book, Q & A: The Working Screenwriter, in their print ads for the current editions of Script magazine and Creative Screenwriting magazine. (FYI: The Script ad is on page 29; the CS ad is on the last page.) The Writers Store is offering Q & A at the discounted price of just $11.95 (list price: $14.95), so if you have yet to pick up a copy of the book, now’s your chance!