As you might guess, JohnAugust.com is the blog of Hollywood scriptwriter John August. In it John answers questions about working as a movie scriptwriter (and occasionally covers other topics as well). In a recent post, he talked about how to introduce a character. Here's a brief extract to illustrate the quality of advice on offer:
Just how early can you tell a script isn't going to work? To me, it's as the first few characters are introduced. If character introductions are not done artfully, the odds of anything else in the script being great are slim.
The visitor sits beside the bed and Ripley finally notices him. He is thirtyish and handsome, in a suit that looks executive or legal, the tie loosened with studied casualness. A smile referred to as 'winning.'
Nice room. I'm Burke. Carter Burke.
I work for the company, but other
than that I'm an okay guy.
Glad to see you're feeling better.
That's James Cameron's terrific script for Aliens, page 3, the introduction of Paul Reiser's character. Even before Burke speaks, let's look at what Mr. Cameron told us:
Burke's rough age.
That he's decent-looking.
He's a "suit," but trying not to look like a suit.
He seems friendly - but there's something possibly false about it.
Burke's first lines of dialogue reinforce our expectation from the character description. "Yes, I work for the company, but I want you to think I'm on your side."
If TV scriptwriting is more your thing, Jane Espenson's blog should be high on your list. Jane has written episodes for many top-rated US TV series, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Gilmore Girls, Ellen, The O.C., Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Dinosaurs, Andy Barker PI, and so on.
Jane says that her blog is intended 'to help new writers tackle the job of writing those all-important spec scripts - from picking the right show to spec, to developing an idea, to getting that dialogue exactly right, to giving the script that professional look.'
Here she is talking about writing specimen scripts:
Your spec script, even if it is for a show that is predominately arc-driven, will need to have at least some stand-alone elements. In fact, it should probably have as many stand-alone elements as you can get away with. So when you're looking at produced scripts, using them to try to put together a template for the structure of your spec, try to use stand-alone episodes as your examples as much as possible. If you're purchasing your scripts and can only afford a few, make them the most highly regarded episodes plus the stand-alone episodes.As with John August's blog, Jane Espenson's is packed with helpful advice for aspiring screenwriters. Not only that, you even get to find out what she had for lunch each day!
Finally, just a quick reminder that if you're interested in screenwriting, my special offer on WCCL's Write a Movie in a Month course is still open. Not only do you get 20 dollars off the normal price, you also get three unique bonus items from me that are unavailable elsewhere. Just click on this link for full details.