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  Author    Natas  (currently 374 views)
Don
Posted: July 30th, 2017, 10:36am Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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Natas by Mike VinSavage - Horror - A family must fight the forces of evil to save their souls, from eternal damnation. 98 pages - pdf, format

Writer interested in feedback on this work



Visit http://www.simplyscripts.com for what is new on the site.


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medstudent
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Natus Review

Mike,
I thought I'd post the review here so maybe it would lead to a few more reads and advice.

Overall, this is a story with a well established bad guy that anyone would be able to recognize. You had some great imagery in places with some equally creepy set pieces. Unfortunately, there were major things that prevented this script from becoming an enjoyable read.


Below are general thoughts about the story.

One thing this story is missing is personal conflict with each character. Something outside the lurking evil. Blane should be on his last dime trying to secure a giant contract. Carol should be cheating on Blane with someone. Matt should be getting picked on at school and trying to figure out a way to deal with it. Penny is after a boy. These are just examples. Each character should have a personal conflict that he/she is going through PLUS the lurking evil.

Also, your characters are not consistent throughout the story. One minute they are scared shitless because of Satan’s return, the next they are eating pizza and drinking beer like it’s a normal Friday night. One moment Carol is freaked out by what’s happening, moments later she is ignoring Matt’s pleas for help or bopping her head to the beat of the music.

Your characters need to have an arc. They need to start off not believing then in the end, because so much shit has happened, they finally realize that what is happening is real and not coincidence.

Dialogue. It needs work. Every word, every sentence should mean something. There should be nothing wasted. Get rid of the back and forth, casual banter…

CAROL
Guess I’ll go to the store.
BLANE
I'll come with.
CAROL
That's okay, you need to stay and
watch Penny. Her arm's hurting.
BLANE
Okay, be careful.
CAROL
Be back soon.

This is all wasted page space.

I think if you were to focus on dialogue and making sure the characters were consistent in their actions, the rest would fall into place nicely. The plot was overshadowed by the above. It’s a decent start to a script though it needs work. Again, I would focus on character development and dialogue first. Most other things (plot, themes) may fall into place.

Good luck!

Page notes:

SPOILERS






Pg 1.
I like this introduction. Nicely done.

Consider shortening Carol’s dialogue to:

CAROL
Of all the places to park.

Pg 2
Again, Carol’s dialogue can be shortened.

CAROL
Like mine.

Pg 3
I would consider going through all the dialogue and see if you can shorten each line. Cut pronouns, prepositions where you can. For instance…

PENNY
Play. I – I mean… what can it hurt? Not chicken are you?

MATT
This can be dangerous.

PENNY
Who told you that?

MATT
Dunno. Just…

PENNY
Play!

MATT
I really…

PENNY
Fingers here.

PENNY
Good. Now mine like this.


Something like this. I always try to cut things when I can. Shorten the dialogue like people speak. Should match the person’s education, age, gender, race, etc. Kids always cut off words. They’re lazy.

Pg 7.
Pretty decent opening. You have the reader’s attention. Enough questions that need to be answered.  I would spend a page letting us get to know your main characters before going into the hospital and getting right into the Ouija Board. I feel like there is some conflict between them though don’t know.

Pg 10
Introduce the crow during the first sequence. That will give an otherworldly connection to the first set of scenes.

Pg 11.
I do like the back and forth between scenes.

I envision this in the 80s. It has that 80s feel to it.  

Pg 12.
This is a good opportunity to allow the reader a good look at the character’s personalities. I would think about who your characters are, what makes them tick and show those things at their maximum in this scene. Is Matt a dork? Have him counting pokemon cards at the table.  Is Penny an out of place cheerleader? Have her say something really cynical and grown up. You can also give the reader a hint about what the conflict between Blane and Carol is. There must be some conflict between them. Blane’s fucking his secretary and Carol knows it?

Pg 13
Again, a chance to use dialogue to expose each character’s personality. Everyone is at his/her most vulnerable at home, in the bedroom. People say all kinds of crazy shit in the bedroom. This should be where the characters are the most real. Is Blane really insecure? Is Carol just sticking around because of the kids? You should both expose your characters and move the plot along with this dialogue.

Why do they have an Ouija board lying around? Kind of an odd home accessory?

Plasmatic mist? Trying to picture that.

Pg14
So far you have at least 4 different representations of evil.
1.     The crow
2.     The Oija Board
3.     The father
4.     The apparition

I would pick one. I like the crow.

Pg 16.
Yeah, but she hasn’t shown more than one personality. If she is acting weird, show it. Waking from a nightmare isn’t weird necessarily.

Why does he look like hell?

Why would he say he wished he wasn’t married? The reader needs to know visually that he is having issues with his family.

Pg 20
Again, you miss an opportunity to put some layers on your characters with Mrs. Green’s introduction. Her dialogue is bland, Her entrance is bland.

What prompted the flashback? There should be something in her environment that brings her back to that day.  Using a symbol that persists throughout the script (the crow, maybe) would be useful to connect all the happenings.

Why is Carol the one so affected by this whole thing? Why not Blane? It was his father.

Pg 23
Here, you use a different image. Why not use something that has been shown earlier?

Pg24
Was the Ouija Board an apparition too?

Carol’s motivations are a little inconsistent. At one point she is scared shitless and the next she is trying to hide her visions from Blane. Which is she?

Pg27
Again, Carol is in disbelief when Matt tells her about the noise? Why? She is seeing the same.

Pg29
So Blane just leaves the door in the floor? At least make him look at it, try to figure out why it fell off its hinges. Unless this is part of his character. This is the problem when we are not introduced properly to your characters in the beginning. We aren’t sure how they are supposed to act. As far as I can tell, Blane is a pretty normal, boring dude.

Pg 31
So Blane does have this big thing coming up. It doesn’t feel like there is anything at stake though if he doesn’t get it.

Pg32
“The nurse grabs the syringe, inserts the needle into the
bottle slowly drawing the liquid pleasure into the belly of
the beast.”
I know you are going for effect. Though not sure it works.

Pg34
Why would Satan be fucking with Guy and Shelly?

Pg40
Again, Blane’s failure would have much more weight if the whole thing was set up better. If we knew what was at stake if he failed, then it would mean so much more when this scene happens.

Pg41
Why is Carol not at Penny’s bedside? I think it would be more appropriate for Carol to be sitting every moment with her daughter.

Pg54
Why would Matt know that Blane didn’t get the Grandpa out? He wasn’t there. I doubt Blane and Carol would have given them the details.

Pgs 61-63
See, this dialogue should have an undertone of stress and conflict between Blane and Carol. There isn’t anything there. It is bland back and forth. When two characters speak, there should be subtext. Carol should have a motive, should be hiding something from Blane. This guides the conversation. Each person should have his/her own motivation within each scene. All really good dialogue has this in it. A layer of something unseen, though felt by the audience.

For instance, when Carol goes up to meet Matt, SHE should have a plan. Something she wants to say. A goal she wants to achieve. She wants information. She wants something physical from him. She wants him to leave. Something. Matt will have his own. He wants to convince her. He wants her to get out. Something. Often times the two conflict. Sometimes not. Mostly, they do. Each must have something to lose if they don’t say what they want to say.


Pgs 83-84
I thought these things were apparitions? Can apparitions physically harm a living human?

Pg 85
Everyone is so emotionally distant from one another. Maybe make Carol the step-mom?

Pg 86
Nice visuals.

Pg 89
Orbs, apparitions, zombie like return of the dead? Too many devices here. I would stick with one.

Pg 91
Wait, I thought the homeless guy was Satan/Lucifer/The Devil?

Pg 94
Jesus, talk about a down ending. Only Matt survives? Man, you’re tough.

Pg 98
Not sure any lessons were learned by the characters or me. The beginning and end should be book ends. Like a big circle coming back around. “throwing out the old, beginning new”.


Let me know if you have any questions. Best of luck with this and future writing.

Best,
Joseph


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stevemiles
Posted: August 30th, 2017, 5:51pm Report to Moderator
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Hi Mike,

I’ll start by saying this isn’t the kind of horror I gravitate towards so take these comments with a pinch of salt.  Writing wise I could follow the action (minus a few minor issues below), I knew where we were, who we were with and the action in the first act set that horror tone and worked to pull me in.

As to the story, for me it’s all a little too bleak with a particularly brutal ending that didn’t seem all that justified.  I couldn’t see what these characters had done to deserve the horrors inflicted upon them - sins of the father I guess - but for me the ending swung towards gratuity with no sense of hope or escape to cling onto.

There’s a scene towards the end where it’s revealed that Frank did it all (sold their souls) for money but what is there to suggest his wealth elsewhere - have I missed it?  What happened to the money?  Did Frank spend it all?  Seemed like Blane was a self-made man (struggling to maintain the company) and Penny didn’t come across as spoiled - none of them did.  I’d consider what you have to gain in playing up the money angle to a greater extent.  Either more foreshadowing or perhaps even the spectre of inheritance squabbles to give this a richer irony that the family money is tainted by evil, and they - by-proxy - have inherited Frank’s ‘debt’.  What they all want (wealth) comes at a much deeper price than they could have imagined. It’s there, just feels buried in the background.

One area I’d consider looking at is the intro/time-jump.  The biggest question for me was ‘why now?’  What happened (or didn’t happen) in the six years between Grandpa dying that’s suddenly happening now?  To me it seemed written that way to allow Matt and Penny to grow up a little, otherwise I couldn’t see a reason for it which leaves it to stand out.

Have you considered starting (in the past) with Matt and Penny as kids witnessing Grandpa performing the rituals - something here that disturbs/hooks us in before jumping to the present and having Grandpa die when they’re older?  Seeing Grandpa dabbling in the occult could give us a much stronger understanding of where we’re going than telling us about it on p.69.  Grandpa is pivotal to our understanding of the story but again feels underplayed.  Right now the threat isn’t anchored in any one point leaving it to feel a tad vague.

Again, the nature of this evil feels too general - creepy dolls, sinister shadows, creepy old woman, creepy children, invisible forces, homeless guy, missing items, Ouija boards, possessions - what are the rules here?  It feels like you’re hedging your bets by leaving it wide open.

A few things that stood out by page:

p.5 - ‘Nothing is there’ - not even Carol and Blane?  Are they in the room?  Confused as to the chronology here.

p.6 - ‘tethered’ clothing?

p.8 - ‘arraigned’ - arranged perhaps?

p.21 - Refurbished, the hospital looks just like it did before the fire that destroyed more than just a building; but lives too.

-- stood out from the page, awkward phrasing.

p.34 - Did Guy die?  This was never returned too, why?

Around pp.40-41 - I was enjoying the parallel action between the characters.  I did wonder if cutting to Blane and Felicia in the office throws the pacing - particularly with Matt’s chase.  Just a thought.

p.47 - Blane’s reaction to Matt seems off; mocking him over being concerned.  He was chased by a knife-wielding homeless man not a few hours ago.  The family dynamic doesn’t feel natural.

p.51 - Same here, Carol and Blane’s reactions just don’t fit the moment.  Even if there is nothing, wouldn’t they show concern for Matt’s mental wellbeing?  There’s a history here, ‘something’ they’re aware of in their past - Carol seemed well aware of ‘something’ a few scenes back but now she’s laughing it all off.  The reactions don’t seem to fit the moment or characters.  I can’t tell if that’s intentional or part of the ‘evil’.

Again, I’m not your audience for this type of horror so it’s a tricky concept for me to get behind and these notes are all taken from that standpoint.  It’s very much evil wins the day which feels a bit flat.  I guess the idea hinges very much on the entertainment/horror factor of the scares which will no doubt work for some.  I’d certainly try to get this out to a few folk who are.  My main suggestion would be to reconsider that set-up and how it can be used to drive the rest of the narrative.

Hope this helps.

Steve


My short scripts can be found here:


http://www.sjmilesscripts.webs.com
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Tyler King
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Is this an updated draft? It says it was just posted earlier today, but I KNOW I've read the first 5 pages before... anyway, I'll come back and read more of this tomorrow followed by my thoughts... it's late and I've got to get some sleep for work.
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Tyler King
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Got to page 10... so far, the formatting and writing in general is very good, haven't really noticed any mistakes/errors, so good job on that. And the story itself seems to move along at a pretty brisk pace, which kept my attention. I'll keep reading, so long as the writer is still around and active on these boards giving others feedback as well...
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Michael
Posted: September 3rd, 2017, 11:41am Report to Moderator
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Thank you so much Joseph, I am reviewing your screenplay right now. It will be posted by Tuesday.

You gave me great information.  I hope I can give you some good info also..

Mike
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Michael
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Hi to all, it's great to be here.

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Tyler, Yes I am active. I have written for 2 challenges and got blasted on both.. lol
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Michael
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Thank you Steve, I will be looking for your screenplay.
Thank you so much for the insight into my screenplay. it is very much appreciated.

Mike
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Tyler King
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Quoted from Michael
Tyler, Yes I am active. I have written for 2 challenges and got blasted on both.. lol


No worries, so did I...
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Tyler King
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Ok, first of all, and this is nothing a simple rewrite couldn't fixed, but I noticed quite a few punctuation errors and misuse of words. For instance, one part you meant to say "we are" and you spelled it "were" without the apostrophe, and in another you meant to say "you are" and spelled it as "your" instead of "you're"... This went on throughout... nothing major, but people higher up would probably notice...and like I said, it's an easy fix.

Page 21, Penny is bleeding just from a broken arm? I guess I'm a little confused right there.

Page 27, so Matt says "fuck" in front of his mother, and his mother says "if you were younger I'd wash your mouth out with soap"... Isn't he 16 though? That's still technically a child, teenager or not... and at that age, I never would've cussed in front of my mom... hell, if she were still alive today, I still wouldn't...and I'm 27. Just found that really odd/out of place.

Page 35 "I'm not afraid of you. [You're*] just wood." another error misuse of the word, but what I am bringing up is that I laughed out loud at this line, not sure if it was supposed to be funny or not, but then again I tend to laugh at some pretty odd things.

Page 37, why did Mr. Fischer tell Blane to be there Monday morning, only to turn around 1 second later and change his mind as soon as he leaves? That's a pretty dick move...

I've also noticed a LOT of "fuck" words... are all of them really necessary? Just wondering. Unless you plan on having Rob Zombie direct.

Page 40 as of right now I'm really confused about all the clocks stopping... and then the one in Blane's office starts ticking again? Maybe it'll be explained later on...

Page 47 now Blane's dad is mocking his own son? I'm starting to feel hardly any emotion toward any of these characters now... and that's a very bad sign. I want to be able to feel/connect with characters, not be turned off and disgusted/annoyed by them.

Page 49 Blane about shits* (another spelling error) himself... I would stay away from those kind of phrases, to be honest with you, it makes it read like a pisser and I'm starting not to take it seriously... I believe there is at least 1 or 2 instances where you did this earlier on as well.

I think I'm going to stop here for tonight at the moment.
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Michael
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Thank you Tyler, I will explain some things later it is late here. No man not meant to be a pisser. To be honest, what  is a pisser anyway? Never heard it other than here.

Thanks again

Mike
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Tyler King
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Quoted from Michael
Thank you Tyler, I will explain some things later it is late here. No man not meant to be a pisser. To be honest, what  is a pisser anyway? Never heard it other than here.

Thanks again

Mike


I've only heard the term being thrown around on here as well, but from what I've gathered (and I could be wrong), a pisser (in screenplays) is one that mocks what a real screenplay would/should do, and one that doesn't take itself seriously at all. I'm not necessarily talking about the premise being a spoof, but rather how you write the script itself, such as your unnecessary cursing in your action lines. When writers do that, it kind of takes me out and I end up not taking the overall story very serious.
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MarkItZero
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Hi, Mike. Seems like forever since a contributing member posted a script. I think you're a contributing member... so I took a look at the first fifteen pages or so. Hope you don't mind a few specific notes. If I ever get the time to read more, I'll do more thorough notes on the overall script.

One thing to work on is tightening up the dialogue and avoiding stuff that's "on the nose". I'll take the office scene on pg. 8 as an example. What I try to do (not necessarily the right way or only way) is focus on what I'm trying to convey in the scene:

The main thing here is Blane has a meeting coming up that will be huge for his business. The other part is introducing the secretary, their dynamic, the sexual tension between them.

So be efficient and be subtle. Get in and get out of the scene conveying these things as efficiently as possible.

IMO, the bologna story and Felicia's responses were not an efficient or subtle way of establishing sexual tension between them.

FELICIA
Quite a story. You make me laugh.
I like that.


**This was very OTN (not subtle). She's saying exactly what she thinks about him.

Just look at the very next line of descriptions:

Felicia stands, her tight dress shows off every luscious
curve. She shoots Blane a sexy smile as she saunters out.
Blane's eyes can only follow.


That, right there, without a single word is probably enough to convey there's some interest on her part. If you do want them flirting verbally, she wouldn't be that blunt.


So, I wrote out a different version of this scene. Just as an example. There's may ways to do this scene. Not saying this is even any good but it's a bit tighter:


Quoted Text
FELICIA
The meeting with Mr. Fischer is scheduled for one o’clock Friday.

BLANE
You're going to have to help me spend all this profit once I hook that cash cow.

FELICIA
A raise would be nice.

BLANE
I was thinking a hot tub. We knock out this wall, put it right outside.

FELICIA
Very practical.
(closing notepad)
Anything else?

BLANE
Just think, you can get your tanning done while you work. I won’t watch. Scout's honor.

FELICIA
You can watch me leave the room.

Felicia stands, her tight dress shows off every luscious curve. She shoots Blane a sexy smile as she saunters out.

Blane's eyes can only follow.


Just keep reading and writing scripts and participating here on the boards.

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


One other note, I noticed you using a lot of ellipses in descriptions and it got distracting.


Quoted Text
The wind HOWLS... "Mother Nature" rips the limb off a tree,
then SLAMS it on a tiny front lawn.



Quoted Text
As she adds her fingers to the planchette, a THUNDER CLAP
echoes... through the dark and stormy night.


I don't really know what the rule or whatever is, but I definitely found this distracting. The continuous sound of wind howling is not much of a cliffhanger so I don't see the point of drawing it out. And revealing the  location of a thunderclap is not much of a payoff for drawing out the sound of the thunder clap itself.

This reminded me of something MichaelKospia posted a very long time ago that I pasted into a Word document way back when. I will reproduce it now. It's basic tips on writing descriptions. Not saying it's 100% right, but may prove useful for you:


Description Notes

When you picture a camera angle or the focus of the camera changing, start another paragraph to dictate that.

So, let's say instead of:

Mike sits behind the wheel, his eyes on the road ahead. He looks into his rear view mirror and sees a BLACK SEDAN tailing him.

It would be:

Mike sits behind the wheel, his eyes on the road ahead.

He looks into his rear view mirror and sees a BLACK SEDAN tailing him.

One moment, Mike is still. His eyes are on the road ahead. When the action changes, he's no longer still, looking at the road ahead. He's looking in his rear view mirror. So, when he DOES look into his rear view mirror, the action changes. So we start a new paragraph. In the example I've written above, we see that he's looking into his rear view and he immediately sees the BLACK SEDAN in the mirror.

If you want to dictate the impact of the visual and fully focus on the BLACK SEDAN tailing him:

Mike sits behind the wheel, his eyes on the road ahead.

He looks into his rear view. Raises an eyebrow, adjusting the mirror to see --

A BLACK SEDAN behind him.


Something like that.

You can also use the same strategy if simulating a beat. A period at the end of a sentence can simulate a beat as well, but, by moving on to the next paragraph, this simulates a longer beat.

Instead of Michael sits and ponders to himself. He snaps his fingers in realization.

It would be:


Michael sits and ponders to himself.

He snaps his fingers in realization.

If you want to draw out the action to build suspense, you can use stilted sentences

Mike tiptoes to the door. One. Step. At a time.

If you want continuous action or a single motion, use commas.

Mike side-steps the punch, countering with a vicious left hook.

Another tool to draw out action and build suspense is using ellipses.

Mike tiptoes to the open door. One. Step. At a time. Reaching the doorway...

The DOOR SLAMS in his face!


Or, if action is interrupted in a more immediate way (as in dialogue) use --

Mike sits behind the wheel, focused on the road ahead --

A MINIVAN smashes into the driver's side!


That rug really tied the room together.
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