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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Unproduced Screenplay Discussion    Horror Scripts  ›  Incubus Moderators: bert
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  Author    Incubus  (currently 658 views)
Don
Posted: January 3rd, 2018, 10:28am Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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Incubus by Kris Lippert - Horror - When a troubled college student inadvertently conjures up a malevolent entity with her friends, she has to find a way to banish it before it kills them all. 92 pages - pdf, format

Writer interested in feedback on this work



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SteveUK
Posted: January 7th, 2018, 10:57am Report to Moderator
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Hi Kris, I gave the first ten pages or so a read - here’s my feedback:

Page 1

Your opening action line is a character introduction - you should really set the scene first before intro’ing Sophie. Just doing something simple, like incorporating your second action line would work:

‘The light of a full moon pours in through the bedroom window, bathing the delicate, sleeping face of SOPHIE KIRKLAND, 17, in silver.'


You describe Sophie as nerdy, but how do we know that? Show, don’t tell - are there certain posters on her bedroom wall or books on her night stand that could hint at her nerdiness?

When the DARK FIGURE appears he should be intro’d in caps.

Again, the second scene starts with a character introduction instead of setting the scene.

You describe Hayley as ’wears dark lipstick and an expression that discourages most people from crossing paths with her’, but before this scene is over several people actually approach her to start a conversation & a few pages later a drunk frat boy propositions her - this description doesn’t seem to match her character at all. Something simple, like ‘wears dark lipstick, and an even darker expression’ would work better.

Another case of show, don’t tell in Brooke’s character description - she is described as being ‘sometimes a little too easy’ but you need to show this rather than just state it, either through her actions, or maybe have her wearing clothing inappropriate for going to a lecture.


Page 3

‘Sophie sits on the couch and plays on the TV.’
- Should be ‘plays a video game on the TV’


Page 4

The PRE-LAP of music pumping in the background should be followed up in the opening of the next scene. As it is, you don’t mention the music again until 2 pages later.


Page 8

‘Hayley wakes up feeling groggy’. - Again, show, don’t tell. How do we know she’s feeling groggy?


That’s everything I picked up on in the first ten - let me know if you’re around on the boards and I’ll happily read further, and give you feedback on the overall story.
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KrisL
Posted: January 8th, 2018, 6:31pm Report to Moderator
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Thanks, Steve.

I'm here and would love to know your thoughts about the story.
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SteveUK
Posted: January 10th, 2018, 5:40pm Report to Moderator
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Hey Kris,

I finished reading this, and overall I enjoyed it. I liked the twist, although I didn’t entirely buy that the police wouldn’t have picked up on the suffocation sooner.

It was pretty well written, but I felt there were too many convenient plot points, such as Angus being the one who’d taken the book from the library, and Sophie and Angus being acquainted with each other. The biggest convenience that I had an issue with was how easy it seemingly is to get hold of a copy of the book. Why would a regular library even have a copy of the Necronomicon?

Make it harder for them to get the book. Maybe Oliver originally sourced a copy from a rare book dealer, then after Hayley returns it to him it could get stolen or his car could get stolen with the book in it. Then have them go to great lengths to get another copy, putting their lives at risk somehow. Put them through the wringer, then when burning the book doesn’t work it will be an even bigger gut punch. And if you still wanted to work the story so that Angus has the original book near the end, maybe he could be the one who steals it from Oliver?


I made few notes on any issues I picked up while reading:

Page 13
The scene where Hayley is studying, drops her pen, stands, and walks away really stuck out. In hindsight, the twist reveals why she does it, but at the time it is just confusing and unexplained. It would work better if we see someone or something strange that causes her to do this, rather than her just upping and leaving for no reason.

Page 20
The attack on Natalie doesn’t work too well as it currently is. It was a little confusing that they were lay in bed together and Hayley doesn’t initially realise anything is happening even though they’re right next to each other. Having Hayley get out of bed for some reason would possibly work better, so that the attack could begin while she seemingly has her back turned.

Page 40
Why wasn’t the fake spell shown? You have this whole scene as a build up to Oliver and Angus pretending to help, and then you cut to Hayley in her room without showing what happened? This felt like a possible missed chance to add a little humour into the situation.

Page 42
The lesbian encounter / reveal of past abuse between Hayley and Natalie seems way too forced. There has to be a better way to a reveal such a huge bit of backstory, because as it is it comes across a little corny.

Page 45
The incubus suddenly looks like Hayley’s father, but up until this point we haven’t even seen Hayley’s father in any way, so how do we know what he looks like?

Page 57
The bathtub scene seems forced and doesn’t work - why would Hayley not be freaked out? One second she’s saying “You’re a murderer”, and the next she’s letting the incubus feel her up and enjoying it. It would be more believable if you had a scene with Oliver seducing her, and her realising it’s really the incubus when it’s too late/gone too far.


With regards to the writing, there were two things that stuck out a little that I think you could improve on. The first thing was that you have a lot of short action lines throughout. I’m all for having plenty of white space and avoiding heavy description blocks, but single lines of action work better when you’re writing a fast paced scene, and I think a lot of your lines could easily be combined. For example, on page 54 you have:

Hayley enters through the front door.

She quietly locks the door and sneaks towards her room.

She sees that the TV is on in the living room.

She peeks inside but doesn’t see anybody.

She starts to leave when the TV turns off.

She turns to look again.

The only light is coming from the street lamp outside.

She goes inside and notices her mother lying on the couch.

The TV flickers, but goes dark again.

Hayley gasps and looks around the room, half-expecting something to jump at her.

Nothing comes.

She leans close to Valerie, who appears to be sleeping.
  


That takes up 12 separate action lines, which seems completely unnecessary, and could easily be shortened and combined to something like:

Hayley enters through the front door, quickly locks it and sneaks towards her room.

As she passes the living room, she notices the TV is on but doesn’t see anybody watching it.

The TV suddenly switches off, getting Hayley’s attention.

She cautiously enters the darkened room, the only light now coming from a street lamp outside.

The TV briefly flickers back to life, causing Hayley to gasp, before going dark again.

She nervously looks around the room and sees Valerie fast asleep on the couch.



The other thing that could be worked on is the dialogue - it sometimes feels a little on the nose or unnatural. Ideally, all dialogue should either reveal something about character or drive the scene/story forward in some way, but you have quite a few conversations that lead nowhere. For example:

VALERIE
Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?

HAYLEY
I’m okay. I’m just tired.

VALERIE
Go to bed quickly then.

HAYLEY
I will.


That exchange was one of several that felt completely unnecessary and could be removed without losing anything from the story.

As I said, I enjoyed this overall and I hope you don't feel like I'm being harsh on you with any of the issues I've picked out. I hope you find something in these notes that help you improve your script.
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KrisL
Posted: January 10th, 2018, 7:17pm Report to Moderator
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This is awesome, thanks so much Steve!
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Miss Vix
Posted: January 15th, 2018, 7:04pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from SteveUK
Page 1

Your opening action line is a character introduction - you should really set the scene first before intro’ing Sophie.

You describe Sophie as nerdy, but how do we know that? Show, don’t tell - are there certain posters on her bedroom wall or books on her night stand that could hint at her nerdiness?

Again, the second scene starts with a character introduction instead of setting the scene.



‘Hayley wakes up feeling groggy’. - Again, show, don’t tell. How do we know she’s feeling groggy?

With respect, this is incorrect. It is part of what is known as 'the myths of screenwriting'. Other myths are: don't use camera angles, don't direct, don't insert brand names, don't choose the soundtrack, don't describe characters, don't use 'we see' and so on and so on. And those who buy into these myths would have you believe that a reader, exec or producer would bin your script the minute they saw any one example of these.

These myths came from a good place: to stop newbies writing themselves off via  'we see' 27 times on one page. Then again, no one wants to see any word repeated 27 times on one page so it's not 'we see' that's bad but overkill. The problem is, amateurs perpetuate these myths to others and so we end up with this preposterous situation where people on the outside are detailing what's required to get inside. Do you see the flaw with that?

Of course, you get amateurs saving face by referencing their anonymous exec and producer friends who binned scripts for committing one of these sins but it's not true and I guarantee you, if any reader passed on a script because it opened with a character introduction, or had a camera angle, they'd be out of a job.

But worst of all, following these myths can ruin a writer's chance. Because it strips away their voice, their style, the vividness of their script and its quality. Leaving behind just a bland, empty husk.........like all the other amatuers who followed the myths.

Kris, use whatever is needed for the scene. All that matters is bringing the script's world to life and immersing the reader. If you want a 6ft black woman then go for it. Ignore 'well, you just ruled out Angelina Jolie'. Studios can make whatever changes they want so just tell your story. And FYI, Angelina Joliie starred in 'Wanted' and her character was originally a 6ft black woman.  

'Show don't tell' is a guideline only. There are times we need to describe unfilmables so that the reader can follow the story and character motivation and the actors know what they need to be conveying. The problem with description-only is that it's open to interpretation. You were advised to show character through posters but what are edgy to one person is lame to another. Let's say the wall is adorned with 80s metal bands. Is the writer conveying a taste for retro? The character is an outsider? Aggression? Antisocial? An appreciation of complex music?

Look at Litvak's 'Medieval' - an amateur script optioned for $800k against $1.6m. Page one: 'Viking, back against a far wall, stares at nothing, lost in a sea of memories'. It's perfect. Everyone knows what's going on and the actor can interpret as he wishes. Had you tried describing this you may have wrongly given the impression of boredom or senility lol. But never be afraid to be specific, too. Let eyes pop, brows furrow, andmouths flap in shock, if needed.

Hopefully you're reading scripts - Nicholl, Black List, sold, produced. If you are then you'll see that what I say is true. If you don't want to believe the scripts then look for articles by Scott Myers, Brian Koppelman, Craig Mazin, John August, Derek Haas, Eric Heisserer and Jeff Lowell - pros who 'made it' by breaking these myths and who regularly engage with amateurs - judging competitions and scouting talent It's not a case of 'they were lucky, others won't be'/ If you're goof enough then no one will bin you for breakin.

A script of mine opened with 'we pan down to the face of.....' and that was  followed by 'we see's', camera angles, descriptions and much profanity. It scored big on the Black List and it got me repped. No insider has balked. Not even when I was doing my own marketing.

Hope that helps.

Revision History (7 edits; 1 reasons shown)
Miss Vix  -  January 16th, 2018, 8:49am
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Busy Little Bee
Posted: February 10th, 2018, 2:50pm Report to Moderator
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Wow. Miss Vix, some great insights there. I subscribe to most of if not all of what you are saying, and am really glad to see it here wish more people could read what you've said here. I think it could benefit a lot of us beginning writers.

I will say that "show don't tell" is often used without explanation because everyone has an idea of what it means but because it's so used I think it's getting lost in translation. I know sometimes when I use it and I repeat sometimes, it's because I have no issue with some character trait or whatever being mentioned in the description but I want to see it in the character to. For example if you tell me she's athletic, I hope it has some barring on the character's actions and decision making or why mentioned at all because as you said anyone can play the character otherwise.

BLB


Commodus: But the Emperor Claudius knew that they were up to something. He knew they were busy little bees. And one night he sat down with one of them and he looked at her and he said, "Tell me what you have been doing, busy little bee..."
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Busy Little Bee
Posted: February 10th, 2018, 2:52pm Report to Moderator
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Hey, Kris

You have a solid logline. So, going to give this one a look and see where it takes me.

BLB



Commodus: But the Emperor Claudius knew that they were up to something. He knew they were busy little bees. And one night he sat down with one of them and he looked at her and he said, "Tell me what you have been doing, busy little bee..."
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KrisL
Posted: February 11th, 2018, 6:38pm Report to Moderator
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Great, thanks!
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