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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Unproduced Screenplay Discussion    Western Scripts  ›  Winterhaven Moderators: bert
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Don
Posted: January 4th, 2017, 6:15pm Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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Winterhaven by Steven Wood - Western - Winterhaven follows a sheriff and the arrival of a prisoner who carries with him a revelation that will change the lives of everyone involved. 76 pages - pdf, format

New writer interested in feedback on this work


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You will miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
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ChrisB
Posted: January 5th, 2017, 7:26pm Report to Moderator
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Hi Steven, your script is the best I´ve read on here in quite a while.

I´ve read the first 21 pages and the slowness of your plot is salvaged by how interesting your characters are - they feel so real that they burst out of the pages with life.

N.B. ¨Whore¨ is a rather offensive word, it would be better to use ¨mistress¨.

Tomorrow I will tell you my thoughts on the rest of the story.  Hopefully it gets more exciting!
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Steven
Posted: January 5th, 2017, 11:47pm Report to Moderator
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Hey thanks a lot, seriously.

It picks up, for sure. But don't expect huge gun battles or anything like that.

I had to use whore, it fits with the time. But the women are referred to in gentler ways as the story goes on.
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ChrisB
Posted: January 7th, 2017, 5:26pm Report to Moderator
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Hi Steven, the beginning of your story is rock solid but your middle is a bit weak.  The midpoint is when your story is supposed to swing in a totally different direction which doesn´t happen here.  How do you feel about advancing your revelation to make your story middle more interesting a la Gone Girl?  Gone Girl is a perfect example of how revelation acceleration can take your story to new heights.

N.B I am halfway through your story.
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Steven
Posted: January 7th, 2017, 8:15pm Report to Moderator
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I did assume I'd need help with the second act. I like to get to the point when I write so it's hard for me to stretch out the middle section.

I'm thinking I could show the sheriff and his wife. I do that at the end, but I need more of it.

Thanks for your feedback.
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ChrisB
Posted: January 7th, 2017, 10:00pm Report to Moderator
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OMG!  I take it back, I stopped at page 40 when I wrote my previous post!  

There is a huge shocker at page 43 that hit me like a freight train!  I didnt see that one coming at all!!!!

You NAILED that midpoint!!!!  It sent shivers down my spine!!!  

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ChrisB  -  January 7th, 2017, 10:12pm
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Steven
Posted: January 8th, 2017, 1:07am Report to Moderator
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Thanks for the positive words and I hope you enjoy the rest.
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CameronD
Posted: January 12th, 2017, 4:32pm Report to Moderator
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Lots of direction in the opening scene. The shadow being cast, the rope over the gallows. You don't need to overwrite that much. And a man we yet don't know, dies unceremoniously. Is there a better way to set the mood that may be more interesting? Or add more to the scene outside the color of the sky? Something to get us engaged right away?

Next scene you talk about the scene being "sometime in the 1800s" and then mention a bunch of houses made with wood and with roofs.  

Then people walking.

And people riding horses.

And then more people walking around but drunk.

Next you have women in dresses going about their business, walking I assume.

Ok, it's only page 1 and I can tell already overwriting is going to be a huge issue here. Your entire first page is wasted as it does nothing to start your story, instead it's wasted on the detailed descriptions of mostly just townspeople walking. If you could cut your first page without consequence that's not a good sign.

Bells on the gravestones is the best thing you've written here. It's abnormal, gets our attention.

Clothing is not characterization.

Are these hard case lawmen? I don't know if a cot and bucket is as intimating as you'd like it to be. A cot sounds comfy considering the time period. Maybe a pile of hay instead? Full of roaches? a rat? Slimy drinking water?

How old is Missy? Ten yards from a stage is not that far, and with a rifle she may as well be point blank. Nobody notices a sniper on a hill ten yards away on a BARREN dry desert?

"Rollins squints and recognizes the blonde hair tied behind her head." Unfilmable. How the heck do we know it's her hair he recognizes?

How is Rollin's pistol on the ground a few feet in front of him when he gets out? I don't think he ever threw it out the window.

A lot of the dialogue in the stagecoach seems forced but I do like the line at the end about never having shot a woman before.

Alright ten pages in. And I gotta say in that ten pages the only thing that really happens is John gets delivered to the sheriff. A lot of the dialogue is long winded and unnecessary. This is a script that needs some pruning though I think in Westerns you can go a bit slower on the pace than in other genres. But you gotta start the story quickly and honestly it seems John arriving to town on page 8 is where the story really begins. You can cut out a lot to bump that up to page 4 easy I would think and start from there.

The characters are all kinda bland as well. Yeah Rollins is a kind of gentleman prick but the rest  don't do anything. You get once chance to make a first impression so make the most of it. Why not start the stagecoach scene with Ardell's gun already on John's temple? Why is John so dangerous? He's nothing but a passive passenger. Who's the main hero? Ten pages in and I really don't know. That's another issue.  

It seems this is a zombie western and that idea has potential. I can kinda see where this is going if that's the case with the bells on graves and two fresh corpses being delivered at the beginning. But you gotta speed things up a bit and make your story more interesting to start.


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Steven
Posted: January 12th, 2017, 4:41pm Report to Moderator
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Thanks for reading a portion of it so far. There is no horror aspect to the story, by the way.

The bells on the graves was something that would be commonplace during the time period, due to accidentally burying people alive. The string attached to the bell goes into the coffin. I threw that in there as a nod to the time period.

The opening scene will make sense you finish with it entirely. Also, is it really shot direction when mentioning that gallows stand against an orange sunset? Same goes for the tossing of the rope.

When Missy shot the coach, we were further away, as evident by stating that when the driver fell off, the coach slowly came to a stop...about 10 yards away from a small hill where she was hiding. So, a director would probably figure 20-30 yards away is when she shot at them.
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CameronD
Posted: January 12th, 2017, 5:16pm Report to Moderator
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So no zombies then? Maybe I was confused. You're right about the bells on graves and being buried alive by the way, I just thought it would have been a nice touch with zombies involved.

And yes there is too much direction. You gotta remember that if your script ever gets picked up there are a ton of other people who's job it is to do wardrobe and dress your characters, set the lighting, frame the cinematography, etc. As a screenwriter your ONLY job is to give then an amazing story to work with. If something in the script doesn't advance the story, then why is it in there? It's just taking up valuable page space and bogging you down.

For example, first scene, the rope going over the gallows. Why is that so important you specifically mention it? Is it a special rope we will see later? Does the executioner toss it in a special way that ends up being a reveal later? As is, it does nothing right now at all.

If I was going to write that scene I'd go like this. (though by no means should this be the way it should be written)


EXT. TOWN SQUARE - SUNSET

The head of a lowly MAN hangs in the silhouette of a HANGMAN and his noose atop a rickety wooden gallows.

Solemnly, both men walk towards the trap door as the hangman silently slips the noose onto the man's slender neck.

REVEREND (O.S.)
May, God forgive your sins, and have mercy on your soul.  

With a quick pull the hangman pulls the lever and the trap door falls away as the man's body jerks down in a violent motion that ends in a peaceful sway.


It still has all the elements you want, it reads faster, and is focused on the action, the hanging instead of the sky, the rope, and the shadow.

Every sentence, every action has to move the story forward in the most descriptive yet economical way possible. It's tough.


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CameronD  -  January 12th, 2017, 5:35pm
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Steven
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Fair enough. Thanks for checking it out, I hope you dig the rest.
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Dreamscale
Posted: January 12th, 2017, 5:44pm Report to Moderator
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Hey Steven, is this a complete script at 76 pages?

If so, I have to "somewhat" agree with Cameron's words about being overwritten.  Personally, I don't feel it's actually overwritten, but the style you've chosen with mostly 1 line passages tends to "lengthen" a script, but at 76 pages, this is a serious problem, as in reality, you may only have 60-65 pages of material, which ain't a feature, make.

For instance, your very first 2 passages end in orphans, which isn't a good way to start.  You also have "CONTINUED" on the top and bottom of every page, which is a big rookie mistake - TURN those off!

Writing visually is much appreciated, so don't think because 1 person says it's overwritten, you need to do away with that. But, also, understand, well written, visually written scripts, are usually going to go over the norm a few pages, vs. yours, which is way under where it needs to be, page count-wise.  


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Steven
Posted: January 12th, 2017, 5:56pm Report to Moderator
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Yea, I've been struggling with the middle section of this script. It's as done as I'm going to get it...for the time being. There is a beginning, mostly a middle, and a definite ending, but the middle is where I need some more meat.

I wrote myself not into a corner, but a limited window for events to happen. The story takes place over a couple of days, and at a certain point, I can't have the main characters go anywhere other than the town. Their actions will be limited from this point on.

Since I already have two flashbacks, and instead of adding another, I could expand on the second one that involves the Sheriff. There is a pretty big jump from his backstory to the present, so I think it's there where I can add a lot more things, and have Sheriff Montgomery be more likable. As he is now, he's modeled somewhat after Little Bill Daggett from Unforgiven.

Did you read any of it beyond the first couple of pages?

EDIT: See, on page 68 I go from the backstory of the Sheriff and immediately into the hanging just a few pages later. There is a lot that could be added because the flashback ends right when he's deputized, which is about a decade removed from the present. He still has to meet his future wife, and so on.
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ChrisB
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Quoted from CameronD
...a man we yet don't know, dies unceremoniously. Is there a better way to set the mood that may be more interesting? Or add more to the scene outside the color of the sky? Something to get us engaged right away?


I thought so too, but having read the script in entirety this beginning definitely makes sense.


Quoted from CameronD
Who's the main hero? Ten pages in and I really don't know. That's another issue.  


That is a good question! The main characters are Ardell and Rollins but Sheriff Montgomery is the Protagonist.  This is a brilliant move by Steve because Sheriff Montgommery is in no way, shape or form a likeable character hence the need for the separation.  

Its just like in the movie Elephant Man where we learn about the grotesquely deformed John Merrick (Protagonist) through the eyes of Dr. Frederick Treves (Main Character who we can more relate to).
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ChrisB
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Quoted from Steven
Yea, I've been struggling with the middle section of this script. It's as done as I'm going to get it...for the time being. There is a beginning, mostly a middle, and a definite ending, but the middle is where I need some more meat.

I wrote myself not into a corner, but a limited window for events to happen. The story takes place over a couple of days, and at a certain point, I can't have the main characters go anywhere other than the town. Their actions will be limited from this point on.

Since I already have two flashbacks, and instead of adding another, I could expand on the second one that involves the Sheriff. There is a pretty big jump from his backstory to the present, so I think it's there where I can add a lot more things, and have Sheriff Montgomery be more likable. As he is now, he's modeled somewhat after Little Bill Daggett from Unforgiven.

Did you read any of it beyond the first couple of pages?

EDIT: See, on page 68 I go from the backstory of the Sheriff and immediately into the hanging just a few pages later. There is a lot that could be added because the flashback ends right when he's deputized, which is about a decade removed from the present. He still has to meet his future wife, and so on.


Hi Steve, having read your entire script I think the biggest weakness is your First Act because it is slow and might turn off people.

In all honesty, in terms of likeability the Sheriff is irredeamable.  

Your script would however be enhanced if Rose was John Curry�s love interest because I felt really bad for him and you could get a real tearjearker right there at the climax.  

If I were you I would have made John Curry the Protagonist because there is the chance for him to become more likeable to the audience as the story advances so audiences would actually care what happened to him at the end.  

I didn´t care what happened to the Sheriff because by the midpoint I was totally alienated from him.

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ChrisB  -  January 12th, 2017, 11:26pm
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