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The Grade by Steven Clark (Stevnclark) - Short, Drama - A truck driver's first day on the job proves hazardous when she encounters something that was "not covered in the manual." 10 pages - pdf, format
Hey Steven, you've been more than helpful on a few of my things so I thought I'd return the read.
First off, your first page. You don't need "NAME:..." above your phone and e-mail. At the top it says it's written by you.
Problem on first page. Whenever you're introducing a character for the first time, you must CAP their name. So "Kyra Wells" needs to be "KYRA WELLS..." just thought I'd clear that up. Then, from there on, you can write her name as normal.
So far, I'm liking it. You've caught the reader's attention already on the first page with a tad but of humour and now an intense situation to lead us on...
When she says "Fuck a duck!" I'd cut that out personally and just have her get right to the point and say "this shit wasn't covered in the manual..."
One of your slugs on 3 reads: "EXT. - MAIN STREET - DAY" drop the "." -- probably just a mistake you didn't catch upon reading over this.
"EXT. QUAINT POND - DAY" -- I'd drop the "quaint", it's more of a descriptive word, something you'd describe the pond like in the action text and not in your slug, but that's just me, others might disagree.
"Kyra hears someone call out -- ASSHOLE!!" -- I would put that like: O.S Kyra hears someone call out -- "ASSHOLE!"
The flashbacks seem a little out of nowhere. Up 'till now it seemed like she was actually enjoying the challenge of controlling the truck and the situation and she gave nothing away about being scared for her life to a point where she'd remember her life.
As for the flashbacks, hmm, I've never seen them written like that. This is how I'd write one of yours...
"- As a teenager at a party, downs shots, crowd CHANTS --"Kyra! Kyra! Kyra!"" -- just a space between the dash and then a capital letter, because you're still writing a sentence and a sentence needs a capital letter at the start.
"The ducks are gone. RIP." hahahahahaha, loved this. It gave your writing more flare.
"Crunched like an accordian. Smashed like a pancake. Absolutely totalled" -- not sure about this line. Too much here, maybe just "crushed and absolutely totalled..."
On page 5 when the old lady speaks, it seems like there's too big a gap between her character heading and the paragraph above her, just thought I'd point that out.
"YOUNG BOY Whoa! Grandma, you said fuck!" -- ha! Deffo getting the feel that you were going for something light-hearted with this short.
Also, I may be wrong, but at the end your "FADE OUT" should be on the right.
Anyways, overall, I really liked this. Enjoyed the last scene. Your writing is very crispy and pithy. I like the way you wrote in short sentences to speed things up. Nicely done. I liked Kyra a lot, actually, she seems like a hoot.
The only complaint is that you say this is her first day on the job, and with have no clear indication of this in the story. I'd suggest a small scene at the very start with a BOSS who gives her the keys to the truck and wishes her luck or something. You could still keep it at 9 pages.
A nice read, man, hope some others chime in.
"No matter what you do, your job is to tell your story..."
Apart from a few technical issues you write action really welll and I was able to picture everything that was happening...and it was fast and a terrific ride.
However, when you cut to the home situation with the husband and baby it all slowed down too much for me.
I really thought the punch-line with this was going to come when she finally landed in the lake or shortly after that. There's just such a great build up but then imh, a bit of an anticlimax - a quite humorous one, but just a bit too...oh, okay. And I found Grandma's line a bit too gimmicky - can appreciate some will love that though.
Will be interesting to see others opinions on the ending in particular.
Overall though, it's a really fun ride.
I'm especially glad you went against type too, and elected to make your main character a female. Well done on that!
I had a few problems with this, myself. An overarching problem is that you've got a good premise, but I'm not sure your angle fits. You seem to be taking a "sentimental" approach to it, rather than a realistic one.
For instance, Kyra's making one-liners worthy of Die Hard, watching her hat fly off in the wind, smoking cigarettes, and having flashbacks while flying down a hill in an out-of-control truck. Instead, I would think she'd be wholly focused on stopping the truck and overcoming all the obstacles in her way. All the other stuff makes it seems like she's kicked back, relaxing while all hell's breaking loose. It deflates the tension you're trying to build. (If you're trying to build it. Since it said this was a drama, I'm guessing you were.)
All the other characters are comical, too. They seem more like boobs who should've been hit, rather than poor, innocent bystanders. I'm not even sure the old woman, the boy, or skater dude are needed. They take away from the tone with their own one-liners.
I had trouble with the final scene, too. It doesn't really need to be as long as it is and it takes a while to reveal that this was her first day on the job. She could've just said it at the crash site, either to herself or a police officer getting a statement, which would eliminate the need for an extra shooting location at the house. If this was her first day on the job, she would've been freaking out more while the truck was sailing down the hill, too.
As for your formatting, having character names in all caps and left aligned was weird. Plus, your descriptions seemed more like first-person narration minus the first-person pronouns. Maybe that's not such a big deal, but it was kind of distracting for me.
I'd say cut down on the dialogue, make Kyra more active in trying to stop the truck. Also, it feels like you need something more going on than just a truck sailing down a hill. Maybe that's what you were going for with it being her first day, but we only get that at the end. Maybe she should be racing against a clock or racing to beat a train through a crossing at the bottom of the hill?
"I remember a time of chaos. Ruined dreams. This wasted land. But most of all, I remember The Road Warrior. The man we called 'Max'."
For instance, Kyra's making one-liners worthy of Die Hard, watching her hat fly off in the wind, smoking cigarettes, and having flashbacks while flying down a hill in a out-of-control truck. Instead, I would think she'd be wholly focusing on stopping the truck and overcoming all the obstacles in her way. All the other stuff makes it seems like she's kicked back, relaxing while all hell's breaking. It deflates the tension you're trying to build. (If you're trying to build it. Since it said this was a drama, I'm guessing you were.)
Dan makes some interesting points.
I didn't notice the 'Drama' label on this one. Perhaps that was in error?
I definitely didn't read it as straight drama and would say the comedic elements were front and centre. Perhaps the cigarette as Dan points out is a bit of a stretch, but if you go for comedy/drama I think you can get away with pretty much anything... if it was filmed well.
Steven, I got a kick out of this to some extent. For some reason when I read it I thought of Sandra Bullock and the movie Speed. The R-rated language kinda brought it down a notch for me. Felt forced and unnatural. Especially when the old woman drops the f-bomb.
Nevertheless I was pulled in by Kyra's dilemma and read it all the way through. There's several problems I had with the writing itself.
A large BOX TRUCK, white with a red cab, thunders along the asphault.
White lines on the road disappear under its tires. <--I'd lose this. Uncessesary.
Long blonde locks dance wildly across her face, out the open window. Again, not really needed, IMO.
Kyra fumbles wildly for her cigarettes. Why not just "fumbles for her cigarettes".
A fountain sits in the middle. Water cascades rhythmically. ??? Lose it.
Things like that.
But I actually liked the home situation in the end. Gave us a little more insight into Kyra's life.
As for it being a comedy and not a drama, I'd say it's more a dark comedy.
In any event, it's a good idea and creative story, but needs some more fleshing out if you choose to pursue it.
Hey All, I just wanna say thanks to all who commented! It's compliments -- and criticism -- like this that helps, IMO, further me as a writer. They are most welcome.
Also, sorry for any confusion concerning this being a a drama. I never intended it to be a comedy, but according to most folks here, it def has comedic elements. thought briefly of giving it to the action genre, but I wasn't really sure. So I slapped drama on there.
Curt, Thanks for the technicals. Also, f@#k a duck doesn't belong, when i think about. I've been accused before of burying a punchline, and that's a good example of it. And a scene in the beginning of her being handed the keys is a good idea, as well. But I've also been accused of starting scenes too early, so i just wanted to get right down to it.
Libby, Thanks for your nice compliments. They mean a lot. When you said you could picture everything as it was happening...well, that's one of the best compliments a screenwriter can get!
Also, using a woman as the protag was an idea I had right away, actually. I saw Kyra, really, as attractive in a Kyra Sedgewick way. Hence the name!
Dan, The character names in CAPS to the left were meant to be mini-slugs. Don't know if I did that correctly, but i think I've seen it done that way before. Also, the one liners, the hat flying off, were meant to give lightness to the story The flashback occurred because she thought she was dying. A slight break, but then we're right back to the tension. At least I hope that's how it played. And you got to know Kyra a little better. Knew what the stakes were if she did not survive. I knew there woulod be no gruesome death at the end, so i decided to have fun with it. Though there are quite a few f-bombs.
Silverback, You're right on, I think --"white lines disappear under the tires," "long blonde locks..." Dude, I stared at them as I was writing this. But I left em in. I knew they seemed awkward. I'm glad you liked the ending at home. Some were put off by it, but i thought it brought closure to the story. In effect, saying -- no matter how bad my day was, look what I get to come home to!
That was the point!
Whew. Somebody please pm me and tell me how to quote sentences from these reviews. Just can't seem to figure the damn thing out!
Again, thank you all! Let me know if I can return some reads. I'll be looking out for your stuff.
Thought I'd give this a read as you were one of the first to read and comment on my feature Offline.
AmbitionIsKey pretty much nailed everything - No point in repeating it!
Personally, I'd do away with the FLASHBACKS. They don't really add that much to the story and Kyra's predicament! Plus they would bump up the budget quite a bit.
Also, I don't think you need the lengthy scene at the end. A brief scene where we see Kyra comes home to hubby and baby would pack a punch on an emotional level. Personally, I enjoyed Kyra's relatively calm attitude and her witty one liners - would be nice to wrap the story up with one of them imo!
Of the shorts I've read on here, I found this one of the most entertaining!
Hey Gary, Thanks for reading. Was happy to comment on Offline. That was a good one, buddy.
Flashbacks. I think I might trim them at some point. But I will leave them. I reread it. don't really think they took away from the story. And when they're over we get right back to Kyra and her predicament.
And as far as budget goes, I think they'll have a hard enough time finding a truck to crash!
The Ending. Coincidentally, I had a Kyra one-liner to end this thing. But once I got into writing the dialogue for Kyra and her husband, it just didn't seem to fit anymore. Perhaps I should rethink that one!
It was interesting and funny but: The dialogue was on the nose. She said everything that was on her mind. When you described the grandma: She's gotta be, like, a hundred. That should change to: a very elderly woman.
A truck driver doesn't leave her hair down
The dunks are gone. RIP. That is so unnecessary. You only need the first line. A lot of things you that you pit in isn't filmable.
Pros: The descriptions were full of momentum and suspense.
I know that writing needs personality but there was too much that I couldn't take it seriously.
Thanks for the feedback. I'm always my harshest critic, and my writing, when I forget myself, has always had a lot of cutesy-cute stuff in it. It's def something I try to avoid. A little is ok, I think. But too much takes away from the writing itself. Flair should be sparse.
Leaving her hair down I didn't think was a big deal. Interesting you commented on that. I def can see your point, though.
And thanks so much for the compliments about the suspenseful writing and momentum build up. Feels good to read that!
Another solid short. Writing was good. Overall, I enjoyed it... up until the story left the pond. I think that last bit with the family could have been shorter. Maybe if her husband was really excited about something more mundane. Not that acing a job interview comes anywhere close to what she went through in that car. But probably could have gotten a bigger laugh if he made a big deal about something more mundane than a job interview.
And her dialogue about meeting the mayor, chief of police... I felt like you could have done without that and her husbands, "Wow, sounds like they rolled the red carpet" response. Just a "how was your day?" then he says, "I did this. How about you?" and then have her understate her experience.
A few things:
Page 4 you have a CHARACTER MINI SLUG orphaned at the bottom.
Also on page 4, her dialogue, you probably could take out one of those fucks.
I liked the fuck a duck comment, a little foreshadowing when she kills the ducks. I personally would have liked to see her somehow dodge the ducks and end up upside down at a deeper part of the pond or something. Would have made her more noble -- she seemed like such a jerk, especially with the old blue haired lady, but the flashback KINDA saved her character a bit. If she had avoided the ducks, would've added to her arc, made it more full despite such a small detail.
Loved some of the one-liners, most notable "You're in a park lady" from someone just passing by. Haha! I pictured a deadpan, slacker delivery.
Thanks for reading. Excellent advice, especially on a more mundane response from her husband. Def see the advantages there, story wise, comedy wise. All those f bombs on pg 4? Again, I was staring at that for a while. Knew it was a bit much!
Glad you didn't have much of a problem with the flashbacks. I kinda liked em. Most people didn't. And so far just about everyone thinks the home situation could be shorter. What's really funny to me is that everyone seems to think this was funny. I wasn't going for funny at all. Wasn't going for comedic one liners either, but there they are. Though I can def understand now that that's how they read. And that's fine by me. It was meant to be kinda light in the first place.
I see you have it labeled as a dark comedy now, in your sig. It seems this one has a little bit of an identity problem, eh? I'd just label it a straight up action. (It is.) But also, because it gives you license to keep what drama is in the story and you can have the one-liners without having to meet the qualifications of an actual 'comedy', which this isn't.
It isn't a bad little story at all, but there's too much getting into the way of the read.
The flashbacks pulled me out of the story. It's too cliche. We've all seen and written those flashback moments a dozen times, and nobody has done it right without disrupting the flow of the action. It ruined the fast-pace and the momentum you had going.
While I did enjoy some of the one-liners, (fuck a duck was quirky and great foreshadowing), others didn't read right and took me out of the story. (Her trying to light a cigarette as she's losing control and about to crash into innocent civilians?)
The main thing that pulls me out of stories, though, are lines and asides like this: "The ducks are gone. RIP." While it got a chuckle out of me, it broke the spell I was under and I immediately realized I was reading a writer's script and not living the woman's story.
Don't get me wrong, other people love things like that and per se, it's not wrong to do. But oftentimes as I come across it, it just reads as the writer trying to be clever. I love trying to put personality into a script, but if it gets in the way of the story...
I do love the way you write your actions, though, and that's what kept me entertained during the read.
But I did have a problem visualizing the location. I didn't have problems visualizing the actions. You wrote those great. But the location, I couldn't picture it. We're on a highway, then downtown mainstreet with shops where she crashes without ever getting off at an exit, then ends up in a pond in a park? It just seemed to bounce around too much for me, even going 60-70 mph. Forgive me if I missed something in the actions or the slugs.
I did like the ending, with the husband making a big deal out of his 'interview' and the wife treats her 'accident' as nothing. But I agree it could be shortened a GREAT deal and can be made more effective.
All in all, it was a good read. There's just things here and there that get in the way of the read.
I was actually going to read 'Castles' first, because I thought I'd enjoy that one more, (I'm a drama guy), but then I saw this one on the boards and read it while I could. I'll be seeing you soon on the 'Castles' thread.