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Diversion Down Elder Tree Lane by *Insert Witty Name* - Short, Horror - A father and son with a strained relationship cross path with a malevolent tree on their way to a special visit. 11 pages - pdf format
Nicely written. I did keep on getting confused with Alfie and Jeff as to which one was the father and which one the son, so Iíd consider a bit of character development there if you do another draft.
From a story point of view, this is just personal, but I always wonder how cursed houses (and in this case a tree) can be around for hundreds of years killing people supernaturally and no-one notices. Or they donít kill anyone for hundreds of years then randomly do so, but thatís an aside.
I did find myself drifting a bit during the action, but I think this ticks all the boxes of the OWC. The ending seems a bit off. They just escape the most mind-blowing experience of their lives and then go to the cemetery like it is a normal day!
I did laugh at the Scottish dialogue!
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Hi, this was the first script I read for OWC and I picked it based on having the fewest comments (that I could see on front page).
First thing is not even a real criticism, because I wouldn't expect you to change it because it's just not practicable, but rural Scottish people 400 years ago would not be speaking a version of English (if English at all) that would be as intelligible to us as Janet and her daughter. Literally no one will notice or care, and this didn't hurt the script at all, but I'm just trying to record all my thoughts.
Saying that, I think you could avoid two problems by minimizing the dialogue in the opening scene. One is the so-called "historical inaccuracy" that I pointed out (which no one except me is going to notice or care about), but also these lines where Janet refers to a "new eternal form", "your Momma is dead", "I want to go home" etc - could all be cut. Just have the girl scaredly watch her angered, visibly vengeful mother make the transformation, then cut to your superimposed quote. People will get it.
Pg 4 - funnily, Billy's line here is closer to how I'd imagine a 1700 scots woman talking.
Pg 6 - another "tiny" thing - both Alfie and dad have British accents but say "mom". Unless I'm wrong, because I know some Northern accents can use the word in that way, in which I'll shutup forever now about accents.
I think the tension between Alfie and Dad is super clear (not the WHY, but the tension itself), but you could do it in fewer lines. I personally found "she chose[this place] o be away from you" very powerful as a scene-ender, and the obvious attitude from the kid.
OK overall -
This was pretty good. It's a one week challenge, and it's a script that obviously was conceived and written in one week, but it's still good.
Some things re the challenge's restrictions - the climactic scenes are definitely mostly confined to the vehicle, but you could do more with the "rule" by having Billy be killed and have characters see it from a distance - rom within the car. There's also a tiny bit of action here and there that others might consider to be close to the use of physical gore.
I found the link between the tree's initial creation - a mother being killed and separated from her daughter - and the present day timeline with motherhood a thoughtful touch. You played your hand too much when you literally flash backed to the tree-person's child begging for her mom at the same time as Alfie, though. We get it.
Yeah I liked this early on - the sparseness of it was actually ok and everything was set up with no fuss.
But it became a little absurd more than scary, although the taxi fit the vehicle criteria. The rhyming dialogue of the creature was sorta funny too. The script looks like it was done in a hurry? A good rewrite will make it tighter and better.
A chirpy bird lands on one of its branches. Its song interrupted as a branch snatches it, drags it into the trunk.
I liked this visual.
Dornt fash yerse
I have no idea what this means. Okay great, neither do they.
The Scottish accent is a tough read.
JEFF (CONTíD) Alfie, you're going to have to do it. It's okay. I believe in you. You can do it.
I think you should have left it at "Alfie, you're going to have to do it", the rest feels forced in an attempt to mend their relationship. I'm sure there are betters ways to approach this.
What does Janet need with ten-year-old Helen? Why does she now obey her? This wasn't clear to me.
I'm also confused by the logic of this. So does creature Helen come out every once in a while to kill/feed? Why???
I think horror as a genre does suffer from this issue more than other genres. We are generally dealing with monsters, witches, some or other creature, made up or established. I've mentioned this in other reviews, I think a story is only made better with clarity, clarity of the creatures motivations and clarity about why the creature wants what it wants. This is another script where stuff just happens because, or I missed the point.
You still managed to fill the requirements of the challenge. The writing was also very good, except for a few typos and missed punctuation marks, no biggy.
I still quite enjoyed it, I just wish I knew why it was happening.
I really liked the set-up and everything to do with the creature's use of the tree roots. Had so much promise until the sappy (no pun intended) father/son interaction. After it was all done, it's almost like they just shrugged it off. You could rename it "A funny thing happened on the way to the graveyard".
Aside from the Scottish accent and the ending, the story has promise and potential. Did you run short on time/space near the end? You could have made the tree the vehicle! Definitely some talent here that could use refining. Good work, writer.
As I read this, I was eating a giant gooey double burger, so I couldn't type anything, as my hands were a mess. Burger gone, hands clean.
I'll throw some things out I wanted to say, page by page.
Not thrilled with your title, but that's just a personal choice. Not thrilled with your logline, either, as it gives pretty much everything away. Also, "path" should be "paths".
So, we start off is 1727, and without googling "Janet Horne", I would have no idea that this stems from fact, although I think you really missed the boat by not bringing up the deformity the child had on her hands and feet. You took liberties with the "real" story, and that's just fine, but you could have added some scary stuff here.
Dialogue doesn't seem real for 1727 in Scotland, and I also think you could have played this out a bit longer for dramatic and horror affect.
So, then we go to present and meet our Protags, Jeff and Alphie. For me, I didn't like the way they acted towards each other, didn't like the dialogue either.
I started to get a little annoyed with your writing style, also...just little things, here and there, but I was losing interest quickly.
Billy's dialogue was a big turnoff. No clue if that is remotely realistic, but I sure didn't get it.
You then start throwing in little asides, which I detest. You also started using British slangs, which have no place in a script, IMO.
2 biggest issues for me come up next.
!st of all, you chose to take the easy way out and use an INT/EXT heading for the cab, but in an action scene like this, it makes for a tough read. The scene goes from Page 7 to Page 10, and that's just way too much for an INT/EXT scene. It needs to be broken up properly.
Next big issue is the way you call "the creature", "creature". Creature does this, creature does that. Reads terribly this way.
Finally, the way "creature" has a change of heart is a little redonkulous, sorry to say. ANd then, finally, Jeff and little Alphie just continue on to the cemetery, like nothing ever happened. Wouldn't you think Jeff would call the police? I mean Billy's gone, the cab is trashed, and they were attacked by a tree creature, for God'sake.
Hey, overall, I think this shows some promise and you definitely met the challenge, so good job on that.
To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
You hit the ground running. It's a great set up, but I think it ended rather abruptly. Like you were in a hurry to wrap it up. It was a bit jarring. Let me say upfront, i am not familiar with Scottish dialect, but some of my esteemed colleagues seem to be. Listen to them.
Just something i think might be worth mentioning: Personally, If you have characters that are going to speak in a heavy/light regional dialect, it's better to state so upfront, and use just a few indicators and slang words, etc., to give the speech flavor, credibility, without making it so difficult to read and interpret. Or sound fake.
Overall I like this, good job.
A-CAROLING FOR CHRISTMAS
GHOSTS OF APPALOOSA
RISE OF THE AMAZONS
THE SLEEPING TIGER
THE TIME GUARDIAN
"When I dive... I go deep, only to surface the hub when necessary."
Well written for sure. The Scottish accent getting quite work for me. It actually took me out of the read of it. But all in all the complete story and one that meets the parameters. Congrats on entering
This was a very good effort. It actually reminded me of the early work of a young writer who used to hang around here around 2011 who went on to be one the better screenwriters to emerge here, Ryan Lee. Reminded me of his OWC script, if I remember right, Banshee.
When it comes to the supernatural, not all the rules have to be made clear. Still, I'm left wondering who the witch was pleading to, what higher power. It sounded like she was sent here to accomplish something, not sure what. Not sure why she becomes a tree(with her daughter) or why this tree needs human sacrifice. Also, since the roots were able to kill the 1747 attackers, why was it necessary for her to become a tree, since the powers protected her?
But the writer has the elements of good storytelling down. Wish I could offer more specific suggestions. Good work overall.
5 SLUGS on one page 2 was a bit much for me, maybe draw the scene out a bit more, read very choppy at first.
The I'm no witch then immediate witch craft lacked suspense in the beginning, maybe draw that out a tad more? I know you want it to be quick and get to our vehicle though, something to think about if you want to expand on this later.
I thought she was going to take over Helen's body at the beginning and it become a "Fallen" situation where she switches bodies every so often. Becoming a tree was unexpected.
"Give it me back" reads weird.
Billy's dialogue took some double and triple reading to understand.
Spelling of 'tyre' tells me this writer is from the UK most likely.
Maybe it's just me but yelling Driver seems odd. I would say Hey Buddy, or Pal. Or maybe have him introduce himself at the start so his name can be used.
You have Jeff yell to move the stick to the P, isn't that PARK? Shouldn't it be D for DRIVE?
Solid writing, story was okay and it hit the required horror and suspense. I was confused at Janet or Helen being the tree for a bit. Is it both? Just Helen?
They seem okay with everything at the end at the graveyard. Like nothing happened.
Interesting rhyming. I did that one time for an entry and a lot of people hated it, hahaha.