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Strength of a Soul by Frank B. Hansen - Thriller, Psychological, Drama, Supernatural - A horrific accident rips a family apart, pushes a guilt-ridden mute grandfather to the brink of insanity, but eyes redemption and closure when his comatose daughter gains the ability to communicate with the supernatural world. 90 pages - pdf format
Hi Frank, thanks for your reads. Working on the whole thing but here's my "hook" thoughts.
Page 1 - "dimples fade" is a little awkward. It makes sense what you mean but might be easier to say "her smile fades".
Page 1 - so on. Like the use of mini slugs. Efficient sluglines are my jam.
page 2 - great dialogue without anything OTN. but you cold be more efficient here. Mom makes the comparison to play-time alone, Zoe asks one question, then mum clarifies. A bit too much back and forth. Otherwise it's good. A bit too much explanatory "adults do things differently" etc
page 3 "enough to cause a solar eclipse," - huh. I mean I know you mean broad shoulders but a little purple. I appreciate nice little writerly things but this is a little too ethereal to work on the page. Just my opinion though.
page 3 - your sluglines change from the opening scene, considering this is the same house I assume. Makes things harder to follow.
page 4 - "soar" should be sore
page 6 - "He huffs a smile." not clear what this means. A huff is like a frustrated exhale. You might have better luck with "he forces a smile"
Okay I'm up to page 9 for now. Your technical writing is amazing. I appreciate any an all efficiency and you've got that down with slugs.
But so far - thriller? Your logline suggests more a drama. 10~ pages in I should be "thrilled" and although I'm not off-put or lacking curiosity, you've cut back and forth between a sad mother and daughters and sad grandad at hospital. A thriller might have a better hook - I don't know your premise beyond your logline. When I think of a thriller, I think of huge life or death stakes. This might be ok for a drama but right now you've got some (well-written) character scenes but no one is at any real risk yet.
I'm going to post the rest of my review coming days. Because you have very few line errors, I'm not going to pad out my thoughts that way anymore and just give you a bit of a general thoughts review.
good technical writing - cutting between settings early on is always hard and you've done it well
establish your genre hook (thrillers always have them!) EARLY
Look forward to seeing how you go Frank. Might have the rest of my thoughts up next few days - I've not been well so have some time off work.
The good - Frank - this is a finely written script. I'll note some good lines and technical prowess below.
Pages 35-51ish - your use of mini slugs keeps the story moving forward and helps with pacing (i'll touch on pacing later though).
Page 42 - your curt and to the point descriptions (you do this throughout) eg. these three lines "He snaps his head up, gawks at a reflection of Evelien. As he spins, foam and blood fly through the air. At the doorway, Angelina taps her chin with a finger."
They are fast, they are descriptive, and they establish a quick moving scene. That is invaluable.
As I said earlier, you don't have too many dialogue scenes that are painful or on the nose. That's another good strength.
And finally, there really is not much to say here technically. This is a well-studied script in terms of professional presentation.
The not so good -
Look. I maintain my position that the plotline here lacks the elements of a thriller. Even thought your action descriptions are strong, there's no escalation of risk, no threats to your protagonists that needs immediate action, no explosiveness (figuratively).
There is just too much "talk", particularly in the first half. I got to page 50 before I felt we were getting to some plot meat and that is much too late in a 94 page script. A thriller should not be dialogue heavy except in some unique circumstances (think "Rope" by Hitchcock).
I didn't have a bad time reading this by any means. But the reason I'm not going into depth about thematic throughline or plot technique here is because I just don't think I could do it adequate justice. You weren't able to keep me right there the whole time.
For your rewrite:
- Maintain your strengths, keep the short and sharp action descriptions in. - Either change genres or go back to treatment and add so more risk and threat to your characters to make this a thrilling thriller. - Although your strengths technically help pacing, get us to the crux of the story earlier (not page 50). Work on your hook. You have good character stuff - find a wayu to incorporate that organically into escalating tensions.
Thanks again for sharing Frank and I'm sorry if this feels not very thorough. I can't comment too much on your technical prowess because it's all there - I just think this needs another look from a plot and thematic lens.
I was aiming for a slow build with underlying hints of something weird going on and then yank it to a more exciting level during the second half of the script, maybe too slow for a Thriller. Angelina/Zoe is more of a subplot, maybe too many pages were allocated for that.
Do agree that as it stands, it might be more of a drama/mystery than a Thriller/mystery.
Your input is valuable, I'll take it into account when I do a rewrite.
A couple of things I'm curious about, cause I didn't see too much feedback from the second half of the script: Was it clear to you who Maia and Angelina were? Did you pick up on any of the hints from the first half of the script?
Frank. I think I searched through your' scripts, or atleast the ones that were posted on display of your profile and there's only two scripts? This is your'e second script and ben is so right, this is a quality script and I'll explain why in a second. Firstly I really do respect you, and Ben you too! This is the type of work that takes patience and I'm pretty sure you re-read it and checked it yourself before posting.
Even though there's a few spelling mistakes there are way less than mine. Plus I've finally learnt how to post soemthing when I've re-read it and checked it myself rather then childishly being over excited and posting it and wanting people to think I'm good or that it shows how dedicated I am. But believe me when I say this script, the patience, the economy and efficiancy of words is so thoughtful, touching and did make me cry at a bit (that's a good thing)
So lets begin your review, sorry it took a while, I write on paper everything before typing it up - i have alot xf spare time at work and this script was so fast mobing I read almost 85 pages will finish !!! And you too ben!!! In a day. That's pretty impressive for me, but also for you, seeing as I can lack attention at times, this script will be perfect to start sending out after a short revision to producers that need to read quick - you mastered it, man!
Right hope that gets you happy and positive and that you know me and ben and other people that will read your script will be amazed it's just your second one. You've impressed me.
Before I get onto the notes (post first thing tomorror) like 3am here -
This is also a brilliantly written script because not only is it pulling you in, slowing sinking you into a psychotic cage, but still full of unbinding care and ove, and loyalty and realism. -It feels like you've written this script thinking as a producer aswell, the lack of locations, the powerful yet minimal characters. The low budget affects that, I don't know about you ben but did have me feeling psychosis at times. So well done to you, I have the notes ready and will ebgin typing them tomorror.
I think it just does alot to hear a well done and appreciation for what you've done. I love it, it's a piece of art and although there are things that I can hopefully help with you, ill coment on the stuff you've taught me. That's what this website is all about.
Also ben, you've taiught me alot on the new script I'm writing and I hope I've implimented everyhing that's being said.
Peace, goodnight from Engliand - ps vanity is american or canadian for sink? In britain we just call them sinks? pretty simple = we say when we want a piss (i don't because one day i'll be living in the states) that when we need to piss most british 96 percent say ' I need the toilet' you americans do have such more class then us - 'where's the bathroom' I love you americans.
Wait until the morning, Iv'e put in alot of effort into your script frank, hope you take it all as help. n
Tone is set well, maybe I would say cut down on Zoe's speech. I know she's 5 and that you've used her dialog well somethimes if you re-read there are tiny little bits, even by cutting it down a word of her dialogue that it makes it more realister or whatver. I think the introduction to her was sweet and made us care, you did a good job of that.
Another thing that would help out I think is that scene when Zoe is talking about praying - I know it's cheesy but it will help - either include her still saying that or show Angelina peering in Zoe's bedrrom and she's praying - eyes closed. On page 7, when Liam is being - (recorded) re-read that page, there was a bit where he was doing the voice over and it seemed like his voice wasn't meant to be recorded because it's like he's reminising on one line (technical and i'm a nerd I know it's so gay! sorry)
One thing that I do feel about your script is that everything is meant to be a slow build up - but through pages 5-12 I would make it a more slow, clearer, like us the reader see that the creepy shit is about to happen? I know it's beautiful and unique what you've done but I'd just say make us feel the terror coming uptom page 12 coming slower, a more defined creepiness or keeping the ominoucity ominousity? clearer and defined.
Unlike Ben, and I may be wrong (this is what i mean, I've learnt from him) but i also heard the (generic) bulletproof screenwriting podcast with Christopher Riley and maybe I'm completely wrong but I'd have slower transitions or more actions, you've done it in terms of shots (which is what a screenplay is) but I think maybe the characters should spend a little bit more time and we get more of a feeling in each area. On the screen it's sweet but that's my clever clever clever mind says. just kidding, I'm a idiot but I'm trying.
- Do not have a description of Eveleign until she comes back way later in the script. I just think if you say cute kind strong grandma that's better then a full description of her photograph.
Right that's up to page 20. I'll type more up tomorrow.
Hey again, so on page 21 when you say EXT - HOUSE DAY, I think you should just put in front or backyard there aswell.
I think your flashback around page 25, if you put the flashback and present day like this - INT. CHURCH (FLASHBACK) - DAY And the scene heading after that EXT. CEMETERY (PRESENT) - NIGHT
I've said it before last time and just my opinion, I think that zoe's dialog should be cut a little, like on page 28, Zoe speaks to the bear too much.
On page 32 I din't understand why the nurse was at the beach with colton? but later on in your script I read java jolt coffee, we got none in britain, but then I was like, so is this set in california? New york? came up in jacksonville or somewhere near georgia? I think you should set up and tell us more about the area it's set in. Like you don't have to say where it is specifically but maybe little clues like the disign of the church if it's east or west coast or if they eat bagels or wearing sunglasses. Maybe their accents have implimented in the dialog more or slide in a few hints where it's set. Your dialog on page 32 was fucking brilliant -My Job is a taste of heaven and hell, like a rollercoaster ride. That's really efficient. On page 55, I think when there was the three car pile up, did it still smash into the shop where Liam was at even though it wasn't the SUV? Maybe if it's into the wall where liam was, show some of the damage and if it's in the road i wanna know if the pile up killed anyone or if it was less dangerous then the passengers of the cars getting out and fighting with eachother.
Ok I'll type more up tomorrow sorry it's taking a while
Man, you are extremely generous in your reviews. I really appreciate it. Hit me up if you have anything you want read.
English is not my native language, so a few grammar issues might have snuck into the script.
Both you and Ben pointed out that Zoe's dialog sometimes drags out a little. I did this to establish a likeable girl and a five year old is curious about anything and everything, but maybe too much curiosity, so certainly an area to tighten up.
Interesting with your comment regarding milking the beginning a little bit more, creepier, actually I like that, I'll look into it.
Page 55, the three car pile-up happened in the street, but Liam flashed back to a black SUV (will be revealed later in the script). I'll make that more clear. Good point.
I live in Southern California, but didn't want the script to be tied into a specific location, except somewhere where there was a beach/ocean.
The beach scene is a way of connecting Colton and Nurse Isabel. She comes there almost every day for coffee and baked goods before going to work.
Again, Billy, thanks, looking forward to the remaining of your review.
So far, very helpful, and as you said, that's the purpose of this website, exchange ideas and help out.
Hey again Frank. Well you're good then because english is my first language and you're just as good as me lol.
About zoe - yeah I understand what you mean and she is really likeable and you're right about making her curious. There were bits when her role was played just right. I still think you should change the bit from where she asks to pray to have angelina watch her pray instead. And it's nice when she got out all the plates and teacups. Maybe just try replace some of her words with more actions like that or just trim the dialog. But the actions zoe does really nail it home and actually do bring tears to your eyes. Beautiful.
Yeah I see what you mean, that she goes there everymorning, maybe if it's the first time she invites colton there and he asks 'hey arn't you supposed to be starting work?' or something like that idk maybe im just a idiot lol.
Ok I'll finish your review now aswell sorry for taking time.
Page 86 - 'As the rain slams his face' I would change that to something different like 'splatters' or 'patters' or change some wording so that you describe the rain as terrential rain.
Page 86 - What does 'Thor swings his hammer' mean? Because I think unless you actually want us to see thor I wouldn't put that in, I would just describe the weather how you actually see it. But if you want us to see thor in the movie you should describe what he looks like to you.
'Rain rips the ink from the page' This was another one that I was confused at. I think instead of rips you should say 'rain dissolves away the ink' or 'the ink gets wet, teacling off the page' Just means like getting soaked and being removed from the page.
87 - just the thor thing again.
One thing that I also needed to be clearer is does Liam actually kill himnself? Because I know that lightning happens but by the end I did just want to know if he really killed himself? I didn't understand properly. Even if he doesn't or does and it does come up later in the script I would put it in more clearly, because it doesn't ruin it, I would keep reading anyway, same with the pile up of cars, I would make it more clear, to me it's definately not ruining anything. The only thing I would keep the same about clarity is angelina's sister (blonde) you don't need to clear that up. keep that the same.
Page 92 - I don't know why this got to me so much (no offense) It's probably just me but when it says the family give a 'bear hug' I would atleast put a comma inbetween bear and hug but honestly I think you should just say they give eachother a big hug because it was strange reading that after someone nearly killed themselves. But I understand why you'd want to leave it in. Maybe just try and put the comma in.
So I read everything and that's pretty much all I can say.
It's a psychological Thriller, drama is part of the process, at least that's the way I've written it.
I wanted this to be a slow burn/build with ample number of hints that something not natural is going on. I was thinking the build up with hints would be enough to keep readers interested to flip pages before it unhinges towards the end. Scenes are not wasted, IMO, they give hints, part of the process.
Around page 30-ish, there's quite obvious that something weird or un-natural is going on.
This is no thriller. Thrillers establish a threat early on. There's usually a killer or some kind of psycho established early in the story. Someone gets shot or killed in the first few scenes and we know what the story's about. It's more of a drama. And it's not just slow ... it's glacially slow. Start off the story with some violence, hook the reader early on. Show us a bad guy doing some bad things and then you can build the tension because the audience knows the bad man is coming after someone. Thrills are the key to a thriller. Give the audience something that will make them jump out of their seat.
You're describing a typical Thriller set-up. I agree with that.
I am aiming for a PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER where conflicts play out more through minds, so more weights are put on characters than plot, or a balance between the two. A typical Thriller is more plot over characters as you described. Elements of drama and mystery is part of the Psychological process. IMO, Psychological Thrillers focus more on the mental fight/strength than physical threats.
Regarding the "hook", I thought the opening would poke a reader's interest in knowing more what the hell is going on when you have a 5 year old girl returning home in the middle of the night after being out in the rain and her teddy bear is ripped into pieces, but she doesn't have a single bruise on her body. I hoped that would pull readers in to continue reading. Was she really sleepwalking? No, she wasn't.
This is my first draft, so I'm sure it needs some work. Too slow, that's fixable.
Started on this. Got in 17 pages and stopping for now. My initial thoughts are -- 17 pages into this and I really do not know what is going on. I'm seeing everything you want me to, your action lines are decent, but there is not much dialogue. At all. Dialogue will explain who these people are, what they want, and what their situation is -- and right now I don't have much to go on. It feels like you're still doing set up when you should be well into the story now, seeing as the first act is almost done.
That's a major issue out of the box.
Lots of location jumps, too. A lot of them are the same location like, say, throughout the house. But they're quick. Back and forth. It's like you're not giving the reader a chance to settle into the story somewhere.
Anyway, will get to more of this soon. Just wanted to give you some initial thoughts!
Kinda reading this in drips and drabs as time allows. Sorry about that.
Up to page 60 and it's starting to become clearer as the story starts to unfold.
Still, it took a long time for this to happen. As I wrote earlier, clarity is an issue. You have a lot of unnecessary scene headings, many, in fact. It slows the story down. Muddles it. Lots of action paragraphs that are not separated with commas, but individual lines. That's the stop and start that's been happening. It wouldn't hurt to reword those.
Another thing is that I'm up to page 60 and I still don't know who, or what, the antagonist is. Basically, your story is churning but I'm still not too sure what it's really about. That's not good. At this point in your script, something like this should be evident. However, nice turn regarding Angelina finding out about Maia, though.
All that said, at this point I AM interested in finding out what's going on. That's a good thing.
Sorry for the delay. Finally finished, and, well...
Honestly, I was lost. Here's the thing -- I couldn't tell, at times, if I was not following along because a, the writing was convoluted or b, the story was convoluted. In the end, I think it was a bit of both.
Your writing needs clarity, first and foremost. Many, many times, maybe even on every page, you have action blocks of one sentence only, basically describing something going on with the same subject. You can combine those sentences into one cohesive unit. That's for starters. Next, you have a lot of unnecessary descriptions that add nothing to your characters or the scenes. I recall someone had a double chin towards the end. No need to tell us that. He's not a main character even, so why give a description like that? It's not like casting is going to go out looking for an actor with a double chin just to play that role! Haha.
Overall, this needs serious work, Frank. Don't mean to sound harsh or anything, but it does.
I felt you had some moments where I thought I was being drawn in, but no. I just could not get a grasp on the story, the action or your characters. And that's not to say there wasn't a story there. I'm sure here was, but it did not come through for me. Maybe you can explain it? many times before I get a bit more clarity when it's explained to me. I'd appreciate it if you did that.
Thanks much for your time and effort finish reading my script.
I'll revisit character descriptions, lighten up a little on those.
Regarding the one line sentence action, I agree, some of these one liners should be combined. I assume what you're referring to is that typically each shot or action requires it's own paragraph. Great point.
On to the story/concept. I'll message you with more details.
On a wedding day, a family is ripped apart by a horrific accident. Grandpa Liam fights to stay afloat, doing what he can to bring his daughter Maia out of a coma. At home, Angelina struggles to keep the family together. Granddaughter Zoe is confused and lonely with Liam being distant, her dad Colton away and scatterbrained Angelina not always there, so Zoe connects with an imaginary friend, "dad's friend", or is he truly imaginary? Zoe's concern and support for Liam plays out through the story.
When Liam returns from the hospital, the first thing he does is to peek into Zoe's room where the teddy bear is all tucked in. He was suppose to give the stuffed animal a bath and bring it to church, a pinky swear promise between Zoe and Liam. Apart from being a security blanket for Zoe, the teddy bear also symbolizes the heartaches the family has to endure in the aftermath of the accident.
I have given multiple hints throughout the script that something unconventional is going on.
Here's one. In the opening scene, Zoe tells Angelina about a boy and how she was fighting for her teddy bear. There was blood on the teddy bear. Was Zoe fighting with the boy after he was killed by the train?
Here's another one. When Liam slams the speeding ticket on the table, Angelina picks it up, explains it to Zoe, drops it on the kitchen counter. When Liam leaves the house, he scoops up the ticket from the table where he left it. Hmm?
Angelina is connected to Maia through heart beats (the heart monitor).
Maybe It might be a good idea to include Supernatural as part of the genre.