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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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ChrisB
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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Steven
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Thanks for the positive words and I hope you enjoy the rest.
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CameronD
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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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Steven
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Quoted from ChrisB


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.


Three of the main characters are introduced on page 3, with Sheriff Montgomery showing up before that. I get into the action pretty quickly with Missy failing at an ambush on the coach, so I don't really see the slowness of the beginning...especially with a western flick.

The problem with making John anything other than a conveyor of the revelation is that he's is the cell the entire time, and the reasoning for that is already fleshed out. In terms of Rose being a love interest for him, well she is old enough to be his mother. Remember, he's only 20.

I don't think I want Montgomery to be a likable character. He's a tough sheriff for most of the flick, and in the first flashback, his true history isn't yet revealed. The purpose of the story was to show that even though Montgomery did good in his life for the better part of a decade, the past will still catch up with him and he must pay for those crimes.

The same goes for John, but in reverse. He was an innocent victim that turned to crime for one reason or another, so his history as a victim does nothing to save him from what ultimately happens.

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CameronD
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Uh oh. I didn't read the rest yet but looking at these comments that's a bad sign when there is dispute over who the protag is. If the sheriff is the protag but is unlikable that's a wee problem. You have readers above it seems actively rooting against him as well and that's an issue. They may change, but the way you introduced Ardell and Rollins have them coming off as assholes. Maybe that's the point, to make everybody gritty and grey but be careful because it gives us nobody to root for. If I hate all these guys whey bother turning the page to see what happens to them next?

I agree with Dreamscale on length. I didn't catch that until after I commented but 76 pages with the first ten as an example of how the story is written is an issue. Middles are very hard. If you are having issues can you introduce a sub plot that closely aligns to the main? Often tricky middles come as a result of a sparse first act in that you've not set the stage enough for a full story to follow. Look at beefing up the first act. My analogy has always been that the first act should be spent setting up the bowling pins so you can knock them down later.

It looks like you have some work to do but that's the writing process. I think with some of these suggestions your story will end up being much stronger. Good luck on this. Always a fan of westerns.


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Steven
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Quoted from CameronD
Uh oh. I didn't read the rest yet but looking at these comments that's a bad sign when there is dispute over who the protag is. If the sheriff is the protag but is unlikable that's a wee problem. You have readers above it seems actively rooting against him as well and that's an issue. They may change, but the way you introduced Ardell and Rollins have them coming off as assholes. Maybe that's the point, to make everybody gritty and grey but be careful because it gives us nobody to root for. If I hate all these guys whey bother turning the page to see what happens to them next?

I agree with Dreamscale on length. I didn't catch that until after I commented but 76 pages with the first ten as an example of how the story is written is an issue. Middles are very hard. If you are having issues can you introduce a sub plot that closely aligns to the main? Often tricky middles come as a result of a sparse first act in that you've not set the stage enough for a full story to follow. Look at beefing up the first act. My analogy has always been that the first act should be spent setting up the bowling pins so you can knock them down later.

It looks like you have some work to do but that's the writing process. I think with some of these suggestions your story will end up being much stronger. Good luck on this. Always a fan of westerns.

Regarding the protag and antag, I've leaned more toward the Marshals being the main characters. At least Rollins, since he's the majority of the scenes. Montgomery is similar to Little Bill in Unforgiven. He WAS a bad buy when he was younger, but the recent decade spent Sheriff changed his tune a bit. He's still known for being a violent, no nonsense lawman...which is why John Curry was taken to Winterhaven in the first place. It just turns out that John and Montgomery share a specific event, and John calls him out for it, thus leading to the revelation.

My issue has always been getting to the point. Meaning that I want to get to the point as soon as possible. I don't know why I do this, but I do. If I started the story with about 10-15 pages following Montgomery's day to day routine, that could be something to help get the audience at least realize he is the focal point of the story.

That, and I've already started writing more of Montgomery's history after he was deputized by the old sheriff.

So yea, there is work to do, but not too much. At least I'm not hearing that the dialogue is crap or that the story it self doesn't make sense.

If the biggest argument is likability of a character, I can work on that and show more to him.
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ChrisB
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Hi Steven, your entire First Act involves John Curry being delivered to the Sheriff.  Any unbiased observer will tell you that your First Act is slow.  THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT but it is indeed slow.  However, since it is a Western it might not matter.

In all honesty I think your story middle is the strongest part of your story so you obviously did a good job of setting things up in the First Act.

I already know that you didn�t intend Montgomery (the Protagonist) to likeable which is why you made the Marshals the main char�cters. You took a risk but I�m not sure if it was a risk worth taking.  Audiences might want to read to the end of the story to satify their desire for justice but their emotional connection to the story will be less because your Protagonist gets MORE unlikeable as the story progresses.  

In retrospect your climax is the weakest part of your story because of how unlikeable your Protagonist is.  
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Steven
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Quoted from ChrisB
Hi Steven, your entire First Act involves John Curry being delivered to the Sheriff.  Any unbiased observer will tell you that your First Act is slow.  THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT but it is indeed slow.  However, since it is a Western it might not matter.

In all honesty I think your story middle is the strongest part of your story so you obviously did a good job of setting things up in the First Act.

I already know that you didnt intend Montgomery (the Protagonist) to likeable which is why you made the Marshals the main charcters. You took a risk but Im not sure if it was a risk worth taking.  Audiences will might want to read to the end of the story to satify their desire for justice but their emotional connection to the story will be less because your Protagonist gets MORE unlikeable as the story progresses.  

In retrospect your climax is the weakest part of your story because of how unlikeable your Protagonist is.  

I see what you're saying about the first act, and I'm going to manipulate it drastically. Like I said about, the story will start out with Montgomery and his way to enforcing the law. It will show him to be hard-nosed, yet respected.

I like the ending, but I do agree that someone might not "care" about what happens to Montgomery. I think that John will have an emotional impact, at least a little bit. John doesn't care that he's being hanged, and even tells Rollins that. He's shown no mercy and is hanged the same as any other person with a bounty.

So, I think with the 10-15 page intro showing Montgomery in some lawman activity, and the stuff with Rose toward the end, he should be likable at least for the first 3/4 of the story.
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CameronD
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Ok, last comment for today, I need to start working, lol.

If the sheriff is a hard case with a bad rep then SHOW us this. When we first meet him he's reading a telegram??? Have him roughing up a prisoner, slamming his head into the wall, or tied up for some kind of torture to get a confession. Actions speak louder than words (and reputation). Or have a fight break out in the saloon with some rowdy drunk cowboys. Everybody is going at it, guns are being drawn until it all STOPS when the sheriff walks in and everybody is too scared to even draw a breath. Stuff like that helps us understand who this guy is right away.

From the comments it sounds like he was actually a legit "good guy" back in the day and has grown violent and mean over the years???? I like that angle if that's the case. In my script my sheriff underwent a similar arc in that he started out as well respected and on the side of the law but over the course of the film looses his way and drives himself to become one of the murderous animals he spent his life fighting in his quest for revenge. When I introduced him we find him overpowering a much younger and stronger criminal trying to escape. Even though my sheriff was old and on the verge of retiring, I still wanted people to see him as capable, dangerous and someone not to mess with. He ends up becoming the villain but that transition from good to bad only works I think if I make him somewhat likable in the beginning. Conversely my main hero started out as a trigger happy murderer before he crosses over and becomes heroic, but even then I still tried to make him likable by being a somewhat bumbling idiot during a failed bank heist when we first meet him. You really have to be blunt when first introducing your characters so they stand out right away.  

Also, action without context is boring, not exciting. When the stagecoach gets ambushed I was actually rooting for John to escape as you made him sympathetic and his captors aholes. But because I didn't really know John and had a strong dislike for the other two the scene was less than exciting because the stakes were low. Make me care for at least one of those two captors before the shooting starts and the action will carry more weight. Others things help too. How much is the bounty on John? How far away are they from any help? Give Missy help so she's more of a threat? Or hide the fact she's a woman until the end? What if one of the captors gets shot and ends up nursing their injury throughout the entire story? These little things can add more suspense and drama to the gunfight.  

Be very careful about assuming that just because there are guns going off that your action scenes are exciting. Without emotional context they won't be anything more than noise. And since this is a western I assume there's a fair chance there will be a lot of that shooty stuff going on.


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Quoted from CameronD
Ok, last comment for today, I need to start working, lol.

If the sheriff is a hard case with a bad rep then SHOW us this. When we first meet him he's reading a telegram??? Have him roughing up a prisoner, slamming his head into the wall, or tied up for some kind of torture to get a confession. Actions speak louder than words (and reputation). Or have a fight break out in the saloon with some rowdy drunk cowboys. Everybody is going at it, guns are being drawn until it all STOPS when the sheriff walks in and everybody is too scared to even draw a breath. Stuff like that helps us understand who this guy is right away.

From the comments it sounds like he was actually a legit "good guy" back in the day and has grown violent and mean over the years???? I like that angle if that's the case. In my script my sheriff underwent a similar arc in that he started out as well respected and on the side of the law but over the course of the film looses his way and drives himself to become one of the murderous animals he spent his life fighting in his quest for revenge. When I introduced him we find him overpowering a much younger and stronger criminal trying to escape. Even though my sheriff was old and on the verge of retiring, I still wanted people to see him as capable, dangerous and someone not to mess with. He ends up becoming the villain but that transition from good to bad only works I think if I make him somewhat likable in the beginning. Conversely my main hero started out as a trigger happy murderer before he crosses over and becomes heroic, but even then I still tried to make him likable by being a somewhat bumbling idiot during a failed bank heist when we first meet him. You really have to be blunt when first introducing your characters so they stand out right away.  

Also, action without context is boring, not exciting. When the stagecoach gets ambushed I was actually rooting for John to escape as you made him sympathetic and his captors aholes. But because I didn't really know John and had a strong dislike for the other two the scene was less than exciting because the stakes were low. Make me care for at least one of those two captors before the shooting starts and the action will carry more weight. Others things help too. How much is the bounty on John? How far away are they from any help? Give Missy help so she's more of a threat? Or hide the fact she's a woman until the end? What if one of the captors gets shot and ends up nursing their injury throughout the entire story? These little things can add more suspense and drama to the gunfight.  

Be very careful about assuming that just because there are guns going off that your action scenes are exciting. Without emotional context they won't be anything more than noise. And since this is a western I assume there's a fair chance there will be a lot of that shooty stuff going on.

Yea, it's unfortunate that you didn't read the rest because some of what you're asking about would make perfect sense.

The sheriff isn't who he says he is. When John is brought to town, and housed in Sheriff Montgomery's jail, he slowly realizes just who Montgomery actually is. There is a flashback toward the end showing just how John and Montgomery are related (not family related) even though the age different is like 30 years.

Montgomery was a lifelong criminal, murder, etc. He was wounded on the outskirts of town some years back and accidentally wandered into town where he was rehabilitated by Madame Lucy. The flashback shows his attitude at this time, and how it slowly changes as he's grateful for this woman saving his life.

We learn that Winterhaven is run by a sheriff who can't protect anyone, and that's where Montgomery steps in. He's brutal, but his actions save people from violence in the town. After a little while, he's deputized and ultimately elected sheriff after the old sheriff dies. The turn from deputy to sheriff isn't written, but I need to include this. I stop the flashback when he's deputized.

John is a legit criminal in his own right, but I don't show what he was doing when he was picked up by the marshals. It's mentioned how he got caught, but that's it. John's a guy that turned violent due to lack of options, due to the incident with Montgomery in the past. So, obviously, when John realizes (there is an action performed by Montgomery that triggers a memory from John) just who Montgomery actually is, he spills the beans to the marshals, who don't believe him, but he has proof. All of this part makes sense due to what's written prior to this scene.

Montgomery's arc is as follows. He starts out, though flashback, violent and murderous. When he's injured and cared for, he softens a little bit. Then he's shown respect from the townsfolk, and eventually handed a position as deputy. He has a horrible past, but he redeems himself. Remember though, no one in Winterhaven knows Montgomery was a criminal. He has a cover story that he explains to Madame Lucy when he regains consciousness. Like I said before, the message of the story is that regardless of how much good you've done, your past will come back to get you.

Rollins and Ardell play us, the audience. They're the reason the story is being told. They brought John to town, and now must deal with what John has to say about Montgomery. Plus, Rollins and Ardell have their own personalities which do come through in the script. The only real non-important character would be Deputy Flint, who just follows orders.
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ChrisB
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Quoted from CameronD
Ok, last comment for today, I need to start working, lol.

From the comments it sounds like he was actually a legit "good guy" back in the day and has grown violent and mean over the years????


Hi Cameron, the major problem I have is that through a flashback an egregious crime of unspeakable proportions was committed on screen.  At first we do not kow who the perpetrator was.

By the midpoint through an accelerated reveal we discover that this Sheriff was the perpetrator.  Hence what started out as an unlikeable Protagonist is turned into a completely revolting Protagonist.

The reveal is shocking and surprising but thoroughly alienated audiences from the Protagonist.


Quoted from CameronD
Also, action without context is boring, not exciting. When the stagecoach gets ambushed I was actually rooting for John to escape as you made him sympathetic and his captors aholes.


Definitely agree with this.  I was rooting for John to escape too.


Quoted from CameronD

Be very careful about assuming that just because there are guns going off that your action scenes are exciting.


I wholeheartedly agree.  

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Steven
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Also, the biggest action scene takes place toward the end where the marshals along with Montgomery must handle some nearby crime in progress. At the end of this scene, there is an action performed by Montgomery that John is able to witness (the shoot out found it's way into town and just outside of the jail house).

After he witnesses this, John blurts out Montgomery's real name and that's when the revelation happens.

I agree, the scene with Missy has no stake. I think I wrote it to give some personality to Rollins and Ardell, and set up Ardell to be somewhat of a badass. It also shows that Rollins is good with words, instead of action.

Later on, we learn who Missy is, by the way. She's one of Madame Lucy's girls, well she used to be. She killed a paying customer and was told to leave town by Montgomery, before he was deputized.
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Quoted from Steven

I see what you're saying about the first act, and I'm going to manipulate it drastically. Like I said about, the story will start out with Montgomery and his way to enforcing the law. It will show him to be hard-nosed, yet respected.

I like the ending, but I do agree that someone might not "care" about what happens to Montgomery. I think that John will have an emotional impact, at least a little bit. John doesn't care that he's being hanged, and even tells Rollins that. He's shown no mercy and is hanged the same as any other person with a bounty.

So, I think with the 10-15 page intro showing Montgomery in some lawman activity, and the stuff with Rose toward the end, he should be likable at least for the first 3/4 of the story.


I found the Marshalls likeable assholes and I really bonded with them throughout the first Act with what they had to go through to deliver John Curry to the Sheriff.  If you take out the first 10 - 15 pages who are we to bond to?  

John did have an emotional impact, I was hoping that an effort was atleast made to save his life.  I felt for him at the end but you didn�t give us enough time to grieve.  That would have enhanced the climax.

The very fact that the egregious nature of the Sheriff�s crime was shown on screen makes his likeability unsalvageable.

However if you take out this flashback your powerful acceleration reveal at the midpoint will fall flat.

Do you see the predicament you are in?

You´re only hope at the climax is to shift the focus to John.
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Quoted from Steven


I agree, the scene with Missy has no stake. I think I wrote it to give some personality to Rollins and Ardell, and set up Ardell to be somewhat of a badass. It also shows that Rollins is good with words, instead of action.


It absolutely did, the first 15 pages gave us lots of personality and that´s why I don´t think you should delete it.

If I didn´t bond with the Marshalls so much I would not have finished your story.
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Quoted from ChrisB


I found the Marshalls likeable assholes and I really bonded with them throughout the first Act with what they had to go through to deliver John Curry to the Sheriff.  If you take out the first 10 - 15 pages who are we to bond to?  

John did have an emotional impact, I was hoping that an effort was atleast made to save his life.  I felt for him at the end but you didnt give us enough time to grieve.  That would have enhanced the climax.

The very fact that the egregious nature of the Sheriffs crime was shown on screen makes his likeability unsalvageable.

However if you take out this flashback your powerful acceleration reveal at the midpoint will fall flat.

Do you see the predicament you are in?


The first 15 pages will be showing Montgomery, in present day, before he receives the telegram stating that a high value prisoner is being transferred (John). I'm doing this to make Montgomery likable, but then we learn abruptly who he really is (the same reveal).

My intro will be the same, then the present day Montgomery stuff, then the coach with the Marshals.

I think this will satisfy the latching onto a protagonist, then introducing a couple more main characters (Marshals).

I don't think there is anything wrong in thinking that you're following a good, law-enforcing man, then to find out he was once a murderous maniac that somehow found peace in Winterhaven.
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Quoted from Steven

The first 15 pages will be showing Montgomery, in present day, before he receives the telegram stating that a high value prisoner is being transferred (John). I'm doing this to make Montgomery likable, but then we learn abruptly who he really is (the same reveal).

My intro will be the same, then the present day Montgomery stuff, then the coach with the Marshals.

I think this will satisfy the latching onto a protagonist, then introducing a couple more main characters (Marshals).

I don't think there is anything wrong in thinking that you're following a good, law-enforcing man, then to find out he was once a murderous maniac that somehow found peace in Winterhaven.


The very fact that you showed the horrific crime of the Sheriff ON SCREEN means that no matter how likeable you presented the Sheriff before, at the midpoint audiences will EMOTIONALLY DETACH from him and hence the story after the midpoint.  This is a MAJOR problem that will ruin your climax  which should be the most emotionally engaging aspect of your story.  

The only stories in which good guys turn bad guys work is when we witness a horrific crime ON SCREEN AGAINST the Protagonist at the beginning of the story.  Therefore, when the Protagonist becomes the criminal we sympathize rather than emotionally detach.

The less you make audiences invest in the Sheriff before the midpoint the less your story will suffer.  It would be better to let audiences latch onto the Marshalls instead.




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Quoted from ChrisB


The very fact that you showed the horrific crime of the Sheriff ON SCREEN means that no matter how likeable you presented the Sheriff before, at the midpoint audiences will EMOTIONALLY DETACH from him and hence the story after the midpoint.  This is a MAJOR problem that will ruin your climax  which should be the most emotionally engaging aspect of your story.  

The only stories in which good guys turn bad guys work is when we witness a horrific crime ON SCREEN AGAINST the Protagonist at the beginning of the story.  Therefore, when the Protagonist becomes the criminal we sympathize rather than emotionally detach.

The less you make audiences invest in the Sheriff before the midpoint the less your story will suffer.  It would be better to let audiences latch onto the Marshalls instead.






My argument against this would be something recent - Hell or High Water. The two main characters were bank robbing brothers. One of which murdered innocent people along the way. The other brother was good enough, but they were both criminals doing something for their own selfish gain.

Page 23 is when the incident in question happens. After I add some stuff, it will be closer to page 40. But remember, since it's a flashback, and the SUPER only states "Some Time Ago," the audience isn't aware of who these people are. I originally wanted this entire sequence to play out and NOT have the SUPER stating that it's a flashback, but I was given some advice to include the flashback tag and the SUPER. If the audience sees the sequence on screen, THINKING it's real time, the reveal later would tell people that this was in fact in the past.

Also, when the coach is moving along, we pass by the little house/shack that we see in the flashback. I don't know if you picked up on that.

I know it's preferred that the protagonist needs to be likable, but it's also acceptable when the protagonist is not liked.

Without mentioning the horrific crime in detail, is it that one part during the crime that makes him completely irredeemable? I think you know what I'm talking about. I can remove that shot if it helps, because it does straddle the threshold between dark and unwatchable.
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Quoted from Steven


My argument against this would be something recent - Hell or High Water. The two main characters were bank robbing brothers. One of which murdered innocent people along the way. The other brother was good enough, but they were both criminals doing something for their own selfish gain.


They werent doing it for their own selfish gain.  Their mother died recently leaving their ranch in debt.  If they didnt pay off the debt in a few days their ranch would be foreclosed.  

In fact, the brothers were VERY Likeable.  They were abused by their father as kids.    We are more likely to sympathize with them as circumstances forced them to become criminals so audiences DO NOT emotionally detach when they start to do bad things.

In your story Sheriff Montgomery committed a horrific crime ON SCREEN.  What makes it worse is that it was an UNECCESARY crime committed against a child!  That is an immediate EMOTIONAL DETACHMENT from your story right there.


Quoted from Steven
Page 23 is when the incident in question happens. After I add some stuff, it will be closer to page 40. But remember, since it's a flashback, and the SUPER only states "Some Time Ago," the audience isn't aware of who these people are. I originally wanted this entire sequence to play out and NOT have the SUPER stating that it's a flashback, but I was given some advice to include the flashback tag and the SUPER. If the audience sees the sequence on screen, THINKING it's real time, the reveal later would tell people that this was in fact in the past.

Also, when the coach is moving along, we pass by the little house/shack that we see in the flashback. I don't know if you picked up on that.


I was impressed, that part was skillfully done in the story and will look great on screen.


Quoted from Steven
I know it's preferred that the protagonist needs to be likable, but it's also acceptable when the protagonist is not liked.

Without mentioning the horrific crime in detail, is it that one part during the crime that makes him completely irredeemable? I think you know what I'm talking about. I can remove that shot if it helps, because it does straddle the threshold between dark and unwatchable.


Your Protagonist doesnt have to be a good guy but he MUST be likeable.  If he is not then your story will suffer BIG TIME.  If audiences have a hard time connecting with the Protagonist they wont connect with your story.  You can solve this by showing your unlikeable Protagonist through the eyes of a likeable main charcter who audiences can identify with hence why I say keep the focus on the Marshalls.

Yes, if the crime was shuttled OFF SCREEN Sherif Montgomery would not seem irredeemable to the audiences.  However the very reason why your midpoint was so shocking and surprising was that it was shown ON SCREEN.  

So you will basically be weakening the effect of your midpoint to maintain the likeability of your Sheriff.  Is that a worthy tradeoff?



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Steven
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I see your point with the brothers. I guess it just comes down to the personality of the bad guys. Look at Natural Born Killers, those main characters were as despicable as they come. But anyway.

Thanks for liking that part of the story. I think I'll go ahead and remove the SUPER that reveals we're in a flashback. Either the audience will recognize the small house from the coach ride or they won't. In the present, it's a weathered away mess, but in the flashback it's livable.

I'm also going to remove what Montgomery does before he kills the girl, because it's not needed, and it's disgusting. I made the girl 15, so hey, at least it wasn't an 8 year old or something. It's all bad, but now we're talking about degree.

The rest of that scene will play out as it already does.

I just did some research regarding the area where the story takes place. Winterhaven is a real city located in the southeast corner of California, bordering Arizona and just miles from Mexico.

The Native American tribe called the Quechans (or Yuma Tribe), inhabited that area until about 1853 when there was a war - The Yuma War. in 1886, the tribe was given 45,000 acres of land as a reservation just to the east of Winterhaven. My story takes place in the last decade of the 1800's, so I think I'll include some of that stuff into the story.

I'll add a Quechan women to Lucy's brothel. They wore a lot of jewelry made from seashells and beads, so it will be nice to get away from the typical turquoise stuff that is typically associate with Native Americans.

I don't want to stray away from the core story, but I think I'll take Montgomery and Rose outside of Winterhaven and maybe interact with some of those people. Rose may be drawn to the Quechan jewelry, or something like that.
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ChrisB
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EW named Natural Born Killers as one of the 8 most controversial films of all time!  Many  people complained about the graphic violence in the film.  The movie alienated A LOT of people and I´m sure that´s not what you´re aiming for with your story!

It doesn�t really matter what changes you make to that scene - showing the crime on screen will make your character seem irredeamable.  The very fact it was committed against a minor (even if she is 15 and not 8 ) makes it worse.  

I think you just have to accept the fact that the Sheriff will alienate members of the audience.  
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Steven
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Quoted from ChrisB
EW named Natural Born Killers as one of the 8 most controversial films of all time!  The movie alienated A LOT of people!

It doesnt really matter what changes you make to that scene - showing the crime on screen will make your character seem irredeamable.  The very fact it was committed against a minor (even if she is 15 and not makes it worse.  

I think you just have to accept the fact that the Sheriff will alienate some members of the audience.


The alienation is something I'm completely alright with.

You think he's a good guy for a majority of the movie, then toward the end you realize he is the person who killed the girl in the flashback. Then, you could have people rooting for him to be hanged. I think the one constant will be the marshals and making sure their personalities shine.
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Quoted from Steven


The alienation is something I'm completely alright with.

You think he's a good guy for a majority of the movie, then toward the end you realize he is the person who killed the girl in the flashback. Then, you could have people rooting for him to be hanged. I think the one constant will be the marshals and making sure their personalities shine.


Yes, the biggest appeal for the audience after the midpoint is to see that justice is done.  They will want him to pay for his crimes.

The audience will still need someone to identify with throughout the entirety of the story and that is where the Marshals come in.

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Steven
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Yup, that, and I'll build up Montgomery a little bit more.

Thanks for the input.
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Youre welcome.
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Steven
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I have a change regarding the first 15 pages. What if I focused on the two marshals and established them as the main character through the intro? That way there would be a constant to latch onto and by the time Montgomery comes in, you already know who the main character is.

I could show Rollins and Ardell capturing John Curry.
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ChrisB
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They are already established as the main characters in your current script.  They make up the majority of the first 15 pages as it is.  If you also want to make them the Protagonists of the story as well that is a great idea.

I think you should really explore the friendship between Rollins and Ardell for the first 15 pages and if you can do it with the capture of John Curry it is a good idea.
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Quoted from ChrisB
They are already established as the main characters in your current script.  They make up the majority of the first 15 pages as it is.  If you also want to make them the Protagonists of the story as well that is a great idea.

I think you should really explore the friendship between Rollins and Ardell for the first 15 pages and if you can do it with the capture of John Curry it is a good idea.


There's a line that states John was caught in a whorehouse but the specifics were left out. The only issue I'm having right now is the overall conflict.

Isn't it just an incredible coincidence that the marshals pick up on the only guy who knows about Montgomery? Not only that, they're taking him to the town where Montgomery is the sheriff?

I don't know, I'm confused on who should be the primary focus.

I was thinking something along the lines of the following:

Rollins and Ardell hear about Winterhaven and it's no nonsense Sheriff. They still travel there with John Curry, but he doesn't have anything to do with anything other than being a prisoner transfer. The biggest change would be that Rollins investigated the murders at the small house outside of Winterhaven. He hasn't been back to the town since, for whatever reason, not important. But they're going back there now because of the transfer. When he gets there, he starts putting things together with the open investigation on those killings in that small house.

Rollins would essentially be snooping around a little bit. He's already doing so with the barber when asking how long Montgomery has been sheriff, but now he could ask more people, including Lucy...who helped rehabilitate Montgomery. She's the only one in town that knows of his history, maybe not the full extent, but knows a great deal of it. She could balk at some of the questioning by Rollins and it would further his investigation.

This would be an interesting change to the plot as it would have the audience trying to figure out who committed the murders. Speaking of the murders, I'd be moving that flashback showing them further down the line. Rollins would be the one who would realize it was Montgomery that killed the young girl and her father. Maybe she had a muddy boot print on her chest and gunshot to the forehead. Then he'd see Montgomery stand on the chest of someone in the present and shoot them in the head. That would be enough to put things together and reveal to the audience that he is actually a killer.

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ChrisB
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Montgomery�s secret is the bedrock of your story so by right he should be the protagonist.

The main conflict is the definition of justice.  Man vs the Law.

I don�t think I paid much attention to that coincidence while I was reading your story and I don´t think audiences will either.
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Read my post just about yours, I've edited it.
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Quoted from Steven


I was thinking something along the lines of the following:

Rollins and Ardell hear about Winterhaven and it's no nonsense Sheriff. They still travel there with John Curry, but he doesn't have anything to do with anything other than being a prisoner transfer. The biggest change would be that Rollins investigated the murders at the small house outside of Winterhaven. He hasn't been back to the town since, for whatever reason, not important. But they're going back there now because of the transfer. When he gets there, he starts putting things together with the open investigation on those killings in that small house.

Rollins would essentially be snooping around a little bit. He's already doing so with the barber when asking how long Montgomery has been sheriff, but now he could ask more people, including Lucy...who helped rehabilitate Montgomery. She's the only one in town that knows of his history, maybe not the full extent, but knows a great deal of it. She could balk at some of the questioning by Rollins and it would further his investigation.

This would be an interesting change to the plot as it would have the audience trying to figure out who committed the murders. Speaking of the murders, I'd be moving that flashback showing them further down the line. Rollins would be the one who would realize it was Montgomery that killed the young girl and her father. Maybe she had a muddy boot print on her chest and gunshot to the forehead. Then he'd see Montgomery stand on the chest of someone in the present and shoot them in the head. That would be enough to put things together and reveal to the audience that he is actually a killer.


Maybe Rollins could be that little boy - hence his interest in the case.  The death of his family could be the reason why he decided to become a Marshall in the first place.  He could idealize Montgomery at first - maybe in Montgomery�s guilt he became somewhat of a surrogate father to Rollins.  Now with the revelation Rollins is forced to question everything he ever thought was true about himself and his place in the world.
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Steven
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In that case it would be Ardell, since he's in his 30's while Rollins and Montgomery are close in age.

I could see that. Ardell would express his disdain for the town during their coach ride with John Curry. Rollins would dismiss it as just simply hating a town for whatever reason, but the reasoning would eventually come out. Having this be Ardell's first job as a marshal would help out as to why he's never shared this story with Rollins before.

I'm writing an alternate intro right now. It will show the marshals entering a saloon in an unspecific town. They're looking for John and find him hanging out there.
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Quoted from Steven
In that case it would be Ardell, since he's in his 30's while Rollins and Montgomery are close in age.

I could see that. Ardell would express his disdain for the town during their coach ride with John Curry. Rollins would dismiss it as just simply hating a town for whatever reason, but the reasoning would eventually come out. Having this be Ardell's first job as a marshal would help out as to why he's never shared this story with Rollins before.

I'm writing an alternate intro right now. It will show the marshals entering a saloon in an unspecific town. They're looking for John and find him hanging out there.


That�s a great idea!

In order to prevent readers from being suspicious of Montgomery you could let Montgomery be kind and supportive to Ardell.  Even defending Ardell when Curry is harsh with him.  That way audiences would never guess that Montgomery is the bad guy.
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First act - The capture of John Curry and the transfer to Winterhaven, and the introduction to everyone.

Second act - Revealing that Ardell used to live near there, family murdered and murder never found. The snooping around by Rollins takes place with the aid of Montgomery and his deputy.

Third act - We learn that Montgomery was the murderer. We find this out by Ardell watching Montgomery kill a man. Then we go to the flashback of the murder.

I'll consolidate the flashbacks and scratch any backstory that I gave to Montgomery. The focus will be on the investigation and the only backstory of Montgomery will be his fake name that he used while being rehabilitated by Lucy.
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ChrisB
Posted: January 16th, 2017, 5:01pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Steven
First act - The capture of John Curry and the transfer to Winterhaven, and the introduction to everyone.

Second act - Revealing that Ardell used to live near there, family murdered and murder never found. The snooping around by Rollins takes place with the aid of Montgomery and his deputy.

Third act - We learn that Montgomery was the murderer. We find this out by Ardell watching Montgomery kill a man. Then we go to the flashback of the murder.

I'll consolidate the flashbacks and scratch any backstory that I gave to Montgomery. The focus will be on the investigation and the only backstory of Montgomery will be his fake name that he used while being rehabilitated by Lucy.


Good, the only changes I would make is this:

It would be more believable for Ardell to do the snooping around since he has a personal interest in the case -it gets him into the much needed conflict with Rollins who sees the case as a distraction.  

Montgomery on the other hand is more sympathetic to Ardell�s quest for justice and goes behind Rollins back to offer him support.  


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Steven
Posted: January 16th, 2017, 5:11pm Report to Moderator
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I could have Ardell introducing the idea to investigate, and they both do it. I don't want any conflict between the two marshals. I also don't want to have any suspicion on Montgomery's part. I want him to have the appearance of helping, but intentionally suggesting someone else as the culprit.

I don't know, I'm not at that part yet. I'm still getting Rollins and Ardell to town. I'm still thinking of a way to have Ardell bring up his troubled past as well.
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ChrisB
Posted: January 16th, 2017, 5:17pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Steven
I want Montgomery to have the appearance of helping, but intentionally suggesting someone else as the culprit.


The Fugitive is a good story to study on how to pull that off!


Quoted from Steven
I don't know, I'm not at that part yet. I'm still getting Rollins and Ardell to town. I'm still thinking of a way to have Ardell bring up his troubled past as well.


It has to be a momento of vulnerability - in which he lets his guard down.  It needs to be with someone he trusts - either a lover or a friend.
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Steven
Posted: January 16th, 2017, 5:34pm Report to Moderator
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True, it will be revealed to Rollins. I'll work on why he explains that part of his past.
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Steven
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Steven
Posted: December 26th, 2017, 1:26pm Report to Moderator
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Reworked a lot of it, here are the first 45 pages.


https://drive.google.com/open?id=1aukISRLODIvphdSeh3m5UX9nWobc4KOj
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