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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Unproduced Screenplay Discussion    Horror Scripts  ›  Demon's Playground Moderators: bert
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Don
Posted: June 29th, 2011, 10:11pm Report to Moderator
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So, what are you writing?

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Demon's Playground by Demarcus - Horror - A mental patient learns that his ghostly visions are real, and must fight for his life and sanity as an evil spirit carries out a murderous plot of vengeance against him, seeking to settle an old score. 90 pages - pdf, format


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DarrenJamesSeeley
Posted: June 30th, 2011, 10:17am Report to Moderator
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When I read the description of Travis on p1, he does something rather odd. He  rushes out of the mini-van. Spots room 203. Holds open the mini-van door takes a deep breath, and shuts the door.

Travis is the driver of the van. He's already out of the van. Why does he need to open the door and close it again? Did he shut the door too soon in his rush and his coat or seat belt got caught in the door? How about instead of taking the time out to open and close the door, he just "rushes out"... then hit me with EXT. MOONLIGHT MOTEL -SECOND FLOOR - MOMENTS LATER where Travis "stops" at room 203? There's nothing wrong with us seeing him go up a flight of stairs, of course, but it IS better to come to a halt AT room 203, dont ya think?

p3

I'm going to point out two things here. One is the song. The reason why most specs don't namedrop a specific song is because if someone reads the script and likes it, wants that song and can't get the rights, you may be stuck with a different song or a cover. Or the director hates Rob Zombie and loves Air Supply. Naming specific songs can be a tricky thing. "Music plays over the radio' 'sounds something like Rob Zombie would play" stuff like that is fine, but not the specific song itself. It's tempting, I know. Avoid the temptation.

Ad Lib = you and your writing partner should get rid of that. Period. End of the discussion. If you must, write he screams / shouts or just yells out (the loud music can drown out his protests) but you two are writers, aren't you? Why are instructing your actor to "ad lib"? Bull----! Give him a line or have him simply yell.

p4
For a homicide detective Erin's not the sharpest tool in the shed, is she?
What's the first question she asks the ME? Also, dead Tara is on an examination table in a morgue; Erin has to bend down to look at her. As Erin speaks, a revelation between her and Sean made me question the entire scene. Consider, aside from the contrived connection, she already knows it's a murder. She already has a prime suspect. They know he was at the scene! Nobody disputes it![And in the following scene- we learn that he's already in custody at the mental ward! You might be pissed at me for such a harsh reaction, but think it over a little and you'll realize where I'm getting at. When she threatens the ME "I hope you're not covering for him" I thought maybe he should have just said "It was suicide' - yeah, not that he would mean it, but just to piss her off. Better for her to clam it up for now or just say "Travis" and Sean to say "Can't be" or something to that effect in this pointless scene and move on. Right now, Erin reads part cliche and part dunce.  Fix it.

Come to think of it, Blair's outburst in the next scene ("You're not covering for him [Travis]?!") in regards to a possible affair and not the murder comes off a bit corny partially due to the previous scene as well.  It's odd because there is a dead woman and all she wants to know if Travis was fooling around NOT if he had anything to do with the death. What's there to cover up?

A few weeks later, Blair rants on about Travis and "his lies"  
Not about if there was foul play but about the alleged affair with Tara.  
Okay...

Crystal sees deads dead kids. Travis concerned.
Blair rants on about Travis and "his lies"  
"It sounds like you wanted her (Tara) dead"  

I'm done for now.



"I know you want to work for Mo Fuzz. And Mo Fuzz wants you to. But first, I'm going to need to you do something for me... on spec." - Mo Fuzz, Tapeheads, 1988
my scripts on ss : http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?m-1095531482/s-45/#num48
The Art!http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?b-knowyou/m-1190561532/s-105/#num106
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TheReccher
Posted: July 7th, 2011, 2:59pm Report to Moderator
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Okay, so I've read up to page 55 so far. Now, I can't stress enough that I am in no way attempting to be mean or trollish. Please don't mistaken my incapability of offering criticism with a kind-hearted tone as a vindictive attack.

As I said, I've read up to page 55, and that was as far as my will and patience took me. So far, there doesn't seem to be any real established conflict. Your story is about a ghost attempting to get revenge on the man who can see her. By around page 25-35 her plan for revenge, and Travis's want to protect himself should already have been well established. So far, you've commited a crime of story pacing. It's also the superflous action, dialogue and scenes padding the script, but the main problem that contributes to the sluggish pacing is that it's already past the half-way point and Travis isn't fighting for his life. All I've read were the same type of empty scenes repeated over and over. There's a strange whisper or sound and Travis goes to investigate, there's a strange whisper or sound and Travis goes to investigate. I understand, there's a ghost haunting him, Please move forward.

Whenever you write a scene, whenever you write a line of dialogue, whenever you write a line of action, ever word has to contribute in some way, to character, to story, to theme or to elicit an emotional reaction and in the most quick and concise way possible. Is it important that his beard is itchy on page 23? Does it impact the plot or character when Jim mentions that the technology is old and outdated? When you edit the script, take out lines of dialogue taped on the end that involves a character saying hello or buy to someone and any dialogue that feels too boring and conversational. They add fat to the script. If you want to convey something as simple as a character in some form of emotional distress, like Blair's response to the whole situation of Crystal being sent home after seeing ghosts. If you want to externalize her internal torment, have her hand shake, have her drop something after the situation is mentioned and than move onto the new scene. Big, empty, melodramatic dialogue like "I don't know what to do anymore!" distances me from the character, it actually makes me want to see her getting hurt. Same goes for the Erin character. If you wanted to show-case to the audience the very strong possibility that Travis killed Tara (or perhaps create an aura of mystery around him and create questions, I'm not quite sure what you're trying to do), than make her have an opinion on the matter, and express it through a few conside lines. Consider the fact that incidents of innocent men going away have been documented due to people jumping to conclusions and being cock sure of circumsntantial evidence. It would have benefited to just have her say "you know, it's probably..." and than move on to the next scene. We have seven or eight lines of over-long dialogue that paints a very un-professional, dumb, irritating character. (and yes, it's been mentioned how stupid it was for her to ask if it was homocide or murder considering she was so darn cock sure it was Travis)

By page 30, I noticed that I really didn't care what happens to the Travis character. By page 35, I realized every scene he was in made me feel depressed, simply because he's such an emotionless, doormat of a character, just someone to fill in a story slot, going through the motions. Have him argue a little more often, have him offer an opinion, give him some zing, some personality, some humor. He should have gotten a little angrier at that Erin woman, and at least a little more reluctant to offer some blood. Give him some strengths to balance his flaws. So far all I've gotten from this guy is that he's a cheater. I see no reason to care for him.

But he isn't the only poorly written character. Nobody outside the Patrick character seems to have any discernable personality or depth. The scene in the office with Blair and Dr. Chambers (what a huge coincidence that the wife of one of your patients handles your income taxes, but I digress) doesn't click with me. Why did they laugh. Was that before a joke? Laughing at something that isn't very funny makes the characters seem robotic and weird. Why would he say to Travis "it isn't rocket science?" Is he trying to make Travis feel dumb? Also, there's something a little weird with Travis opening the door to the women's bathroom. I know it's "suppose" to be empty, but had previously waved to the camera, and Patrick showed up seconds after, so it screams a complete lack of caution on Travis's character.

If there's anything good that can be said for your script is that it honestly started off interesting. There was a genuine sense of atmosphere and mystery crafted with the events in the motel, but the atmosphere created was completely and utterly destroyed by the time we got to that melodramatic scene in the kitchen around page 21.

Now, as I said, there were many things that contributed to the the sluggish pace aside from the filler, and it was also how the action was written. It's too book-like and not script-like. Too many fancy, superflous descriptions and character actions that have no substance. Action is no exception to the notion that; it too has to add to the meat of the script and not the fat. I can't go too in depth but I'll offer some examples from the first ten pages.

"A mini-van pulls up to a condemned looking, two-story
motel. Dirt flies into the air as the mini-van stops.
Dense woods surround the motel, creating an eerie darkness."

Why is it relavent that dirt's flying in the air? Will this dirt impact the plot? If it's important that he's driving on a gravel road, simply call it such. And the density of the woods is something that's more up to the director. And "eerie darkness" is too vague to be important. Take it out.

"He scans the line of doors on the upper level and spots one
marked ď203.Ē He holds the mini-van door open, takes in a
deep breath, closes the van door, then heads upstairs to
the second floor."

Again, it's already been mentioned how inconsistent this is with the previously established action of "rushing out of the driver's side," but that's not what bothered me. It was the obvious action. If you want to convey the character being nervous, "he takes a deep breath" is good enough. When someone opens the door to an automobile, after exiting, it's common sense they're going to close it. Common actions don't impact the plot, so should be cut out.

"Her pale, ashen skin stands out in contrast where it is
exposed from under her long black dress."

So what?

"Frantic, Travis grabs Taraís legs and tries to lift her off
the ceiling fan, but canít. He lets her go and her body
swings around.
Travis realizes heís too late and starts to break down,
then struggles to calm himself."

Take out the word frantic. If you want to have audience or reader know that the character is frantic, show it specifically through some bodily action. Don't just slap on some vague adjective. And "Travis realizes he's too late" is an internal thought that can't be filmed or shown. How can something as internal as a realization be filmed? Only write what can be seen or heard, and externalize internal thoughts by what can be seen or heard.

"Travis rushes into the mini-van. Gravel from the dirt road
spits everywhere as the van speeds away.
From under the upper stairs of the motel, a dark figure
watches the mini-van disappear."

This can easily be tightened up to

"a figure under the stairs watches Travis rush to the van and drive away."

Look at every set of descriptions and wonder if the same thing can be said in fewer words. If it can be tightened up without losing the meaning, do it.

There was also a description I recall, where the word "white" was mentioned three times. Unless the color of thier clothing is important in some way, take it out.

I understand your want to create flavor and atmosphere. If you want to do this, either place an very, very, very well written description of the setting in the beggining or go al out and do it extremely well. If you can't, placing bland and superflous descriptions like "eerie darkness" will only create unhealthy fat for the script and make reading it a challenge. Be precise and direct.

I'm going stop here. I hope you take the advice of members on this board and wish you all the best of luck upon improving your craft.  
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Lon
Posted: July 7th, 2011, 4:50pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from TheReccher

Look at every set of descriptions and wonder if the same thing can be said in fewer words. If it can be tightened up without losing the meaning, do it.


In reading and critiquing user-submitted scripts, this is one of the pieces of advice I find myself giving the most often, and I attribute it to writers who can't shake the notion that screenwriting and prose writing are entirely different creatures in more ways than just structure and intent.

To the author of the script, I've just finished reading a portion of it as well.  I don't have comments to leave of my own, because Reccher pretty much said everything I was thinking.

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Dreamscale
Posted: July 7th, 2011, 7:01pm Report to Moderator
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I started this as well, and although I agree, in principle to most of what Reccher said, I have to disagree with a few, as well.

The line(s) about the tires spitting up gravel are simply visuals that enhance the read and filmed version, as well.  It's attention to detail and for me, these things are good and appreciated in scripts.

I am not a proponent of the old advice that every single word, action, dialogue line, etc has to to advance the plot and story.  I believe there are lots of ways to show tone and feel, and many times, using extra words and visuals, as well as descriptions helps show character, as well as set tone.

It also shows a keen eye for attention to detail, which really shows in finished products...or doesn't show when it's not there to start with.

As long as you stick to a standard 1 page of text equaling 1 minute of film, you're cool, in my eyes. There are many good, solid films that meander along at their own pace,a dn as along as it's engaging, it's job well done.


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tpd99
Posted: August 9th, 2011, 8:03am Report to Moderator
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I want to thank everyone for there suggestions and comments. I have been gone for awhile and I am happy to see that other screenwriters took the time to review my screenplay.
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