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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board  /  January 2016 OWC  /  20 Questions - OWC
Posted by: Don, January 23rd, 2016, 3:01pm
20 Questions by Glenn Doyle - Short - A young, mute boy receives nothing he wished for on Christmas Day, but after he receives a mysterious game of 20 Questions, his family decide to play. - pdf, format 8)
Posted by: irish eyes, January 23rd, 2016, 4:24pm; Reply: 1
Wow rough family. I guess they're gonna get it... hopefully

Did Krampus just enter the room?

Pretty good story and used the game well.

I thought Thomas would have said something at the very end.

Good entry
Posted by: Hunter, January 23rd, 2016, 5:10pm; Reply: 2
This strangely reminded me of Harry Potter. The family is like the Dursleys, and Thomas has magical powers that be doesn't realize.

I thought that the story was set up very well, and it kept my focus the whole time.
Posted by: StevenClark, January 23rd, 2016, 6:25pm; Reply: 3

Not a bad effort here. This was written pretty well, but once the fun started you knew exactly where this was going to end up. Actually, you did a great job of making me absolutely hate Rick, Kyle and Barb to the point I was gonna put this down. I just thought their behavior to be so atrocious. Anyway, a decent story that just lacked punch.

Overall, not too shabby.

Posted by: DaveTroop, January 23rd, 2016, 7:35pm; Reply: 4
A strong entry.

By the middle of the script, I truly hated Rick, Barb, and Kyle.
Thomas was very sympathetic.
As the rules go, people this wicked usually get theirs, and people like Thomas hand it to them.

Liked the scary, skinny Santa.

The only bad thing was, for as how unpredictable the first half of the script was, once they began to play the game, you could guess the rest.
Not that you didn't want it to happen, but it was a little bit of a let down.

You need something at the very end to surprise us again.

Still, very strong writing.  Like this one a lot.  
Posted by: Lightfoot, January 23rd, 2016, 10:37pm; Reply: 5
Hunter - I was thinking the same thing when I realized just how horrible Thomas was being treated.

I knew after you've introduced that creepy, evil Santa the ending was going to get good, can't help but feel you let back a bit though, but I guess they were presents for Thomas so they can't be too horrible.

Very enjoyable though.
Posted by: DarrenJamesSeeley, January 23rd, 2016, 11:53pm; Reply: 6
Well written, somewhat interesting. I wasn't really into the dark Santa bit (I totally despise ":red glowing eyes") and I'm glad the 20 questions card game was short and sweet, I don't know if I would had the patience if it was played to its full potential. However, Christmas is a great time for board and card games as they could have been a newly opened gift, so I'm good with that.

Technical-wise, there isn't much difference between "continuous' and 'moments later'.

Overall, good entry, minus Dark Santa.
Posted by: cbead, January 24th, 2016, 1:08am; Reply: 7
Very engaging story, really makes the reader hate the family except the protagonist.

As stated before it was kinda obvious how this was going to conclude, but kept me interested through to the end. Well written.

Good job
Posted by: LC, January 24th, 2016, 1:38am; Reply: 8
Ooh, another horrible family.
I like the choice of 20 questions.

'Like Uncontrollable vomit' - very novel but weird description. Unlike this one which was great: She flashes him an ice cold stare. And, it sums up the character of Barb (apt name too) perfectly.

Hooray, 'they' all got their comeuppance.

I'm not sure if this one does it for me, but not bad all the same.
Posted by: Trojan, January 24th, 2016, 10:00am; Reply: 9
Solid story, well written and great job on making the antagonists really unlikable.

I wondered why the family were so mean to him and if he really was a mute or he just chose not to speak. I guess either he could talk all along or something in the game gave him the power to speak all of a sudden.

Overall I thought this was a strong entry.
Posted by: AnthonyCawood, January 24th, 2016, 2:43pm; Reply: 10
A thought or three

Wow, great parents!

Lots to like in this and well written just the odd typo or two.

Think the game element is okay but a little secondary but extra marks for getting two games in.

Good job.
Posted by: pale yellow, January 24th, 2016, 9:37pm; Reply: 11
Another bad family going on here.

I thought the game was supposed to be one we've all heard of before? Not sure about the 20 questions thing.

I was a bit confused at first with the kid not being able to talk...

Glad they got it in the end. Could kind of see the end coming.

Good job.
Posted by: DanC, January 24th, 2016, 10:16pm; Reply: 12
I hated most of the story.   I can't imagine a family being like that...


As someone who's been abused, I found this VERY VERY hard to read....

Almost didn't make it to the end.

Good payoff.

But, the family was over the top evil...

The kid would be very shy and not act like that sadly...

And how's the kid supposed to live now??

And the game, while it was vital, wasn't logically arrived at...

Posted by: RichardR, January 25th, 2016, 11:26am; Reply: 13
Some notes.
The opening doesn’t work for me.  Cruelty for cruelty’s sake is off-putting.  Now, if they’re cruel while claiming to be kind, I’ll go for that.
More gratuitous cruelty.  Unneeded.
The santa scene seems overlong and perhaps too detailed.  Could it be made to look like his dream?
More unnecessary snubbing.  We know they treat him poorly.
And we get to the game.  It works for me.  Thomas gets what he wants through the game left behind by santa.  Now, if you give him a card, you might make this even better.  The last thing on his list is a ‘voice’?  or a family?  With a twist, of course.  
Posted by: eldave1, January 25th, 2016, 11:44am; Reply: 14

Game incorporated into the script and used quite cleverly.

Hmmm - I think the meanness has to be a little more subtle - it is running the risk of being too over the top.

Evil Santa - not sure why this has to be a devil like creature.

Nice payoff at the end. Once the first one got it - the rest were pretty much forecasted as well so it got a bit slow here - but I don't know how you avoid that.

Posted by: Reef Dreamer, January 25th, 2016, 4:18pm; Reply: 15
20 questions

as we go...

thats a pretty vicious opening scene - i almost struggle to buy into it

this completely anti thomas is just hard to buy into its not subtle, a tad ridiculous/pantomime e.g. no christmas presents.

but the switching of them into his presents is interesting and i like that part


dial down the family, a lot, but show bias and neglect of thomas, rather than abuse - stretch him more into a loner left to his own devices, someone who festers.

its got something
Posted by: Stumpzian, January 25th, 2016, 4:46pm; Reply: 16
I'd like to see the emotional abuse be less overt.

Eg., Barb tells Tommy that little mute boys don't get presents. It might heighten the power of this exchange by having  her make it sound as if it's for his own good. Some sort of "because I love you and am so kind, you can't have presents..." That's the kind of thing a parent like this does. It's evil. But the kid accepts the explanation because he wants to accept it. The alternative is too awful. The audience, of course, sees right through it.

On the other hand, you might have decided to go with basic black-and-white strokes in order to get to the game more quickly. Fair enough.

Sure am glad the puppy didn't come while they were there. Poor puppy.
Posted by: James McClung, January 25th, 2016, 8:50pm; Reply: 17
The premise here is excellent. The execution, not as much, but not terrible by any means. After the payoff, I found myself more or less pleased.

Indeed, I think the family's meanness might be way over the top. I mean, why even set a plate for Thomas if they aren't going to give him any food? I think feeding him scraps or the less desirable foods would've been a better way to go that would've delivered the same effect.

Furthermore, while I can understand his brother's glee at his torment, I think his mom's didn't make sense. The thought crossed my mind that Thomas is eight years old and his mother still *delights* at torturing him (at least that's how I interpreted the first instance of cruelty involving the letter). Would've she have gotten burnt out doing so after eight years of being a parent? I mean, Thomas isn't dead; they must've been putting in some work to take care of him over the years.

Kyle can be mean all he wants. He's a familiar archetype, but ever relatable. I wonder, however, if the parents wouldn't be better off as annoyed or dismissive of Thomas rather than active perpetrators in Thomas' misery. That's one way to go about it anyway.

At the same time, it also crossed my mind that Thomas' mistreatment at the hands of his family might be intended as over-the-top ala Harry Potter or Matilda, but those works had more distinct characters and more interesting methods of mistreating the child in question. Here, the family's actions seem a lot more screenwriter-ly and transparent in the sense that their primary purpose is to instill contempt in the audience and therefore sympathy for Thomas. I think by further developing the characters, you would alleviate the obviousness of the situation AND add more color to the script at large.

I also think the climax feels rushed, which is a shame, given the quality of the payoff. I mean, only one round and the game literally forces the characters to finish. The plot is pretty much on autopilot at that point. I wonder if it wouldn't be better if the characters went through each round normally and then all transformed into their respective objects/animal at once. Of course, by the end, they would note how odd it is that each round corresponded with something on Thomas' list (as would the audience). Might give the ending away, but could also provide some nice tension/buildup to the finish.

Anyway, love the concept. Execution could use some finesse.
Posted by: wonkavite (Guest), January 26th, 2016, 11:29am; Reply: 18
Interesting take on the contest.  I liked the way this one wrapped up - I just feel that it needs to be streamlined.  IMO - there's too much banter back and forth.  Once one gets the gist that Thomas is psychologically abused by his family, you can go from there.  But if you do tighten it up, it could be fun.  

Here are a few generic notes.. not much, but I think they'd be helpful on a rewrite.  And FWIW - I think the concept behind this one is intriguing enough to go for that.  :)

P 1: No big, but I’d personally chop up the paragraph with the Kyle, Barb and Rick intro a bit.  It’ll make them stand out more.

P 1: They are in the middle of a game of Chutes and Ladders – too passive. Rephrase.
P 2: Oooo, Barb and Rick are toxic parents!  Seriously!
p. 3: Don’t you think (?)
Hmmm – just a thought… but as Thomas is trudging upstairs, maybe he’ll overhear Barb and Rick talking about him.  Just a bit of subtle exposition of how they justify their nastiness to their own son.
P 4: Hmmm – Dark Santa.  Ah -  a version of Krampus.  Kinda!

Posted by: stevie, January 26th, 2016, 9:39pm; Reply: 19
Hey this turned out pretty good!  Writing was precise with no real overlong descriptions.

My only gripe is the disgusting attitude of the parents and sibling to Thomas. Although, I guess as we are seeing it in the middle of his life, their behaviour would've begun when he was much younger and we are just seeing it in this cross section. If you can rewrite it a bit more in the face it may be better? I dunno. It seems too obvious and over the top as we know something nasty may happen to the parents inevitably.

Good job though.
Posted by: Dustin, January 27th, 2016, 4:13am; Reply: 20

As if in a desperate rush, he sprints out the door.

This line probably isn't needed. It's weird to run that fast when inside a house, even for a kid.


They are in the middle of a game of Snakes and Ladders,

Who honestly plays this past the age of 5? Even 5-year-olds think it's shit. There has to be some type of low IQ thing going on... because it is the most mind-numbing game ever devised. Word searches come a close second.

This is weird... like Disney weird. The poor little mute boy (Cinderella) can't get any xmas pressies (go to the ball) and must reside under the wing of his stronger older brother (the ugly sisters).


Thomas sits against a wall, bounces a tennis ball against
the opposite wall.

In his house? The noise would travel all over the house. How irritating. Unless he managed to do it in time, even music wouldn't help. No wonder nobody likes him.


He catches it in two hands, looks down at a smiley face
drawn on with marker, he flashes a smile back.

I feel sick. Ripped straight out of that Tom Hanks, Island film, where he draws a face on his ball sack and talks to it. His only friend. Aw. It would have been funny if it was his ball sack. Or maybe, less perverse, his kneecap. That'd be quite amusing too. Witht he kneecap he could have had two friends. One could be the mediator during arguments.


And let Thomas watch.

Mua ha ha ha ha ha

7 pages to get going. You could cut the santa part out completely and just have the game show up in the kid's stocking. He would think his parents got it. Using a Bad Santa only answers where the gift came from, it doesn't answer where the bad santa came from.


In a poof of red smoke and gold glitter, Rick vanishes, a
soft, fluffy teddy bear takes his place.

Yeah... well. That's me done.
Posted by: PrussianMosby, January 29th, 2016, 10:27am; Reply: 21
20 Questions  

Another good drama. You let me root for the boy from start to finish. Last act wasn't so clear in terms of why they think need to play on; although I like it the way it is.

Posted by: ChrisBodily, January 29th, 2016, 7:52pm; Reply: 22
Sounds like a cross between Cinderella, The Dursleys (Harry Potter), Matilda, and my own life, to some extent. I've been Thomas'd before, but perhaps not to this extent.

You made me hate Barb, Rick, and Kyle from the get-go, which is a good thing. Barb sort of reminds me of my grandmother (who raise[d/s] me) at her worst. (She has mellowed out with age, but she can still be a bit tough and controlling, even into my adult life.)

But enough about me, lol.  :P I liked the Dark Santa/Krampus, and I loved seeing the family get their comeuppance.

There were a few typos. Nothing too big.

Posted by: Abe from LA, January 30th, 2016, 10:46pm; Reply: 23
This story has a fairy tale quality that I normally don't care for. But in the end, it kind of works. I do think that the Leonard family was over-the-top cruel.  Abusive to point that it was hard to believe.  Definitely tone it down.  Pick your spots of abuse.  Maybe create a scene in which everybody, including Thomas is enjoying a nice dinner. But Thomas' plate if loaded with greens — broccoli, artichoke, squash. And Thomas doesn't get dessert until he eats every bit of his dinner.  Make it seem in a nasty way, that Thomas is at fault.
The family can eat dessert as Thomas struggles with his veggies.

I don't think Thomas' spirit is broken. Yet he's 8 and I wondered how long has he been subjected to senseless abuse.  What if he's adopted, a kid new to the family, who more likely would want to please his new parents? Or maybe he's a foster kid. Foster family abuse is not uncommon

How about a scene in Thomas' room, in which he practices reading aloud from a kindergarten book. I'd root for this kid even more,  if he's trying to beat the odds in his own way.

The Dark Santa didn't work for me.  Seemed out of place in this story

You do a good job of keeping Thomas pure of heart. I like the bit of foreshadowing on page 2, when Barb says to Thomas, "Speak and you shall get your wish." Nicely done.

I'm thinking that Thomas can speak, but might have a speech impediment. In this family, that's the open wound waiting to be picked at.

A pretty solid effort overall.  Again, I commend you for not taking a dark turn. I was going to suggest that his abusers be turned into things like a punching bag and trampoline, but nah, you got it right. Thomas is a good kid, I like him, and I appreciate how he gets his comeuppance, without going Chucky on everybody,
Posted by: IamGlenn, February 4th, 2016, 9:02am; Reply: 24
Thanks to everyone for reading and giving your views. I wrote this in a few hours over a couple of days. I'm happy enough with how it turned out. Obviously, now there are some things I'd change. This was intended to be over the top and I can see that turned some people off. If I choose to develop this idea, that's something I'll take a look at.

Canis, if you read this, the story seems to have rubbed you up the wrong way. That was not the intention. I, too, have experienced instances of mistreatment to children and although this was over the top, I was not poking fun at such matters. It was supposed to be more of a children's revenge story.

Thanks again for all the feedback.

Posted by: IamGlenn, March 2nd, 2017, 12:25pm; Reply: 25

Just dug this oldie up as it was filmed by a filmmaker that found it on here. This was written for an OWC a while back. Check it out if you wish. Cheers.
Posted by: Norman, September 15th, 2017, 2:07am; Reply: 26
Hi. I am an animation producer and came across this script. Is it still available - unproduced.
Posted by: Angry Bear, September 15th, 2017, 7:53am; Reply: 27
I believe this one has already been filmed once, but it might still be available. Just pm the writer Glenn Doyle/IamGlenn. He's the person who posted the last comment before you.  :)
Posted by: kyecooper4, February 17th, 2019, 6:29pm; Reply: 28
Really enjoyed this, if I had one suggestion, give him a voice at the end.
Posted by: IamGlenn, February 18th, 2019, 8:43am; Reply: 29
I always find it funny when a new comment appears on an old script.

Thanks for the read, and your thoughts. Appreciate it.
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