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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board  /  Series  /  The Dark Secret
Posted by: Don, January 9th, 2020, 7:37pm
The Dark Secret (Pilot) by Avion S. - Series, Horror - Josh Jonas is a simple man, with a dark secret, hes apart of a cult who has just been invited into stage 3 in which he has to kill people. 9 pages - pdf format

New writer interested in feedback on this work, please be nice :)
Posted by: PKCardinal, January 10th, 2020, 6:04pm; Reply: 1
New writer... awesome. Welcome to the cult --  I mean, club. Consider this Stage 1. :)

First of all, congrats on finishing a script.

There are elements to like here, but they get overshadowed by multiple issues. Fortunately, those issues are easy to solve. Let's start with a few of the basics.

Your formatting definitely gets in the way of the read. I won't go into details, mainly because there are quite a few. But, the easiest and most efficient way to address this issue is to buy the book: The Screenwriter's Bible by David Trottier. Read it cover to cover (or at least the first half) and apply everything you learn to this script before you move on to the next installment. If not that book, find a different one. But, you need to learn the formatting rules, or your story can never stand out as well as it could. I have that book sitting right next to me whenever I'm writing. I reference it regularly. Like, once a script regularly.

Next, eliminate all typos. You have quite a few. Those are self-inflicted errors that unnecessarily get in the way of the read.

That said, in the end, story is king. So, let's look at your story and how you're telling it.

I'd like to know how old Josh is. You call him a man in the logline, but he's going to school, lives with his mom, etc. Pin it down and let me know. I need to know what to picture.

Next, you've created this world where Josh is running through the steps for cult membership.

Josh goes from shoving someone into a locker, to robbing a store, to killing a man. In 9 pages. That's quite a distance. Personally, I think you run it too quickly. But, that's a style choice, and yours to make. But, here are a few thoughts to consider... or ignore.

1. It's a horrific setup. So, I'd suggest starting with a more horrific open. Right now we start on the quiet side of Josh's life. His morning routine. I see what you're going for... set us up with thinking this is a normal kid with normal kid problems, until... bam... hunting knife. And, I can see how that would work. But, I'm more a believer in opening on tone. It's a dark series... so, dark opening. At the very least, consider opening on the robbery.

2. Consider ending on the moment of Josh, with the knife, standing over the man. That's a cliffhanger right there: will he kill him, or not? Works especially well if you further establish the disconnect between Josh's very "normal" world and his cult world. Again, I understand what you're establishing with the intro of the stranger at the end, but this really looks like a setup of a black/white world. Good/evil, with Josh representing both. Nothing highlights that difference more than him deciding whether to kill for the first time. Plus, it gives you a great open for episode two. When he stabs the guy, what's his reaction? Is he repulsed? Does he smile? Is he conflicted? We can learn a lot about him in that moment.

3. As your story reads now, it's a series of events. This happens, then this happens, then this happens. There's no conflict. There are no obstacles. It leads to a thin feeling overall. Some advice I read on this is: "But, or therefore, never then." Right now, Josh gets suspended. Then he robs a store. Then he kills a man. Then he gets a strange call.

It should be: Josh gets suspended/grounded, THEREFORE, he has to find a way to complete the next step (BUT he's stuck at home)... he sneaks out, BUT, his sister catches him... THEREFORE, (he has to solve that problem) he lies. He tries to rob the store BUT (find a problem that he has to overcome) someone has a gun and tries to stop him, THEREFORE, he has to (solution) knock 'em out with a sausage...

Each time you use a therefore or a but, it's a complication, an obstacle to overcome. Your "hero" becomes more active. He makes more decisions, leading to more successes and complications. Maybe his lie to his sister comes back to haunt him. Maybe attacking the guy with the sausage moved him into a spot in the store where he's partially caught on camera.... etc.

Think in terms of complications, decisions/solutions and consequences. Erik Bork calls this "punch/counter-punch." Punch your lead. Make him punch back. Punch him again.

Anyway, there are much better note-givers on this site than me, so I'll leave it at that for now. You've created an interesting world.

I'd recommend a few rewrites on the first episode before moving to the second. After all, writing is rewriting. I'm assuming you have secondary plot lines in mind. Look for ways to layer those into this first episode. That should give it more depth.

First though, read that book. Once the formatting is cleaned up, it'll be easier for all of us to help you with story problems. (They may not seem related, but they really are.)

Best of luck. Hope you continue writing this. Screenwriting is great fun, and if you write a bunch, you get better very quickly. And, keep us updated on any rewrites. I'll be happy to give more notes. And, get more specific as you get it nailed down.

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