2016 Dialogue-Writing Challenge: Day 7

February 9th, 2016 by

Last year at this time, we did a month-long Dialogue-Writing Challenge. It was a big success with dozens of writers participating. We all learned quite a bit about this important aspect of the craft plus we had some fun in the process. So I’ve decided to bring it back!

Every Monday-Friday at noon Eastern / 9AM Pacific in February, I will upload a post with a prompt for writing dialogue. Each day, write a scene per those guidelines. If you really want to get in the spirit of things, upload your scene here in the comments section of the original post. That way you can critique others’ pages and receive feedback on your dialogue as well.

To provide extra motivation for this series — to get people to WRITE PAGES — I am giving away some of my Craft classes to Dialogue-Writing Challenge participants. That’s right: For free!

The Craft classes highlight key principles and practices tied to the nitty gritty of writing a script. Here is the Craft lineup, the only time I will teach each of these courses in 2016:

January 25: Craft: Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling

February 8: Craft: Story Summaries

February 22: Craft: Handling Exposition

March 7: Craft: Scene Description Spotlight

April 4: Craft: Character Development Keys

May 2: Craft: Create a Compelling Protagonist

May 16: Craft: Write a Worthy Nemesis

May 30: Craft: The Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling

Each is a 1-week online class featuring 7 lectures written by me, lots of screenwriting insider tips, logline workshops, optional writing exercises, 24/7 message board conversations, teleconferences with course participants and myself to discuss anything related to the craft of scriptwriting.

A popular option is the Craft Package which gives you access to the content in all eight Craft classes which you can go through on your own time and at your own pace, plus automatic enrollment in each 1-week online course. All for nearly 50% the price of each individual class. And special bonus content: 7 lectures on How to Introduce Characters so a script reader will immediately get a clear sense of who each character is… and be entertained in the process.

To qualify to take one of my Craft classes for free, write and submit ten [10] Dialogue-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers. The former to get you writing, the latter to work your critical-analytical skills.

A chance to take any of my eight Craft classes, interface with me online along with the usual stellar group of writers who take Screenwriting Master Class courses, while using writing exercises and feedback to upgrade your skill at writing and analyzing dialogue.

ISN’T THAT AN AWESOME IDEA?!!!

A couple of logistical notes:

* Limit your post to 2 pages. Out of fairness to everyone participating in the public dialogue-writing workshop, let’s not abuse anyone’s patience or time with really long scenes.

* Give your scenes a beginning, middle and end. You may enter late and exit early, but provide an arc to each of your posts. Even monologues or telephone conversations, both of which we will be doing this month.

* Don’t be concerned about proper script format when you copy/paste your pages, rather the content and execution are the important thing. So as a default mode, do this: (1) Don’t worry about right-hand margins on scene description or dialogue, just keep typing until it manually shifts each line. (2) Don’t worry about character name position, rather do this:

SCARLETT: Rhett, Rhett... Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?

RHETT: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Today’s prompt: Slang.

One character. Two. The focus of the scene is to write dialogue thick with jargon. It can be local lingo. Or generalized in nature. Value of the exercise: Slang can add a sense of authenticity to dialogue.

Focus on the dialogue, not the action to drive the scene. In most movies, it’s the other way around because movies are primarily a visual medium, however sometimes the script requires a dialogue-driven scene and we need to hone our chops at being able to do that effectively.

Write a 1-2 page dialogue-centric scene, then copy/paste in comments.

If you are interested in qualifying for 1 free Craft class with me, please note in each post you submit the number of scenes you have written. If today is your first effort, note that it is Scene 1. The next one, Scene 2. And so forth.

Also when you provide feedback on someone’s scene, please note in each reply the number of comments you have uploaded. So if today is your first response, Feedback 1. The next one, Feedback 2.

You are on an honor system, as I don’t have time to check every post, so do the right thing!

Remember: In order to qualify for one of my free Craft classes, you need to submit ten [10] Dialogue-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers.

FEEDBACK TIP: Send the writer to some online slang resources such as this, this, and this.

Want to join in? Here are the previous challenge prompts:

Day 1 challenge: A young child asks an adult, “Where do babies come from?”

Day 2 challenge: Write a monologue in which a character expresses regret for something in their past.

Day 3 challenge: A scene built around the line “Give me the God damn key.”

Day 4 challenge: A stoner conversation.

Day 5 challenge: Use voice-over narration with a flashback.

Day 6 challenge: Talking aloud to oneself.

It’s the 2016 Dialogue-Writing Challenge! Give a jolt to your creative and writing muscles… and win 1 free online class with yours truly.

NOTE: My Craft: Handling Exposition class starts Monday, February 22. If you have done all 10 exercises and provided 10 feedback posts by February 19, you are eligible to take that class for free. It’s an important class that dovetails directly into writing dialogue, so you can use that as some motivation!

Finally if you have a suggestion for a dialogue-writing prompt, please post in comments or email me.

To see all of the 2015 Dialogue Writing Exercise prompts, go here.

Guest Post: “A Free Imagination Has No Limits and No Budget Range”

February 8th, 2016 by

A guest post from screenwriter Tom Benedek (Cocoon) and Screenwriting Master Class co-founder:

A free imagination has no limits and no budget range.

In moviemaking, there are those who may tell you otherwise. I just read a wonderful script by a workshop student. The writer fine tuned his characters well and honed great emotional payoffs. There are also amazing set pieces. And creatures I have never seen before on film. I also know full well that this type of script doesn’t get adequate attention in the business these days because it is not based on source material with a track record.

So what? It’s a great writing sample.

It might be possible that this script would work on a smaller scale – costumed characters instead of CGI. Existing locations replacing fantastical sets.

Worth a try? A creative beheading? Maybe. Or maybe not.

Perhaps this would be a better movie if it were more like the first Mad Max and less like Harry Potter.

Hmmm. I know the emotional impacts of the character stories, the suspense, the humor would all still be there. I have my own big budget sci fi movie right now and I am trying to put it through similar paces.

I am going to bring it into my one-week Writing the Low Budget Script class that starts next Monday. It’s a great course for getting grounded in this mind set, experimenting with the joys of limitations that may boost your imagination.

For more information, go here.

2016 Dialogue-Writing Challenge: Day 6

February 8th, 2016 by

Last year at this time, we did a month-long Dialogue-Writing Challenge. It was a big success with dozens of writers participating. We all learned quite a bit about this important aspect of the craft plus we had some fun in the process. So I’ve decided to bring it back!

Every Monday-Friday at noon Eastern / 9AM Pacific in February, I will upload a post with a prompt for writing dialogue. Each day, write a scene per those guidelines. If you really want to get in the spirit of things, upload your scene here in the comments section of the original post. That way you can critique others’ pages and receive feedback on your dialogue as well.

To provide extra motivation for this series — to get people to WRITE PAGES — I am giving away some of my Craft classes to Dialogue-Writing Challenge participants. That’s right: For free!

The Craft classes highlight key principles and practices tied to the nitty gritty of writing a script. Here is the Craft lineup, the only time I will teach each of these courses in 2016:

January 25: Craft: Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling

February 8: Craft: Story Summaries

February 22: Craft: Handling Exposition

March 7: Craft: Scene Description Spotlight

April 4: Craft: Character Development Keys

May 2: Craft: Create a Compelling Protagonist

May 16: Craft: Write a Worthy Nemesis

May 30: Craft: The Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling

Each is a 1-week online class featuring 7 lectures written by me, lots of screenwriting insider tips, logline workshops, optional writing exercises, 24/7 message board conversations, teleconferences with course participants and myself to discuss anything related to the craft of scriptwriting.

A popular option is the Craft Package which gives you access to the content in all eight Craft classes which you can go through on your own time and at your own pace, plus automatic enrollment in each 1-week online course. All for nearly 50% the price of each individual class. And special bonus content: 7 lectures on How to Introduce Characters so a script reader will immediately get a clear sense of who each character is… and be entertained in the process.

To qualify to take one of my Craft classes for free, write and submit ten [10] Dialogue-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers. The former to get you writing, the latter to work your critical-analytical skills.

A chance to take any of my eight Craft classes, interface with me online along with the usual stellar group of writers who take Screenwriting Master Class courses, while using writing exercises and feedback to upgrade your skill at writing and analyzing dialogue.

ISN’T THAT AN AWESOME IDEA?!!!

A couple of logistical notes:

* Limit your post to 2 pages. Out of fairness to everyone participating in the public dialogue-writing workshop, let’s not abuse anyone’s patience or time with really long scenes.

* Give your scenes a beginning, middle and end. You may enter late and exit early, but provide an arc to each of your posts. Even monologues or telephone conversations, both of which we will be doing this month.

* Don’t be concerned about proper script format when you copy/paste your pages, rather the content and execution are the important thing. So as a default mode, do this: (1) Don’t worry about right-hand margins on scene description or dialogue, just keep typing until it manually shifts each line. (2) Don’t worry about character name position, rather do this:

SCARLETT: Rhett, Rhett... Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?

RHETT: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Today’s prompt: Talking aloud to oneself.

Could be a character who routinely talks to him/herself. Or perhaps a stressful situation or tough choice they’re sorting through. Maybe prepping something important to say to someone, a kind of rehearsal.

The trick is to make it come off as believable and not just some convenient way for the writer to get across exposition.

Focus on the dialogue, not the action to drive the scene. In most movies, it’s the other way around because movies are primarily a visual medium, however sometimes the script requires a dialogue-driven scene and we need to hone our chops at being able to do that effectively.

Write a 1-2 page dialogue-centric scene, then copy/paste in comments.

If you are interested in qualifying for 1 free Craft class with me, please note in each post you submit the number of scenes you have written. If today is your first effort, note that it is Scene 1. The next one, Scene 2. And so forth.

Also when you provide feedback on someone’s scene, please note in each reply the number of comments you have uploaded. So if today is your first response, Feedback 1. The next one, Feedback 2.

You are on an honor system, as I don’t have time to check every post, so do the right thing!

Remember: In order to qualify for one of my free Craft classes, you need to submit ten [10] Dialogue-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers.

FEEDBACK TIP: If the dialogue feels forced or artificial, see if you can come up with an angle to help the language come across as more authentic, how a real person talks aloud to him/herself.

Want to join in? Here are the previous challenge prompts:

Day 1 challenge: A young child asks an adult, “Where do babies come from?”

Day 2 challenge: Write a monologue in which a character expresses regret for something in their past.

Day 3 challenge: A scene built around the line “Give me the God damn key.”

Day 4 challenge: A stoner conversation.

Day 5 challenge: Use voice-over narration with a flashback.

It’s the 2016 Dialogue-Writing Challenge! Give a jolt to your creative and writing muscles… and win 1 free online class with yours truly.

NOTE: My Craft: Handling Exposition class starts Monday, February 22. If you have done all 10 exercises and provided 10 feedback posts by February 19, you are eligible to take that class for free. It’s an important class that dovetails directly into writing dialogue, so you can use that as some motivation!

Finally if you have a suggestion for a dialogue-writing prompt, please post in comments or email me.

To see all of the 2015 Dialogue Writing Exercise prompts, go here.

John August: “Common Mistakes Made By New Screenwriters”

February 7th, 2016 by

A list from screenwriter John August:

  • STARTING WITH A CONCEPT RATHER THAN A CHARACTER
    We don’t want a movie about a lost relic. We want a movie about Indiana Jones.

  • BEING TOO NICE TO THE HEROES
    I’m glad you love them. Now make them do something and suffer.

  • TRYING TO ADAPT THEIR FAVORITE BOOK
    It will only end in tears, because the thing that makes the book so great is probably not what would make a great movie. Adaptation is more like transmutation. It’s arcane narrative distillery and not a great first way to begin your screenwriting journey.

  • STOCK SCENES
    Hitting the alarm clock. Complicated Starbucks order. Harried mom making breakfast. Parents at the principal’s office. Guys watching football game. You may think a stock scene will help shorthand the hero or world, but it just makes us stop paying attention. Unless you’re presenting a parody/inversion of a stock scene, do anything else.

  • D&D SCENE DESCRIPTION
    “This small bedroom has a twin bed, a bookshelf and a desk. There are two lamps, both lit.”

  • CHARACTERS WITH CONFUSINGLY SIMILAR NAMES
    Wait, was Lucy or Lisa the girl in the museum?

  • SHOE LEATHER
    You rarely need to walk characters into and out of a scene. Most scenes can just be the heart of the idea and done. No doors, no hellos, no goodbyes.

  • STARTING OFF IN FINAL DRAFT
    If you were writing a song, you wouldn’t sit down with Finale and start dragging in notes. You would use a guitar or piano and start figuring out a melody. You would futz around until you had something you thought was good, and then finally jot it down. You wouldn’t make tidy sheet music until you were ready to show it to someone. Scenes are songs. They shouldn’t be made pretty until they are good.

Any of these ring a bell for you?

Via The List App.

2016 Dialogue-Writing Challenge: Week 1

February 6th, 2016 by

Here are all of Week 1’s prompts for this year’s Dialogue-Writing Challenge:

Day 1 challenge: A young child asks an adult, “Where do babies come from?”

Day 2 challenge: Write a monologue in which a character expresses regret for something in their past.

Day 3 challenge: A scene built around the line “Give me the God damn key.”

Day 4 challenge: A stoner conversation.

Day 5 challenge: Use voice-over narration with a flashback.

For background on the Challenge and to learn how you can win a free one-week online Craft class with me, go here.

Beyond Words: Celebrating 2015’s WGA-Nominated Screenwriters

February 6th, 2016 by

The Black List’s Kate Hagen (@thathagengrrl) attended the recent Beyond Words 2016 event sponsored by the Writers’ Guild of America, West, the Writers Guild Foundation, and Variety.

As awards season continues chugging along, the WGA-W, the Writer’s Guild Foundation, and Variety gathered together to celebrate 2015’s WGA-Award nominated screenwriters.

Andrea Berloff and Jonathan Herman (STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON), Aaron Sorkin (JOBS), John McNamara (TRUMBO), Charles Randolph and Adam McKay (THE BIG SHORT), Matt Charman (BRIDGE OF SPIES), Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy (SPOTLIGHT) and Drew Goddard (THE MARTIAN) took the stage at the WGA Theater to discuss their creative processes, what scenes they had to cut from their scripts, and how to approach script structure when dealing with real-life characters.

Photo credit: Variety

Even with original screenplay nominees Taylor Sheridan (SICARIO) and Amy Schumer (TRAINWRECK) unable to attend, the stage was packed as John August (this year’s recipient of the Valentine Davies Award) joined the 11 writers on stage to moderate. August told the audience we’d being seeing a lot of lightning round questions to keep the conversation moving.

August first asked the writers: How long was the production process of the film from initial conception to theatrical release?

THE MARTIAN: Three years

SPOTLIGHT: Four years

BRIDGE OF SPIES: Three years (11 months from pitch to production, an incredibly fast turnaround time)

CAROL: “Eighteen effing years,” as Nagy put it.

THE BIG SHORT: Five years

TRUMBO: Eight years

JOBS: Three years

STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON: Five years

Ah, the long, lonely life of a writer. Since all of the nominated scripts besides CAROL and THE MARTIAN were based on real people, August then asked the panel about how they approached integrating real life into their work. For Berloff and Herman, having access to Ice Cube and Dr. Dre from day one was hugely beneficial in shaping COMPTON, as they were able to draw on interviews and transcripts to make the film feel authentic. Sorkin told the crowd that meeting Jobs’s eldest daughter, Lisa, and John Sculley helped him find the emotional through line of the story, despite Jobs’s death three weeks prior to Sorkin’s start on the script. McNamara and Charman echoed Sorkin’s statements, saying that meeting Dalton Trumbo’s daughter and James Donovan’s son, respectively, allowed them to shape TRUMBO and BRIDGE OF SPIES.

For the writers of THE BIG SHORT, it was a split decision on meeting their real-life inspirations: Randolph “didn’t want [those people] in my head” while writing, but McKay had to meet the actual folks to help his work as director. McCarthy and Singer also relied heavily on research for SPOTLIGHT, spending six months interviewing anyone and everyone to help construct their story about the Catholic Church’s abuse of power in Boston. Both SPOTLIGHT writers praised the journalists who are the film’s core for their collaborative efforts, and their help in shaping scenes up until filming began.

Since their scripts were not based on real people, both Nagy and Goddard were thankful for the freedom that their fictional source material offered. For Nagy, who kept only the basic characters and ending from Patricia Highsmith’s novel THE PRICE OF SALT, having the freedom to craft Carol and Therese’s story totally on her own was invaluable. Likewise, Goddard, who has a long resume of TV credits, said that not having to rely on expository dialogue, as is often the case in TV, allowed him to craft his characters based only on their actions in the film.

For the rest of Kate’s take on the event, go here.

2016 Dialogue-Writing Challenge: Day 5

February 5th, 2016 by

Last year at this time, we did a month-long Dialogue-Writing Challenge. It was a big success with dozens of writers participating. We all learned quite a bit about this important aspect of the craft plus we had some fun in the process. So I’ve decided to bring it back!

Every Monday-Friday at noon Eastern / 9AM Pacific in February, I will upload a post with a prompt for writing dialogue. Each day, write a scene per those guidelines. If you really want to get in the spirit of things, upload your scene here in the comments section of the original post. That way you can critique others’ pages and receive feedback on your dialogue as well.

To provide extra motivation for this series — to get people to WRITE PAGES — I am giving away some of my Craft classes to Dialogue-Writing Challenge participants. That’s right: For free!

The Craft classes highlight key principles and practices tied to the nitty gritty of writing a script. Here is the Craft lineup, the only time I will teach each of these courses in 2016:

January 25: Craft: Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling

February 8: Craft: Story Summaries

February 22: Craft: Handling Exposition

March 7: Craft: Scene Description Spotlight

April 4: Craft: Character Development Keys

May 2: Craft: Create a Compelling Protagonist

May 16: Craft: Write a Worthy Nemesis

May 30: Craft: The Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling

Each is a 1-week online class featuring 7 lectures written by me, lots of screenwriting insider tips, logline workshops, optional writing exercises, 24/7 message board conversations, teleconferences with course participants and myself to discuss anything related to the craft of scriptwriting.

A popular option is the Craft Package which gives you access to the content in all eight Craft classes which you can go through on your own time and at your own pace, plus automatic enrollment in each 1-week online course. All for nearly 50% the price of each individual class. And special bonus content: 7 lectures on How to Introduce Characters so a script reader will immediately get a clear sense of who each character is… and be entertained in the process.

To qualify to take one of my Craft classes for free, write and submit ten [10] Dialogue-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers. The former to get you writing, the latter to work your critical-analytical skills.

A chance to take any of my eight Craft classes, interface with me online along with the usual stellar group of writers who take Screenwriting Master Class courses, while using writing exercises and feedback to upgrade your skill at writing and analyzing dialogue.

ISN’T THAT AN AWESOME IDEA?!!!

A couple of logistical notes:

* Limit your post to 2 pages. Out of fairness to everyone participating in the public dialogue-writing workshop, let’s not abuse anyone’s patience or time with really long scenes.

* Give your scenes a beginning, middle and end. You may enter late and exit early, but provide an arc to each of your posts. Even monologues or telephone conversations, both of which we will be doing this month.

* Don’t be concerned about proper script format when you copy/paste your pages, rather the content and execution are the important thing. So as a default mode, do this: (1) Don’t worry about right-hand margins on scene description or dialogue, just keep typing until it manually shifts each line. (2) Don’t worry about character name position, rather do this:

SCARLETT: Rhett, Rhett... Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?

RHETT: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Today’s prompt: Use voice-over narration with a flashback.

That’s  right, we are going against two supposed screenwriting ‘rules’: Don’t use either because they represent ‘weak writing’. Tell that to Eric Roth who wrote Forrest Gump or Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler who wrote Double Indemnity. Here is your chance to beat down this narrow-minded thinking.

Apart from selecting an entertaining scene, here’s one big key to help make this work: Don’t use the V.O. to describe what we can see happening. Rather use the voice-over to go deeper into the emotional experience and meaning of the moment. The flashback itself should convey the event through visuals. Use the V.O. to tell us something we can’t know from the actions on screen.

Focus on the dialogue, not the action to drive the scene. In most movies, it’s the other way around because movies are primarily a visual medium, however sometimes the script requires a dialogue-driven scene and we need to hone our chops at being able to do that effectively.

Write a 1-2 page dialogue-centric scene, then copy/paste in comments.

If you are interested in qualifying for 1 free Craft class with me, please note in each post you submit the number of scenes you have written. If today is your first effort, note that it is Scene 1. The next one, Scene 2. And so forth.

Also when you provide feedback on someone’s scene, please note in each reply the number of comments you have uploaded. So if today is your first response, Feedback 1. The next one, Feedback 2.

You are on an honor system, as I don’t have time to check every post, so do the right thing!

Remember: In order to qualify for one of my free Craft classes, you need to submit ten [10] Dialogue-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers.

FEEDBACK TIP: Sometimes a change in the mood of the character using voice-over narration can elevate the scene. Frantic. Calm. Sarcastic. Hopeless. Excited. Provide a version of one side of their dialogue with an alternate emotion-state on the part of the speaker.

Want to join in? Here are the previous challenge prompts:

Day 1 challenge: A young child asks an adult, “Where do babies come from?”

Day 2 challenge: Write a monologue in which a character expresses regret for something in their past.

Day 3 challenge: A scene built around the line “Give me the God damn key.”

Day 4 challenge: A stoner conversation.

It’s the 2016 Dialogue-Writing Challenge! Give a jolt to your creative and writing muscles… and win 1 free online class with yours truly.

NOTE: My Craft: Handling Exposition class starts Monday, February 22. If you have done all 10 exercises and provided 10 feedback posts by February 19, you are eligible to take that class for free. It’s an important class that dovetails directly into writing dialogue, so you can use that as some motivation!

Finally if you have a suggestion for a dialogue-writing prompt, please post in comments or email me.

To see all of the 2015 Dialogue Writing Exercise prompts, go here.

2016 Dialogue-Writing Challenge: Day 4

February 4th, 2016 by

Last year at this time, we did a month-long Dialogue-Writing Challenge. It was a big success with dozens of writers participating. We all learned quite a bit about this important aspect of the craft plus we had some fun in the process. So I’ve decided to bring it back!

Every Monday-Friday at noon Eastern / 9AM Pacific in February, I will upload a post with a prompt for writing dialogue. Each day, write a scene per those guidelines. If you really want to get in the spirit of things, upload your scene here in the comments section of the original post. That way you can critique others’ pages and receive feedback on your dialogue as well.

To provide extra motivation for this series — to get people to WRITE PAGES — I am giving away some of my Craft classes to Dialogue-Writing Challenge participants. That’s right: For free!

The Craft classes highlight key principles and practices tied to the nitty gritty of writing a script. Here is the Craft lineup, the only time I will teach each of these courses in 2016:

January 25: Craft: Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling

February 8: Craft: Story Summaries

February 22: Craft: Handling Exposition

March 7: Craft: Scene Description Spotlight

April 4: Craft: Character Development Keys

May 2: Craft: Create a Compelling Protagonist

May 16: Craft: Write a Worthy Nemesis

May 30: Craft: The Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling

Each is a 1-week online class featuring 7 lectures written by me, lots of screenwriting insider tips, logline workshops, optional writing exercises, 24/7 message board conversations, teleconferences with course participants and myself to discuss anything related to the craft of scriptwriting.

A popular option is the Craft Package which gives you access to the content in all eight Craft classes which you can go through on your own time and at your own pace, plus automatic enrollment in each 1-week online course. All for nearly 50% the price of each individual class. And special bonus content: 7 lectures on How to Introduce Characters so a script reader will immediately get a clear sense of who each character is… and be entertained in the process.

To qualify to take one of my Craft classes for free, write and submit ten [10] Dialogue-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers. The former to get you writing, the latter to work your critical-analytical skills.

A chance to take any of my eight Craft classes, interface with me online along with the usual stellar group of writers who take Screenwriting Master Class courses, while using writing exercises and feedback to upgrade your skill at writing and analyzing dialogue.

ISN’T THAT AN AWESOME IDEA?!!!

A couple of logistical notes:

* Limit your post to 2 pages. Out of fairness to everyone participating in the public dialogue-writing workshop, let’s not abuse anyone’s patience or time with really long scenes.

* Give your scenes a beginning, middle and end. You may enter late and exit early, but provide an arc to each of your posts. Even monologues or telephone conversations, both of which we will be doing this month.

* Don’t be concerned about proper script format when you copy/paste your pages, rather the content and execution are the important thing. So as a default mode, do this: (1) Don’t worry about right-hand margins on scene description or dialogue, just keep typing until it manually shifts each line. (2) Don’t worry about character name position, rather do this:

SCARLETT: Rhett, Rhett... Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?

RHETT: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Today’s prompt: A stoner conversation.

A party. A date. Just chillin’. Two, three, four people. Reflective. Uproarious. Your choice. But here’s the deal: You’re going to have to nail some stoner jargon to give the scene a sense of authenticity. Need some help on that front? Check out Ganjapreneur.

Focus on the dialogue, not the action to drive the scene. In most movies, it’s the other way around because movies are primarily a visual medium, however sometimes the script requires a dialogue-driven scene and we need to hone our chops at being able to do that effectively.

Write a 1-2 page dialogue-centric scene, then copy/paste in comments.

If you are interested in qualifying for 1 free Craft class with me, please note in each post you submit the number of scenes you have written. If today is your first effort, note that it is Scene 1. The next one, Scene 2. And so forth.

Also when you provide feedback on someone’s scene, please note in each reply the number of comments you have uploaded. So if today is your first response, Feedback 1. The next one, Feedback 2.

You are on an honor system, as I don’t have time to check every post, so do the right thing!

Remember: In order to qualify for one of my free Craft classes, you need to submit ten [10] Dialogue-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers.

FEEDBACK TIP: Maybe you’re hip to stoner jargon like sticky icky or fatty. How about you provide a few sayings to help out the writer whose scene you review?

Want to join in? Here are the previous challenge prompts:

Day 1 challenge: A young child asks an adult, “Where do babies come from?”

Day 2 challenge: Write a monologue in which a character expresses regret for something in their past.

Day 3 challenge: A scene built around the line “Give me the God damn key.”

It’s the 2016 Dialogue-Writing Challenge! Give a jolt to your creative and writing muscles… and win 1 free online class with yours truly.

NOTE: My Craft: Handling Exposition class starts Monday, February 22. If you have done all 10 exercises and provided 10 feedback posts by February 19, you are eligible to take that class for free. It’s an important class that dovetails directly into writing dialogue, so you can use that as some motivation!

Finally if you have a suggestion for a dialogue-writing prompt, please post in comments or email me.

To see all of the 2015 Dialogue Writing Exercise prompts, go here.

Explore Your Characters Through Dramatic Contrast

February 3rd, 2016 by

A guest post from Tom Benedek, screenwriter (Cocoon) and co-founder of Screenwriting Master Class:

In screenwriting and TV writing, conflict is always being brought up as an essential. It helps to look at scenes and ask where and what the conflict in the scene might be.

A teacher I studied with, Joan Scheckel, emphasizes the focus on contrast instead of conflict.

In TV, contrast between characters functions as a nuanced, ongoing exploration of character. How one character reacts to another over time in numerous situations may drive plot or just stand on its own as character story.

In feature films, there may not seem to be enough to stop and just explore how various characters contrast with each other. The best feature scripts do this systematically.

We understand the characters and delight at watching the react to each other in expected and unexpected ways.

The explosion in TV viewing will only make this more important in feature writing.

Just remember: Dramatic tension doesn’t always mean conflict. Try to think about scenes in terms of character contrast instead of conflict and see what happens to the actions in that scene.

Doing some TV writing can be a great help for future feature writing. Family of Characters. Story Engine. Internal Dissonance. Dramatic Contrast. These are concepts worth exploring for all writers.

Consider joining me in PAGES TV: WRITING THE ORIGINAL PILOT SCRIPT.

Tom’s class begins Monday, February 8. For more information, go here.

2016 Dialogue-Writing Challenge: Day 3

February 3rd, 2016 by

Last year at this time, we did a month-long Dialogue-Writing Challenge. It was a big success with dozens of writers participating. We all learned quite a bit about this important aspect of the craft plus we had some fun in the process. So I’ve decided to bring it back!

Every Monday-Friday at noon Eastern / 9AM Pacific in February, I will upload a post with a prompt for writing dialogue. Each day, write a scene per those guidelines. If you really want to get in the spirit of things, upload your scene here in the comments section of the original post. That way you can critique others’ pages and receive feedback on your dialogue as well.

To provide extra motivation for this series — to get people to WRITE PAGES — I am giving away some of my Craft classes to Dialogue-Writing Challenge participants. That’s right: For free!

The Craft classes highlight key principles and practices tied to the nitty gritty of writing a script. Here is the Craft lineup, the only time I will teach each of these courses in 2016:

January 25: Craft: Pixar and the Craft of Storytelling

February 8: Craft: Story Summaries

February 22: Craft: Handling Exposition

March 7: Craft: Scene Description Spotlight

April 4: Craft: Character Development Keys

May 2: Craft: Create a Compelling Protagonist

May 16: Craft: Write a Worthy Nemesis

May 30: Craft: The Coen Brothers and the Craft of Storytelling

Each is a 1-week online class featuring 7 lectures written by me, lots of screenwriting insider tips, logline workshops, optional writing exercises, 24/7 message board conversations, teleconferences with course participants and myself to discuss anything related to the craft of scriptwriting.

A popular option is the Craft Package which gives you access to the content in all eight Craft classes which you can go through on your own time and at your own pace, plus automatic enrollment in each 1-week online course. All for nearly 50% the price of each individual class. And special bonus content: 7 lectures on How to Introduce Characters so a script reader will immediately get a clear sense of who each character is… and be entertained in the process.

To qualify to take one of my Craft classes for free, write and submit ten [10] Dialogue-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers. The former to get you writing, the latter to work your critical-analytical skills.

A chance to take any of my eight Craft classes, interface with me online along with the usual stellar group of writers who take Screenwriting Master Class courses, while using writing exercises and feedback to upgrade your skill at writing and analyzing dialogue.

ISN’T THAT AN AWESOME IDEA?!!!

A couple of logistical notes:

* Limit your post to 2 pages. Out of fairness to everyone participating in the public dialogue-writing workshop, let’s not abuse anyone’s patience or time with really long scenes.

* Give your scenes a beginning, middle and end. You may enter late and exit early, but provide an arc to each of your posts. Even monologues or telephone conversations, both of which we will be doing this month.

* Don’t be concerned about proper script format when you copy/paste your pages, rather the content and execution are the important thing. So as a default mode, do this: (1) Don’t worry about right-hand margins on scene description or dialogue, just keep typing until it manually shifts each line. (2) Don’t worry about character name position, rather do this:

SCARLETT: Rhett, Rhett... Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?

RHETT: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

Today’s prompt: A scene built around the line “Give me the God damn key.”

Why this key? Key to what? Why the heightened emotion? Who’s holding the key? Who wants the key? Drama? Thriller? Comedy? A lot of ways you can go with this.

Focus on the dialogue, not the action to drive the scene. In most movies, it’s the other way around because movies are primarily a visual medium, however sometimes the script requires a dialogue-driven scene and we need to hone our chops at being able to do that effectively.

Write a 1-2 page dialogue-centric scene, then copy/paste in comments.

If you are interested in qualifying for 1 free Craft class with me, please note in each post you submit the number of scenes you have written. If today is your first effort, note that it is Scene 1. The next one, Scene 2. And so forth.

Also when you provide feedback on someone’s scene, please note in each reply the number of comments you have uploaded. So if today is your first response, Feedback 1. The next one, Feedback 2.

You are on an honor system, as I don’t have time to check every post, so do the right thing!

Remember: In order to qualify for one of my free Craft classes, you need to submit ten [10] Dialogue-Writing Challenge posts, then provide feedback on ten [10] posts from other writers.

FEEDBACK TIP: Is there something you can suggest in the way of the scene’s setting which can enliven the moment?

Want to join in? Here are the previous challenge prompts:

Day 1 challenge: A young child asks an adult, “Where do babies come from?”

Day 2 challenge: Write a monologue in which a character expresses regret for something in their past.

It’s the 2016 Dialogue-Writing Challenge! Give a jolt to your creative and writing muscles… and win 1 free online class with yours truly.

NOTE: My Craft: Handling Exposition class starts Monday, February 22. If you have done all 10 exercises and provided 10 feedback posts by February 19, you are eligible to take that class for free. It’s an important class that dovetails directly into writing dialogue, so you can use that as some motivation!

Finally if you have a suggestion for a dialogue-writing prompt, please post in comments or email me.

To see all of the 2015 Dialogue Writing Exercise prompts, go here.