Thursday, June 10, 2010


These deadlines have taken me totally out of the loop...

Here's a great posting though from another writer (& even better a screenwriting teacher). Hopefully I am writing a page turner, sadly enough don't even have time to finish reading the article! I'll post Part 2 tomorrow...

"Writing Page-Turners, Part 1
by Hal Croasmun

Scripts that are labeled "a page-turner" almost always have more success. They move up in contests, get more recommendations, and quickly gain a reputation in Hollywood.

A real "page-turner" causes the reader to wonder what will happen next. Each page is somehow connected to the future. In fact, each page creates a possible future.

It has us live the present and worry about the future.

Every scene should send a person into the future of the script or at least to the end of the scene. You may have heard this saying;

"In a script, it's not what's happening now, it's what's happening NEXT that matters."

You need to cause readers to worry, wonder, anticipate, and fret over what will happen next in your script. And, believe me, any script worth producing is going to be full of page-turner techniques.

EXAMPLE from the movie OUT OF SIGHT:

As you read this scene, watch how Scott Frank, the writer works to propel our minds into the future of the scene and the entire story.

George Clooney plays "Foley" and Jennifer Lopez plays "Karen." Karen has just pulled her car into the prison parking lot to serve court papers on a prisoner. Unknown to her, an escape is in progress and Foley is the one who engineered it.

Pay close attention to my NOTES as you read this scene. You'll see that there are many times when we are propelled into the future of the script.


As Karen grabs the court papers off the seat, opens her car
door, glances at the fence and pauses as she sees A FIGURE
there, crouching down.

Karen turns on her headlights. No, not crouched. The guy is
coming out of the ground. On this side of the fence.

NOTE: A guy coming up out of the ground is an striking visual. Especially in front of a prison. Obviously, this opens a series of questions.

It also means there's going to be a chase scene and possibly, someone is going to get caught or killed.

Head and shoulders appear and another guy comes out of the
ground. Right in front of her.

Karen leans on the horn, holds it down and sees the two guys by
the fence -- Chino and Lulu -- look into her headlights, poised
there for a moment before taking off into the dark. Karen gets
out of the car...

NOTE: Karen using the horn to warn prison guards instantly causes anticipation. Now, we know that the guards will at least suspect that something is happening and will move into action.

Her getting out of the car puts her in danger. Once again, a possible future is created and we're worried.


As Buddy watches a spotlight from the tower come on and
follow the two cons as we then hear the sound of RIFLE
REPORTS before the men disappear into the dark.

Then Buddy sees Karen in his headlights, whistles softly as he
gets a good look at her long legs as she raises the lid to her


What's she doing?

NOTE: If you weren't already wondering what she's doing, Buddy's dialogue will make sure you do. It's a simple hook. The rifle reports also creates interest, making us wonder if someone got shot.

He watches her duck her head in the trunk and come out with a
holstered pistol.



But then she throws the pistol in the trunk, ducks in there
again and comes out this time racking a shotgun.



NOTE: We know from earlier scenes that Karen is a U.S. Marshal. So her emerging with a shotgun means Foley is in danger. Suspense and worry about the future. But there's also the pistol she just threw in the trunk. What part will that play?

Keep noticing how every action creates a possible future. This is well written.

And now Buddy watches her hurry to the front of her car and
raise the shotgun as we hear A WHISTLE BLOW IN THE
COMPOUND. Buddy gets out of the car...


As Karen puts the shotgun on two more cons, both filthy dirty,
standing by the hole they just crawled out of.


Get your hands in the air!

Buddy watches the two cons, both Latins, make up their minds,
start edging away -- shit, they've come this far.

NOTE: So Karen is facing down these two cons who have little to lose. Will they respect her "authority?" Is she in danger?

They look out at the spotlight sweeping around in the dark,
then look the other way, along the fence towards the main gate,
to see armed hacks coming out on the run, and that decides it
for the cons. They take off running...

Now Buddy watches as Karen puts her pump gun on them, but
doesn't fire...

NOTE: Of course, we're wondering what will happen to the two cons. But also, why didn't she fire? This creates uncertainty about whether she is really a threat.

The hacks running from the gate with rifles beat her to it,
open up all at once and keep firing until the two convicts are
cut down as they run.

NOTE: Now we know the possible fate that could come to Foley. Intensifying our need to find out what will happen to him.

The hacks glance at Karen, but don't bother with her, more
interested in the hole the convicts had come out of. Now they're
standing by it peering in, edging closer with their weapons
ready, then they all step back at once, bump into each other

A head appears wearing a guard's baseball cap, the guy now
saying something to the guards, his face smeared with muck,
excited, pointing towards the orange grove.

NOTE: What's he pointing toward? Are there escaped convicts in the orange grove.

They run off, pausing briefly to kick the convicts they shot to
see if they're alive, then keep going.

The man in the hole, Foley, climbs out. He takes his time,
puts on a show, standing with his hands on his hips like an
honest-to-God hack, that serious cap down on his eyes.

Buddy waves to Foley to come on and Karen turns and puts the
shotgun on Buddy. Buddy raises the palm of his hand.


It's okay, honey, we're good guys.

NOTE: Since we know Foley is a con, we're wondering if the prison guards will catch on. And now that he is confronting Karen, will she shoot? We also know that Buddy is there to break Foley out. So that creates a question about whether Karen will buy their scam or not.


What're you doing here?

Not so much asking, but putting it to him the way cops do when
they're already pretty sure what you're doing. She glances
around to include Foley, now coming at her like some creature
out of the swamp, giving Buddy time to take her around the neck.

She fights him, jabs him in the gut with the butt end of the
shotgun before Foley wrenches it from her grip.

They drag her to the rear end of her car, the trunk lid still
up, and crouch there as some hacks come running along the fence,
past the dark gun tower and cross the road towards the orange
grove. A moment later, they hear bursts of gunfire, then silence.


I bet that's all the hacks they send
out. Otherwise nobody's left to mind
the store.

NOTE: There's now the hope that they may get away with it and the fear that Karen will get hurt. Also, did another con just get shot? There's clearly danger all around, but these guys are having calm conversation which creates even more interest. Are they so good that this situation isn't stressful or are they so unaware that they don't understand the danger?


Why don't we talk about it later?

He turns to see Foley and Karen staring at each other in the
headlights from Buddy's car; Karen not at all afraid.


Why you're just a girl. What do you
do for a living you pack a shotgun?


I'm a federal marshal and you're under
arrest, both of you guys.

NOTE: Of course, every moment here, we're wondering about Foley's fate. Will he get away or die like the others? But now Karen is trying to arrest them through sheer will and courage. Here, she appears to be a force in their way. What will they do? Also, we've seen a small amount of violence toward her when they took the gun. Will that continue and/or end in her death?

Foley keeps staring at her like he's giving the situation serious
thought, but what he says is...


I bet I smell, don't I?
Listen, you hop in the trunk and we'll
get out of here.

Karen looks at him, then gets up, climbs into the trunk. She's
reaching around, trying to find her pistol, when...

Foley gives her a shove and gets in with her, wedging her against
the wall of the trunk, pressing against her back like they're
cuddled up in bed.

NOTE: Okay, she's got the gun and Foley is in there with her. Both are in danger. There's many questions created here that take us into the future. Will she shoot him? Will he take the gun from her? Will the two cons harm her? The last phrase "cuddled up in bed" is a hook that makes us wonder if something sexual will come from this.

So far, we've seen at least 10 ways the writer Scott Frank creates a future with this action scene. In the conclusion of the scene, we'll see even more. But that will have to wait until Part 2."

1 comment:

  1. Hey Nzingha, do you have a writer's assistant or are you seeking one?