Common Mistakes Made by New Screenwriters

  1. 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.
  2. BEING TOO NICE TO THE HEROES
    I'm glad you love them. Now make them do something and suffer.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. D&D SCENE DESCRIPTION
    "This small bedroom has a twin bed, a bookshelf and a desk. There are two lamps, both lit."
  6. CHARACTERS WITH CONFUSINGLY SIMILAR NAMES
    Wait, was Lucy or Lisa the girl in the museum?
  7. 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.
  8. 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.