The Conflict Episode

Scriptnotes: Ep. 179

Craig and John discuss conflict — why it’s bad in real life but essential in screenwriting. We define six forms of conflict common in movies, then look at ways to sustain conflict within a scene and throughout a story.

We also look briefly at Whiplash, both the conflict between its two main characters and the controversy over whether it should be considered an original or an adapted screenplay.

If you can spare the ten seconds it takes, leaving us a rating on iTunes is a great way to help others find Scriptnotes. Thanks!


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 1-15-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Weekend Read, for your consideration

weekend read iconWeekend Read, our app for reading screenplays on the iPhone, now features scripts from 21 of this year’s award contenders.

  • A Most Violent Year
  • Belle
  • Big Eyes
  • Birdman
  • Boxtrolls
  • Boyhood
  • Calvary
  • Dear White People
  • The Fault in Our Stars
  • Foxcatcher
  • The Gambler
  • Get On Up
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Into the Woods
  • Kill the Messenger
  • Locke
  • Love Is Strange
  • St. Vincent (de Van Nuys)
  • Still Alice
  • Unbroken
  • Whiplash

Weekend Read doesn’t host any of these files; we’re always linking to the official PDFs hosted on studio websites. In most cases, those scripts work great, but there are exceptions.

This year, the troublesome scripts are Gone Girl, The Imitation Game and Theory of Everything. Weekend Read 1.0.8 — in review now at Apple — handles these screenplays fine. It should be out later this week.

Weekend Read is free, with a paid upgrade option to increase your library storage.

Doing, not thinking

Scriptnotes: Ep. 178

John and Craig start the new year by discussing Chuck Palahniuk’s advice to avoid thinking verbs. Then it’s a new round of the Three Page Challenge.

We also do follow-up on the Sony hack.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 1-8-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Don’t use “thought” verbs

I love Chuck Palahniuk’s advice to writers:

From this point forward – at least for the next half year – you may not use “thought” verbs. These include: Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use.

Palahniuk argues that every time you use one of these verbs, you’re robbing yourself of the chance to describe something fully — to show rather than tell.

For example: Waiting for the bus, Mark started to worry about how long the trip would take..”

A better break-down might be: “The schedule said the bus would come by at noon, but Mark’s watch said it was already 11:57. You could see all the way down the road, as far as the Mall, and not see a bus. No doubt, the driver was parked at the turn-around, the far end of the line, taking a nap. The driver was kicked back, asleep, and Mark was going to be late. Or worse, the driver was drinking, and he’d pull up drunk and charge Mark seventy-five cents for death in a fiery traffic accident…”

In screenwriting, we’re already forced to do a lot of this self-restriction, since we can’t directly state characters’ inner lives. And Palahniuk’s absolutism isn’t always suited for screenplays; there will be times when a parenthetical (realizing) is exactly what you need.

Still: it’s great advice.

Cutting Pages and Fixing Holes

Scriptnotes: Ep. 177

It’s a clip show! John and Craig discuss cutting pages from your script, fixing plot holes, and what we’d do if we ran a studio. We’ll be back with all new episodes in 2015, the year of post-outrage rationality.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

Advice to a First-Time Director

Scriptnotes: Ep. 176

John and Craig offer advice to a director taking the plunge, with guidance on both getting the work done and getting the performances you want. From there, we segue into a discussion of the Perfect Director, the next installment of our Perfect series.

We also pay a visit to the Logic Police, whose notes are often frustrating but sometimes correct.

But we couldn’t not talk about the messed-up situation with The Interview and North Korea. It’s a terrible precedent, but the mistake is putting the blame on any one studio. Without coordinated group action, it’s only going to get worse.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 12-29-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.