Really Short Stories

Daniel Wallace, who wrote the novel Big Fish, sent me the syllabus for the college writing class he’s teaching, including a first-week requirement of a 100-word short story.

The 200th Episode Live Show

Craig, John, and Aline record the 200th episode of Scriptnotes live with a worldwide audience listening in — and chiming in — as they discuss TV showrunning and whether quality really counts at the box office.

8 Common Mistakes Made by New Screenwriters

B.J. Novak is all about lists. He asked me to write this one about issues I frequently see in scripts written by beginning 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 […]

The long and short of it

John and Craig dig into the listener mailbag and take questions on TV producer credits, jealousy over other writers’ success, writing tight vs writing long and plenty of other follow up.

You can’t train a cobra to do that

Craig and John discuss backup plans, camera directions, and becoming so good they can’t ignore you. Plus we answer two listener questions about specificity in scene headers and how to indicate that a script is intended for animation.

This Is Working

For the first time ever, John and Craig spend an entire episode on a full-length original screenplay, K.C. Scott’s THIS IS WORKING.

K.C. Scott’s “This Is Working”

On Tuesday’s episode of Scriptnotes, we’ll be looking at K.C. Scott’s original screenplay “This Is Working,” a former Three Page Challenge entry. Listeners can download the script now so they can read it over the weekend.

Uncluttered by Ignorance

John and Craig dig into the overstuffed mail bag to answer listener questions about scenes, stagnation, subtitles and script breakdowns. Plus we reveal the consensus opinions on whether we should have ads, and look at possibilities for the Full Script Challenge.

The Rules (or, the Paradox of the Outlier)

John and Craig discuss this year’s screenplay Oscar winners, including the success of Birdman’s outside-the-box approach and Graham Moore’s speech.

The One with Rebel Wilson and Dan Savage

John and Craig discuss exploding scripts and stock scenes. Then in the second half of the show, we welcome two very special guests.

INT. THE WOODS – NIGHT

John and Craig pick up loose ends, with follow-up on previous episodes about “friends,” conflict, improv, Kindles, and defibrillation.

The Conflict Episode

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.

Doing, not thinking

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.

Don’t use “thought” verbs

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.

Cutting Pages and Fixing Holes

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.

Lotteries, lightning strikes and twist endings

John and Craig look at the nature of fluke hits, everything from #alexfromtarget to huge spec sales. Is luck just luck, or is it about how often you play the game? Where does talent fit in?

In praise of flat adverbs

It’s not simply a matter of do-what-you-want. These words really are adverbs, they just look like their related adjective forms.

Descending Into Darkness

Craig and John shake off their Halloween candy hangovers by taking a look at three new Three Page Challenges, full of post-apocalyptic portals and strange signals.

Austin Forever

John and guest host Susannah Grant sit down with Richard Kelly, Cary Fukunaga, Peter Gould, Dan Sterling and Mike Birbiglia to discuss the role of a writer/director, the wonder of television, and the purpose of table reads.

A Cheap Cut of Meat Soaked in Butter

To celebrate the third anniversary of Scriptnotes, John and Craig invite Aline Brosh McKenna and her limitless analogies back to discuss box-office journalism, scene geography, emotional IQ and flipping the script.

The Mystery of the Disappearing Articles

John and Craig take a look at four new entries in the Three Page Challenge, ranging from galactic drama to medieval comedy. Along the way, they talk about the nature of one-hour teasers, trust, plausibility, and how to properly address religious authorities.

On trust, drama and corporations

The project I’m writing centers on trust. The more I think about the word and the concept of trust, the more complicated it becomes.

Texting in film and television

Craig and I may have taken umbrage at his video about comedy directors who aren’t Edgar Wright, but Tony Zhou’s newest video looking at how filmmakers handle texting and the internet on-screen is all good. Zhou’s underlying point is that we still haven’t settled on conventions for showing texting or the internet. And that’s good! […]

Selling without selling out

In their first-ever live streaming episode, John and Craig open the mailbag to answer a bunch of listener questions.

The Rocky Shoals (pages 70-90)

Aline Brosh McKenna joins Craig and John to talk about the difficult journey through pages 70-90 of your feature. After that, we talk about procrastination, the Panic Monster and our inner Instant Gratification Monkeys.