Screenwriting Tip: Three Things to Consider After FADE OUT
February 5th, 2014
You’ve written a hundred and twenty pages or so of goodness. You’ve honed and crafted them into what you think is a marketable story. You’ve written and rewritten countless times. You've typed FADE OUT and are done. You’re ready to send your baby out into the spec market and see if it has legs. Great, happy for you! But let me ask you:
Have you done any of the following?
- Written a beat sheet? This is usually done ahead of time before you write though it doesn’t necessarily have to be as systematic as I would suggest here. (There’s lots of ways to get started writing this is simply one of them, but here I’m speaking about something you do when you think you’re done.) Essentially a beat sheet consists of the bones (the vertebrate) that hold the spine of your story together. They carry the narrative trajectory and most important you really get to breakdown your story and understand it and all its parts; nuances you may not even have noticed while you were writing. Beat sheets can be tedious and time consuming but if you really care you might want to consider having one prepared. Why? It will help you pitch your story if you have to go beyond the log line or short synopsis. If you’re asked complex questions about the narrative or character(s) arc, you’ll have specifics. You can elaborate. Additionally, I’ve even been asked to produce one after a pitch meeting and I know of other writers who have as well. But most importantly, I’ve never completed one and NOT done some fine tuning to my story. Doing a beat sheet helped me improve what I thought was a good script.
- More obvious, but still important, written a long synopsis. Not the 400 word short synopsis that we can punch out in five minutes, but one that takes the beat sheet and puts it into a true narrative. You will probably never show this and it could end up being two dozen or so pages long. So you may ask, why do I need this and a beat sheet? Several times after completing my long synopsis I realized there were logic errors in my story including character motivations and these prove to be crucial to improving my story. I can write beats down but explaining how one leads to another, helped me to work on some structural errors I had with one script.
- Practiced your pitch? I’m always reminded by story editor Christopher Lockhart who says, You wrote a 120 page script but can’t tell me what it is about!? That’s a very bad sign. If you can’t explain the logic, motivations, and beats of your story in such a way as to convey the characters to someone who is skilled at listening to pitches, you’re in trouble if you ever have to pitch your script.
Once again, what I offer here are “Tips” or “Advice,” these are NOT “rules” for there are none. None of what I offer here may work for you and that’s fine and dandy by me. Just my Two Cents.
About the Author
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(Follow on Twitter) Christopher Wehner is a published author and produced screenwriter, EL CAMINO CHRISTMAS @Netflix; visit his IMDB page for future projects. Christopher has been a leading member of the online screenwriter's community going back to the 1990s. In 2001 he published the groundbreaking book Screenwriting on the Internet: Researching, Writing and Selling Your Script on the Web,.
To contact Chris visit his website: Warm Beer Productions.