Screenwriting Tip: Three Things to Consider after FADE OUT
May 24th, 2020
You’ve written a hundred and ten 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 and see if it has legs. Great, happy for you! But let me ask you:
Have you done any of the following?
- Written a one-pager? This is sometimes done ahead of time before you write. Some writers will use note cards, beat sheets, or one-pages to help them stay focused. Essentially a one-pager is exactly that, a one page beat sheet that consists of the bones (the vertebrate, the most important plot points of the story) that hold the spine of your narrative 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. Why write a one-pager? It will help you pitch your story if you have to go beyond the log line or short synopsis. Also, before agreeing to read your script, producers will sometimes specifically ask for a "one-pager" or a synopsis. If you can organize the most important beats of your script in a compelling way, they will most likely read your 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.