Script editors and script readers should not be confused with proof readers or copy editors. It’s a common error writers make, but we give STORY NOTES, whereas proof readers will check and correct your grammar, punctuation and spelling; a copy editor will also check for accuracy and ‘flow’ of the read.

However, I’d be lying if I said I DIDN’T give the odd note on grammar and word usage whilst giving said story notes. I’ve written time and time again on this blog about the pet peeves readers have when giving notes to writers. There are also words that get consistently misspelled by writers. My top 3 are probably (correct spelling in brackets):

  • Lightening (lightning)
  • draw (drawer)
  • cleaver (clever)

Don’t worry … No one EXPECTS perfection; there will always be the odd mistake in people’s spec screenplays and unpublished novels. It’s when there’s LOADS that script readers get THE RAGE! But to be forewarned is to be forearmed, so check out the below as well as this great infographic after the jump – enjoy!


10 Common Errors In Your Writing You Need To Fix Right Now

5 Killer Grammar & Punctuation Errors That Will Sink Your Reputation … And Ways You Can Fix Them! 

Watch Out For These 5 Top Writing Mistakes

3 Killer Typos That Blow Writers Out The Water

Top 5 Screenplay Format Mistakes

The Most-Annoying Writing Mistakes From Visually.

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… It’s all very well talking about character WOUNDS and FLAWS and HUBRIS and all that advanced characterisation malarkey. I’m not saying it’s bad, but we are jumping ahead of ourselves here.

There are non-negotiables when it comes to characterisation. You *have* to know

WHO is doing WHAT and WHY

in the story, at base level.

To do this, we can divide this up into 2 sections:

1) Character Motivation

Boiled down to its grass roots, character motivation looks like this:

  • The protagonist (aka ‘goodie’) usually wants or needs something, so has some kind of goal.
  • The antagonist (aka ‘baddie’) usually wants or needs to STOP the protagonist from getting that goal.

Most writers get the above. What they DON’T tend to get is that every important secondary character ALSO should have some sort of motivation, usually centering around this idea:

  • HELPING or HINDERING the protagonist in his/her goal

In other words, these important secondaries are either TEAM PROTAG or TEAM ANTAG at base level.

TOP TIP: If you know WHO your two main roles are, WHAT they want and WHY, then you can start adding characters on their respective ‘teams’.

2) Character Role Function

Role functions should not be confused with archetypes at this stage. It’s much simpler: every character has to have a REASON to *be* in the story – this is what script editors like B2W mean when they say ‘the character has to pull its weight’.

Usually, a protagonist’s need/want/goal and subsequent decisions will act as the catalyst for kicking the story off. The antagonist will be reactionary to that. (Sometimes, it will be the other way around, especially in the Thriller genre, but also in cases of a passive protagonist).

However, the secondaries must have role functions too, just like the protagonist and antagonist – that REASON for being in the story in the first place. Common role functions may include (but are not limited to):

  • Mentor
  • Best Friend
  • Love interest
  • Comic Relief
  • Prophet
  • Henchman

Perhaps it’s now more obvious how these types of role HELP or HINDER the protagonist in his/her goal? From this base level, a writer can combine/merge or create new role functions to this, taking in more advanced characterisation techniques.

TOP TIP: Ensuring each character has a specific objective (aka action, purpose, behaviour, FUNCTION!) in there narrative means again, you’re more likely to stay on target in knowing WHO your characters are, WHAT they’re doing in the story and WHY.

Happy writing!


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Foreshadowing (also known as “guessing ahead”) is one of the most powerful storytelling tools, but only if used right. The main goal of foreshadowing is to prepare the readers for what comes next.

However, this goal can be achieved with the help of different methods, and that’s when the challenge starts. Sometimes writers fail to achieve this goal at all, giving the details of the main secret right away instead of subtly hinting that a certain thing is about to happen.

This is the main reason why readers sometimes hate foreshadowing. When it is used in a wrong way, it ruins the whole intrigue of a story instead of making it more interesting to read.

However, if you learn how to use foreshadowing right, you’ll be able to write stunning pieces that will easily catch the readers’ attention. To do this, you need to understand when it’s appropriate to use foreshadowing and what things you want to hint. Knowing about the types of foreshadowing can help with that.

Types of foreshadowing

Foreshadowing can be:

  • Flagrant: when it seems obvious and too straightforward, but turns out to be just a part of the bigger story later. For example, when a writer mentions a certain character’s death right at the start of their story, but later this character is revealed to be only minor one (eg. The so-called ‘False Leader’ in movies, such as Apone in Aliens);
  • Subtle: when the writer gives us small hints about what is going to happen, but these hints can be noticed only by very attentive readers (eg.  when writer infers that one person has poor health, it isn’t surprising to this paying attention when this person later dies, like in Station Eleven);
  • Opening Paragraph: when writer hints that something bad or good (but usually bad) is going to happen right from the opening paragraph. The beginning of The Hunger Games trilogy is a good example: it begins with the paragraph telling us about the reaping day. Though we have no idea what the reaping day is, we already begin to understand that it’s not something good;
  • Hidden: when foreshadowing is hidden among other details. It can be noticed, but the whole point of it is unclear until the reader reads more. One of the best examples of such foreshadowing is Back to the Future movie: when opening credits start, we see a lot of ticking clocks, but we don’t understand their meaning until the movie progresses;
  • Dialogue: when reader founds out something with the help of characters’ dialogue. Remember Cloverfield? There was a party at the beginning of the movie and some people joked that they won’t survive the night, referring to heavy drinking. They actually didn’t survive it but due to the monster attack!

You can choose any type you like as long as you’re sure that you’ll be able to use it to create a dramatic effect. However, it is important not only to choose the right type but also to know when to use it.

When to use foreshadowing?

It is obvious that foreshadowing has to be used before something happens. However, there’s more to that: you can make it a solid hint of what will happen later (and in this case you need to use it as early in your novel or screenplay as possible). When you choose this kind of foreshadowing, the best way to use it is starting from the first chapter or scenes: place a little hint there, then mention more as the story progresses.

What else to you need to remember?

Russian writer Anton Chekhov once said that when a gun is introduced in the story, it has to fire later, otherwise, it would be strange to mention it.

This rule applies to foreshadowing perfectly: if you have some “guns” (key events, persons or things that are important to the plot), you have to hint at all of them (or at least most of them) in the first half of the novel or screenplay. If you somehow manage to mention them in the first quarter of your novel or screenplay, that would be even better.

This is so important because the first quarter of a novel or screenplay is usually all about set up: writer introduces characters along with settings, gives the reader some necessary details. At this point it is easy to use foreshadowing without risk of being too straightforward, as it is mentioned along with many other facts and so won’t strike the eye.

What to do if a foreshadowing is less obvious?

Light foreshadowing is another thing: it is more subtle and is usually used not as the first hint of something that is about to happen, but more as a reminder of this “something” or of its previous hint.

One of the best examples of light foreshadowing appears in the original Star Wars trilogy. Remember that time when Luke Skywalker trains with Yoda to defeat Darth Vader? He battles with his projection and manages to pierce it with his lightsaber only to find out that there’s his own face hidden behind Vader’s mask. What a nice hint at the fact that Darth Vader is actually his father!

That’s why it needs to be used later, just before something does happen. This way you’ll be able to remind readers about your previous hints, making them more obvious, and raise their interest in the plot. After all, a little tension is good: it increases anticipation.


The only way to make foreshadowing look good is to use it in the right place and write it organically in your novel or screenplay. Foreshadowing has to look in place, and to do so you need to have a clear vision of your plot. If you know the whole story structure in details, it would be easy to find a place where foreshadowing will look appropriate and will benefit your story. That’s why if you want to be sure that you’ll use foreshadowing right, take some time to think over your plot and write it down in details if necessary.

We hope that our tips will help you to understand foreshadowing better and to use it in the most effective way. We wish you good luck and tons of inspiration!

BIO: Alice Jones is a tutor and freelance writer for this blog, who is interested in education, blogging and sharing her ideas. She also loves inspiring and motivating people and has spent the last 5 years improving and helping the others to improve. Follow Alice on Twitter, Google+, or find her in other social media, pop in there and say “Hi” to her!

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So, I write A LOT on this blog about writing mistakes, but that’s because I see them ALL THE EFFING TIME. Seriously, every single day. In all kinds of mad ways. And there’s just no excuse … Not when there’s a STACK of advice online on how NOT to do this shit.

But it’s important to remember it’s NOT just newbies and unproduced, unpublished writers who make these mistakes either. Even pro writers may fall foul of obvious pitfalls … And it’s far easier to do this than you think! Chew on these for size:


1) Not having a proper submissions strategy

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: everyone – even pro writers – need a STRATEGY for managing their submissions. If you’re lucky enough to have an agent, it might go something like this:

YOU: Who are we submitting to?

AGENT: I thought X and Y. Any other ideas?

YOU: How about Z.

AGENT: Great idea! *High five*

Six months later:

YOU: Anyone bite?

AGENT: Nope.

If you don’t have an agent, you need to:

  • Research who’d be a good fit for you/your project
  • Send it when that person is preferably NOT snowed under (find out when’s a bad time!!)
  • Wait 8-12 weeks, then follow up

This is the VERY LEAST you need to do, by the way. (Really savvy writers send a certain project to a certain amount of producers/publishers, within a certain amount of time, evaluating any feedback and making decisions on  whether it’s worth continuing with that project. Just sayin’). MORE: 5 Career Strategies For Writers

2) Not having a platform

Social media gets a bad rap, even ON social media. You don’t have to look far for someone slagging it off, saying it’s useless or a distraction.

Whilst social media CAN be both of these things, like most things it depends how you use it. If you utilise it effectively, you can reach the people you want to work with easily – and get your work right under their nose. What’s more, you can create yourself a ready-made following/fanbase too!

In addition, if you decide to supplement your income with a little freelance writing, that’s great practice for your screenwriting too. What’s not to like??

3) Letting rejection get them down

Get this. Rejection will never stop. As long as we writers keep going, we are going to hear “No” far more often than “Yes”. Some of those rejections will be regretful, “I wish I could BUT …” Others will tell us never to darken their doors again. Most will be somewhere in the middle.

This is just the way it is, but sometimes it will feel like we’re fighting an uphill battle. Other times everything will go so well it will feel like there is a catch.

THERE IS NO CATCH. It is only chance. So enjoy the good times and buckle dow during the bad. There is, quite literally, no other way through … Unless you give up. Are you going to give up? MORE: 7 Ways To Deal With Rejection

4) Getting jealous or despairing of others’ success

I think it was Gore Vidal who said, ‘Every time a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.” (He sounds like a bit of an arse here if you ask me, but then he also said the kickass quote at the beginning of this article, so I’ll forgive him).

It’s very easy to get jealous of others and imagine they don’t ‘deserve’ what they have. Sometimes it’s even true. But let me ask you: how does it benefit you? Quick answer: it DOESN’T. And it’s not polite to eat one’s liver in public.

So slap on the brave face, slap that other person on the back and move on. Concentrate on your own stuff and let the bile go.

5) Believing $$$£££ defines ‘success’

So we all know the story of a writer who made a gazillion quid and became a household name. That’s NOT most of us. And it never will be.

So you might hear instead, “Oh well if I can just make enough money month to month, to pay all my bills, THEN I’m a professional writer”. 

Err … That’s not most of us, either — AND it never will be.

For most SUCCESSFUL creatives, at best it’s famine or feast, plus none of us are paid strictly what we’re *worth* either. If you think of the hundreds of hours we spend on our specs … And that’s just for starters. Sure, there are some jobs that pay better than others (television); plus if we’re lucky enough too get a MEGA HIT for some reason (wish), but generally speaking, 99% of us are doing this for the LOVE of it, not the money.

So find some other way of validating yourself as a professional — cos it sure as hell won’t be WONGA! MORE: 24 Experts On The Foundation Of Success 

Good luck out there!

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As any veteran Bang2writer knows, I normally don’t stand for so-called writing rules — but these are different!

Pixar have shown, time and time again, their stories and characters will stand the test of time. Their knowledge of story is EPIC and every writer can learn from their movies and shorts, whether they actually *like* them or not.

This is why Pixar’s 22 Rules For Phenomenal Storytelling went viral when it appeared online and continue to be the gold standard for ALL writers, screenwriters or not! I love Erika’s short and pithy additions and alternative views to Pixar’s here – plus there’s a great infographic to check out, too.

Enjoy — and bookmark this, it’s GOLD!


Storytelling is an art. There are several different and complex elements that make up the overall story and when these elements are executed properly, it can make for a memorable and entertaining story.

Although 22 rules seems like an awful lot, when you can follow them, your story is bound to keep your audience intrigued.

1. You admire a character for trying for more than their successes.

Create a balance between success and failure instead of making things too easy on your character.

2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.

Put yourself into the mindset of the audience and enjoy your writing.

3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about ‘til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

Don’t let the overall theme weigh you down so much that it gets in the way of the actual writing.

4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day ___. One day, ___. Because of that ___. Because of that___. Until finally, ___.

This template is called ‘The Story Spine’. Use it to get your ideas and story flowing.

5. Simplify. Focus. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff, but it sets you free.

Keep it simple and maintain your main focus and avoid going too far off the track.

6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?

Conflicting situations that your character is not used to will not only challenge your character but it will intrigue your audience.

7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

Writing the ends of stories is the hardest part. Discover how you want the story to end and find the optimal path between the beginning and the end for your story.

8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.

Don’t worry about making everything perfect. Otherwise, nothing will ever be finished.

9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.

By finding out what won’t happen next, you are actually exploring things that could happen if you take a more complex view of your character.

10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognise it before you can use it.

What you like will subconsciously make its way into your story.

11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.

Don’t be afraid to share!

12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.

That 6th idea could be the best after all.

13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

Characters need just that — character!

14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off ? That’s the heart of it.

Share your passions, passionately.

15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.

Make it seem relatable!

16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

Find a way to get the audience to fall in love with and support your characters.

17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on — it’ll come back around to be useful later.

Always save everything.

18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best and fussing. Story is testing, not refining.

It’s not just write once and you’re done. Re-writes are a major part of storytelling.

19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

Don’t take the easy way out.

20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How do you rearrange them into what you DO like?

Give it a try to see if ideas start sparking.

21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?

Better grab your Thesaurus.

22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Get to the point in the most beautiful and interesting way possible.

BIO: Erika Clarke is an academic enthusiasts that loves writing more than everything. Check her site where she creates honest reviews on most popular academic writing companies in the world.


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A little recap

So, at base level, we know we need to be able to identify our story concepts. If we can’t do that as the writer, no one else can either. In short, without an identifiable concept, we got nuthin’!

What’s more, we all know our story concepts need to be marketable, if we’re going to stand our best chance of our scripts and novels getting produced or published.

But how do we make sure? Well, we road test our concepts of course!

But–But–But …

… Sometimes it still goes wrong, even if we’ve tried doing the above. Supersadface.

Of course, sometimes we haven’t actually identified the story concept properly. That’s why we’re going wrong. But at least it’s easy to rectify — we return to base level and start again. Boom.

But other times, it’s not the concept that’s necessarily the issue. It’s when we GROW the plot out of that concept that, well, *this* happens:

In other words, it’s your PLOT that goes awry. And this can be a little harder to fix.

The Story Swamp

Sometimes, it’s a question of simply falling in what I call The Story Swamp, i.e. you’ve got a bunch of details and you’re drowning in them.

The easiest thing to do here? Go back to your outline. Yes it’s not fun, but BELIEVE ME when I say it’s the quickest way back to dry land. Truth!! Put in the hard work and you will drag yourself out.


The second problem is not so simple and what I call, ‘Story SPLURGE’ — this happens when a writer is SO ENTHUSED about their story and characters they shove so many things in, it becomes incomprehensible.

Most often, story splurge happens in science fiction and fantasy worlds I’ve noticed (though do note it can happen in ANY story, regardless of genre or medium).

Writers will simply ADD FAR TOO MUCH, meaning the exposition – aka background information necessary to understand the story – becomes muddled. As a result, I don’t know what’s important or even why certain things are happening.

This is what usefully happens when I’m dealing with a writer suffering from a dire case of Story Splurge:

ME: I really like your ideas, your imagination is firing on all cylinders, but I gotta be honest: I have no clue WTAF is going on in this story.

WRITER: Okay, let me explain EVERY LITTLE SINGLE THING in the narrative you didn’t understand even though actually adding even more detail will only make you more confused.

Simplicity is the key

So, the 1 thing that makes stories crash burn? Lack of THIS:

simplicityIt’s important to note: even in stories that have BIG IDEAS, the concept, premise and/or dramatic question (or whatever you want to call it!)  is SIMPLE, ie.

Everyone knows the notion we only use part of our brains.  Most people have heard of the idea drugs unleash unknown effects in our bodies, including so-called ‘super powers’.

So MASH THESE TWO WELL-KNOWN IDEAS together and what do you have?

Oh right, the story of my life, LUCY by Luc Besson:


Now …

… Think of *any* well-known, celebrated science fiction or fantasy franchise – what do you have?

A simple, easily communicable idea behind it. Like these:

UNDERWORLD – There are no lofty ideas here but that’s okay. We know about werewolves and we know about vampires. The myths go back centuries and we’ve had a stack of literature, movies and TV on them. They are ‘pre-sold’. Put one against the other because why the hell not. Just because they’re both creatures of the night doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be at war and drama is conflict, after all.

THE TERMINATOR  may deal with lofty ideas of destiny versus free will, but ultimately it’s about man versus machines. So’s THE MATRIX. We can get that. We’re humans and we have machines in our lives, which sometimes cause us problems. Duh.

LOOPER –  again, it might carry lofty ideas (would you kill Hitler as a child??) but dig deeper and its even simpler. We know about time travel, from previous stories and also theoretical science. Hitmen exist in our world. If Hitmen had access to time travel, wouldn’t they use it to their advantage??

So, don’t get complicated

I know it’s hard when you have so many ideas in your head. It all seems so real and communicating this exciting new story world can seem impossible. So what do we do??

I think stories get overly complicated when writers try and combine TOO MUCH into them. Have you noticed what’s behind those ‘lofty ideas’ I mention in the produced movies? Go back and check.

That’s right — just TWO things.

What else is notable? Yup — they are TWO things we already know about and/or have some experience of in some way. 

So, this is how we twist our stories, keep them fresh, but ALSO keep them simple:

2 X ‘pre-sold’ or ‘pre-known’ ideas = NEW STORY

Good luck — and KEEP IT SIMPLE!!

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Characterisation is tough. Every writer knows this. As a result, there’s all kinds of traps we can fall into whilst writing, so we end up getting eaten by THE BEAR OF DOUBT when those notes come in … Y’know the ones:

I’m not sure I care about your character … This character would be better if they did [PERSONAL PREFERENCE] … Have you thought about swapping [X] for [Y] because [REASONS] …


But if you’ve done your homework, THAT kind of feedback will be like water off a duck’s back to you. But what constitutes ‘doing your homework’?? Well strap yourself in folks and check for these problems …


1) Too many characters

A very simple one to start. If you have ‘too many’ characters, the reader will be unable to keep up – not because s/he is thick, but because s/he shouldn’t have to GUESS who is significant to the story! A no brainer, really.

But how many is TOO many? Well, how long is a piece of string. But if a movie or TV show seems to have ‘a lot’ of characters, it’s probably an illusion. Generally speaking, there’s between 5-8 main roles (including protagonist and antagonist); the rest will be peripherals.

In the case of shows like THE SIMPSONS which genuinely does have a massive cast (and has grown season on season over a 20+ year period), take a look at the individual episodes. Oh, right yeah: 5-8 main characters usually, the rest peripherals. Funny that!!! MORETop 5 Ways Writers Screw Up Their Characters

2) Not examining our motives for writing a particular character

If you’ve ever used Bang2write or read one of my screenwriting books, you’ll know one of my top questions for your work is “WHY this character?”

Thanks to point 1 on this list, waaaaay too many writers plump for the very first character that swans into their heads. As a result, they’ll accidentally rehash and recycle characters we’ve already seen. Booooo! No thanks, not in 2016/17. We want more diversity (or shall I say VARIETY!).

Alternatively, writers may go too far the other way and try and write a character to far out of the left field. This is because they fail to see their own experiences, agenda or politics are HIJACKING the story. This can happen the most when a writer is attempting a marginalised or more diverse character, as it just becomes a soapbox, rather than an organic ‘person’.

In both cases, writers need to examine their motives and see if they’re writing for the RIGHT reasons.

3) Believing characters ‘come’ to writers

If you think your characters are bestowed on you by some higher purpose or scriptwriting fairy, STOP!


This notion that characters ‘come’ to writers is a nice idea, but unless you think writing is MAGIC, you know deep down it’s just romantic BS. Here’s why:

Writing is a craft. One definition of craft is ‘To make or construct (something) with care or ingenuity.’ This means that every single part of that craft is therefore a CONSTRUCTION.

This includes characterisation.

So if you think you DON’T NEED to put the same kind of care into your characters because your brain or your subconscious or whatever MAGICALLY puts them together for you, then sorry — but your characters aren’t going to be as good as they COULD be.

As for ingenuity – hey, maybe you ARE a genius and this doesn’t apply to you after all. Or maybe it does!! How can you tell? Personally I’d be more inclined to consciously develop – at least double-check – those characters than trust my unconscious, which frankly gives me screwy dreams every night. I’m not letting it screw up my writing as well!


4) No character motivation

Audiences want to watch characters who WANT or NEED something. Antagonists need to work against that, or have a counter goal. We all know this, but often get sidetracked by great dialogue or fun set pieces. NO! Bad screenwriters. Whilst characters don’t necessarily have to change over the course of the narrative, they DO have to have a specific purpose – that’s just the way it is. Sorry (not sorry).

5) Indiscernible character ROLE FUNCTION

Very often, because screenwriters are focusing on WHO their characters are, they forget WHAT their characters are supposed to *doing* in the course of the narrative, which if you remember is:

  • Protagonist – wants or needs something
  • Antagonist – goes against the above *for some reason*


  • Secondary characters – HELP or HINDER protagonist in going after that need/goal
  • Peripheral characters – thematic and/or plot devices dependant on story/genre

These days, spec writers usually have protagonist and antagonist *licked*, but we still have the same-old problem of secondaries just not being up to scratch … Either cos there’s too many of them, or because they’re not pulling their weight, or BOTH.

But we also have to remember that as script God Joss Whedon says, EVERYONE NEEDS A REASON TO LIVE, too. In other words, don’t fuck it up by making your character ONLY role function – it’s gotta have balance, otherwise we end up with a 2D cardboard cut-out. LE DUH.


Basically, all this stems from not putting characters under the microscope. I get that writers want writing to be an organic process … I even get that some writers are afraid of ‘overcooking’ characterisation.

But BELIEVE ME when I say this rarely happens when people put actual THOUGHT into characters. Put simply, if you think about:

  • WHO your characters are
  • WHAT their role function is
  • WHERE their POV is (goal/counter-goal, or helping/hindering)
  • WHEN there is any change to this (if applicable), plus
  • WHY you’re writing this character

… This can only help you and your writing. Ipso, Fatso. MORE: Top 8 Questions For Kickass Characterisation 

Good luck!

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One of my favourite things about being a script editor for movies is having to ‘bone up’ (arf) on subjects I otherwise have little or even no knowledge of, in order to help writers. Just recently I’ve had to do a chunk of research on online gambling for a writer/director, which has been quite the eye-opener!


Did you know …

  • The online gambling industry is always looking to attract new clients, and I’ve noticed they clearly target movie fans. In addition to ‘classic’ casino games, casino sites offer online slots games that include characters from popular films like Gladiator and The Mummy. I’ve even seen a game modelled around Jim Carrey movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective!
  • The UK online gambling market was pegged at £2.28 billion in 2012? That’s over £1 billion more than 2008, just four years’ earlier. It’s estimated 11% of the British public have taken part in online gambling at some point.
  • 57% of online gamblers in the United States are female. (Less surprising is that online gamblers tend to be young, with well over 40% ranging in age from 21-34).
  • Australia is TOTALLY into online gambling! Apparently the average Australian spends more money on gambling than in any other nation – over $1,200 per adult each year. It’s also thought 80% of Australian adults are said to be gamblers, which is also the highest rate in the world.

The above is just for starters. I swear the internet is MADE for writers (and their helpers, like moi).

But of course ‘just’ relying on internet research is for mugs – as I always say to Bang2writers, you have to see what’s gone before in order to put your own unique twist on the subject! So here’s what I found …

1) Runner, Runner (2013)

Amazingly, despite the plethora of movies set IN casinos, I could only find this one about online gambling. But never mind: I’m totally OBSESSED with veteran screenwriter Brian Koppelmann’s Six Second Screenwriting Lessons,  plus I loved Michael Clayton … Add to that Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake and *obviously* I’m going to be all over THIS film!

In RUNNER, RUNNER, Richie is a university student who pays for fees and expenses with online gambling, loses it all. So he travels to Costa Rica to confront the online mastermind, Ivan, whom he believes has swindled him. But Ivan sees a kindred spirit in Richie and brings the younger man into his operation. When the stakes get incredibly high and dangerous and Richie comes to fully understand the deviousness of his new boss, he tries to turn the tables on him. Whilst not in the same league as Michael Clayton, this is definitely worth a watch.

2) Alligator Blood: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of the High-rolling Whiz-Kid Who Controlled Online Poker’s Billions by James Leighton

We’ve all heard tales of teen prodigies taking advantage of the ‘dotcom bubble’ and this is one of them. Daniel Tzvetkoff was just another Aussie teenager, but when he worked out a new method of payment processing he called Intabill, the online poker companies came running to him for help so they could grow their businesses.

A rags to riches tale, Tzvetkoff was soon living the American dream, raking in $3 million a week and revelling in a jet-set lifestyle of fast cars, luxury yachts and VIP nightclubs. But of course he couldn’t keep it going. Owing millions to the poker companies, and with the FBI hot on his trail, Intabill collapsed and the boy wonder ended up owing millions.

3) Online Betting Secrets: Increase Your Winnings By 80% Using My Strategy by Hammer Smith

Billed as a guide that “exposes information the bookmakers would rather punters don’t know and the strategy I have used for three years with 80% positive outcome”, it’s just 12 pages long, meaning it’s a good lunch break read. It gives a clear background on the types of sports betting, plus various strategy the author has tried and failed. A good guide for rank beginners (like me!).

4) Life Real Loud: John Lefebvre, Neteller and the Revolution in Online Gaming by Bill Reynolds

The story of John Lefebvre, the man behind NetTeller, a tiny Canadian internet start-up that processed payments between players and online gambling arenas. When the company rocketed through the stock market, 50 year old Lefebvre became a multi millionaire, practically overnight. Then the FBI came knocking and of course, it all started to fall down!! Then then-fledgling online gambling sector led to U.S. charges of possible money laundering, courts ordered Lefebvre to repay $185 million. YIKES!

5) Straight Flush by Ben Mezrich

Written by the same author as bestselling The Accidental Billionaires (you’ll know it as THE SOCIAL NETWORK by script God Aaron Sorkin), Straight Flush is the true story of a group of university students who turned a weekly poker game in the basement of a local bar into one of the largest online poker companies in the world.

Apparently these guys were shady from the off, embracing a hedonistic lifestyle of girls, drugs and money to becoming some of the richest people in the world. It was not always clear if what they were doing was strictly legal, especially as they engaged in all-out wars against their competitors. Nowadays, one is in prison and another is living life on the run – wow!

This was my favourite read by far and a quick look at Mezrich’s Wikipedia page shows he is an expert in writing these kind of exposes on money, betrayal and the twisted geniuses who are prepared to take BIG RISKS. In fact, I can’t quite believe we haven’t seen Straight Flush as a movie yet, but then it was only published in 2013 so I bet it’s in development *somewhere*.

REMEMBER: Twisting stories is about STAKES

It’s not really surprising that gambling, casinos and risk-taking are popular subjects and backdrops for movies and books – stakes and jeopardy are part of creative writing and it’s never more obvious in the gambling world.

That said, writers can tell a story convincingly about JUST ABOUT ANYTHING … as long as they remember that all important notion of stakes, as it’s this that draws the reader (and thus audience), IN.

But writers simply *can’t* understand what the stakes of a story mean without doing adequate research. It’s like feeling your way in the dark, which inevitably means a writer will fall back on samey stories, tired tropes and familiar clichés.

So, rather than diving straight into your draft, really think about your story at foundation level – and check out the stories that are LIKE yours, because I can guarantee there will be some.

Good luck with your writing!

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MANY, many thanks to David today for his filmmaking insights and how it impacts on your writing … I agree with everything he says here!! Some of you may recognise David as one of our rockstar volunteers at LondonSWF, plus his film started out as a Create50: THE IMPACT script!!

So even if you can’t donate to his crowd fund campaign, PLEASE press the buttons at the bottom of the post and SHARESHARESHARE!!!


Writing screenplays is great. But getting them made is better. And if no-one else will make them, then do it yourself! Make a short (or few) and you’ll even become a better writer because of it.

Here’s 5 things I’ve learnt about writing from making short films:

1) You’ll learn not to get precious!

As writers we can so easily find ourselves head-over-heels in love with our ideas and scripts. They are our creations; we birthed them and nurtured them, and that’s excellent, you should pour hard-work and passion into your scripts! But remember that at some point, along will come the cold, harsh reality of filmmaking.

You’re giving your script up for adoption. And not just to one or two new parents (aka the director and producer). Anybody in a creative department on-set will be raising your brain child and they’ll make all sorts of changes to your script and your vision.

Don’t get precious about this. It’s fantastic and it’s what filmmaking is all about, the creative collaboration of artists working to make something special. Of course, it can go wrong, and that’s another reason not to get too attached, it’ll hurt less watching your precious script get butchered.

(Oh and by the way, this goes for writer/directors too. Don’t think your script won’t change because TRUST ME IT WILL!). MORE: 10 Reasons Writers Should Put Down Their Pens & Pick Up A Camera

2) It’ll teach you to write sensibly!

I’m currently making a short film called ‘The Watchers’ and it’s set on the International Space Station. WOW!?! You say? Yeah me too, except the producer (myself) currently hates the writer (also me) and the main reason for that is sentences such as: ‘Hiro floats over to Mendes.’

Short films will make you aware of your resources and restrictions, and as a result you can write more creatively within these limitations and get bigger and wilder over time.

So why don’t I write more sensibly? Well comparatively, I am. For my first short, I wrote a car-crash. On a student film. Simply because I thought it’d be cool and I didn’t know how hard it’d be to shoot. Very is the answer, but we managed it.

Thanks to my prior experience I feel confident enough to have really raised the bar for this one. It will be tough, and I’ll probably write a nice simple drama next, but as a result of my past short films, I’m not going in blind.


 3) You’ll understand what it means to write visually!

It’s a common enough piece of screenwriting advice. We’re writing SCREENplays not screenPLAYS so reel in the dialogue Shakespeare! But nothing, will make you understand this concept more than actually witnessing the transformation of your words into physical, real-life entities.

Firstly, when you get to set, it is SO MUCH MORE FUN to shoot action sequences than it is dialogue. Believe me. I’ve been on enough short film sets where we’ve been shooting reams and reams of dialogue and you do start to wonder whether the three-page monologue couldn’t have been cut to three lines. Or three words.

Remember a picture speaks a thousand words, but if it takes you a thousand words to make that one picture, you’re overwriting. Big time.

And that brings me onto…

4) You’ll realise that Less REALLY IS More!

Following on from the point above, you’ll also start to realise that when you were supposed to break for lunch two hours ago, but you’re still shooting because you’ve written WAYYYYY too much, that maybe, you could have said the same thing but in far fewer words.

Also, does your costume designer really need to travel half-way across a city to find the very, ultra, pain-stakingly-specific passionflower-pink, polka-dotted pyjama bottoms? Or could your character just have worn a dressing gown?

Making short films will help you realise that as important as the writing is, and it is VERY important, the film also relies upon on the time, money, and efforts of your fellow collaborators.

And if you’ve been overly-thorough in your scene description, or a tad-too verbose, it’ll at best, make things go far slower, and at worst leave a lot of riled-up crew who’ll never want to work with that pretentious writer again. MORE: 10 Ways To Revitalise Your Scene Description

5) You’ll have that PRODUCED WRITER status!

Next time you’re in that meeting with an agent, or are pitching to an exec and they ask ‘So what else have you done?’ you can respond with, ‘here’s my short, it’s currently playing at Festivals X, Y, and Z.’

Boom. Mic drop. Strut out with a deal.

Well, it’s not quite that simple. But you can say you’ve got a film when other writers haven’t, but you’d better make sure it’s good. Because if it isn’t, it’s probably your fault as the story is boring, overly pretentious, too long etc. Or the audio is rubbish. Bad sound kills movies. Fact.

But you’ll only want to write silent films for a while.

Seriously, bad audio. Ugh.  MORE: 8 Ways For Screenwriters To Get Collaborating & Making

Too Long, Didn’t Read?

THE SHORT VERSION >> Making short films will teach you not to get precious. It’ll show you how to write sensibly and work around the limitations of low-budget filmmaking. In addition, you’ll understand what it actually means to write visually – witnessing the transformation from page to screen is incredible! But you’ll also realise that actually writing less allows more creative freedom on-set and makes shooting more fun, and importantly far quicker.

And finally the reason for writing screenplays is of course to get them made into films.  So make a short and you’ll have a ‘writing credit’ which will hopefully be the first of many.

BIO: I’m David Jacobson  and you can add me on Facebook, HERE and follow me on Twitter as @BasicallyDave. PLEASE check out the The Watchers crowdfunding page  and share with your friends and followers. Thank you!

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Two of the most searched Google terms on this blog are, ‘writer mistakes’ and ‘writer fails’, so I thought I would take a look at you actual WRITERS and what you might doing to kill your screenplay dead. Ready?? Brace yourselves you lot … ‘cos here’s how you’re MURDERING your chances!


1) By … Waiting for inspiration

Novelist W. Somerset Maugham said (though some attribute it to Peter De Vries and other writers) “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

I love this quote (whomever said it) because it gets straight to the nitty-gritty. NO writer can afford sitting around, waiting for his or her muse. You might not feel like writing, but you have to get on with it. SO GET ON WITH IT! Do whatever it takes to *get* inspired by yourself, whether that’s doing writing prompts or exercises, or reading motivational quotes, or something else. GO GO GO!

2) By … Panicking

I’ve lost count of the number of Bang2writers who tell me they’re ‘running out of time’ on a SPEC project. They’ll use this get-out-jail-free card to justify sending their work out before it’s ready, thus KILLING their chances stone dead with scripts that simply won’t pass muster. And for what?? Whilst it’s true time is not on our side *overall*, when it’s a spec project you cannot afford to send out sub par work. You might as well not bother at all!!! TRUE STORY.

3) By … Acting like a know-it-all arsehole

Social media is great, but it also spells DANGER … Especially if you’re the type prone to drunk tweeting or general RAGE about terrible movies or TV shows you’ve seen. That said, you can get away with both of the above if you’re FUNNY with it. The one thing writers cannot afford, especially online, is to come across as a know-it-all and/or an arsehole. This is a very small pond and you do NOT want people to read your name on the front of your screenplay and their first thought to be, “Oh god, that dick.” FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT.

4) By … Not doing your research

It’s not rocket science. If you want to write a particular story, you need to read/watch ALL the stories that are *like* yours (and believe me, there WILL be some!!). So, if you want to write a horror, watch ALL the horror movies like yours that have gone before. Same goes with dramas, comedies, sci fis or any other *type* of stories. You simply cannot break new ground without doing this!! Otherwise you end up with a bunch of same stories, tired tropes and full on CLICHES. You must must must put the groundwork in.

Equally, when it c ones to characterisation, you MUST figure out WHO they are (character motivation), plus WHAT they are (role function). It’s NO GOOD saying ‘Oh my characters come to me in my dreams” or whatever BS, I’ve heard it all before and it DOESN’T WORK. Writing is about craft, not magic. So you have to know how your characters work and why. This is non-negotiable!!!

5) By … Wallowing

Thinking everyone is doing better than you is a mug’s game.  The only way to launch your career (or indeed keep it going) is, GUESS WHAT — writing. So stop whining on Facebook about how much of a loser you are or how much you hate EL James and GET ON WITH IT. (See point 1 on this list).

6) By … Thinking there’s a fast track

No. Just, no. There is no fast track. There are no magic beans. There is no get-rich-quick scheme. There is only a fuckton of work. So either do it or go be an accountant or something.

7) By … Writing solely for the market

If I had a quid for every writer who’d presented me with some shitty derivative bollocks who’d then proclaimed with a fervent gaze, “Well it’s STILL better than most than most of the shit out there!!” I wouldn’t need to be a script reader. I could live in Barbados and sun myself with Matt Damon as my sun shade boy. Seriously.

Get this into your head: we’re not hacks. We are WRITERS. Some of us are better than others it’s true, but all of us *should* have one thing in common – and that’s we’re all doing the BEST WE CAN. Don’t be a hack!!

8) By … Writing solely for yourself

Passion is good. But when passion replaces CONNECTION, it is not good. And writing is a communication – we need to connect with an audience of some kind. That audience might be mass or it might be niche; it might be somewhere in-between. But you HAVE to know who you’re appealing to and it CAN’T just be for you, even if you’ve read some writer saying this is what *they* did. They’re fucking lying, whether they know it or not. So, who is YOUR script FOR?

9) By … Not investing in craft

Like I said in point 4, this is a CRAFT – not magic. This means you can always get better, especially if you invest in your craft. This doesn’t *just* mean check your format (though that is a good idea) … It means investing in your:

You can always learn more about and develop these five things. ALWAYS. Never, ever think you have craft licked. The spec pile says that 90% of screenwriters have a LONG way to go on craft, plus ways audience preferences change all the time. STAY UP TO DATE.

10) By … Giving up!

We’re all in this for the long game … So if you quit, now? You’ll never know how close you came. Don’t kick yourself. Eat up the triumphs and swallow the failures with them. And most importantly, KEEP GOING.


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