Crime Movies Collage 2

1) Thrillers THRILL …

We all know this … So how come MOST thrillers in the spec pile *feel* like dramas with a bit of running about in?? Because they LACK TENSION! So keep tension in mind, ‘cos you’re gonna need it! MORE8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Thriller Screenplay DEAD

2) … And they thrill from PAGE ONE!

So it used to be scribes got ten pages to pique a reader’s interest … Not any more! You gotta hit the ground running and kick it off from page one – or bust! Sad maybe, but true … The good news is, you can do this ANY WAY YOU WANT! MORE10 Tips For The Perfect Ten (Pages)

3) Thriller is ANTAGONIST-LED

In comparison to pretty much ALL other genres, Thrillers place the antagonist at the HEART of the action, drawing the protagonist into his or her “Evil Plan”. MORE: 7 Reasons We Love To Hate Villain Characters

4) Thrillers are MARKETABLE

Thrillers are versatile, which makes them marketable. You can write and rewrite with the current demands in place, meaning Thrillers are a MUST for your portfolio. If they’re low budget, as well? EVEN BETTER! MORE: 3 Reasons To Write A Low Budget Marketable Screenplay

5) Thrillers don’t need GIMMICKS

If Thrillers are about tension (and they are), then you can write your story ANY WAY YOU LIKE, you don’t need any big gimmicks to sell your story “off the page”, so Thrillers work brilliantly at super-low budgets. Think instead 1-5 characters (18 yrs+), 1-3 locations (preferably interiors). BOOM! MORE: Writing The Low Budget Screenplay, Part 1 and Writing The Low Budget Screenplay: Part 2. But if you DO want to write an epic, high budget script then be prepared to go ALL OUT! >> How To Write Action Set Pieces In Your Big Budget Thriller Screenplay

psych thriller collage paint

6) Low Budget can still mean HIGH CONCEPT

Just because you’re writing a very low budget movie does NOT mean it has to look crappy. With the advent of new technology and techniques, a film can look a literal million dollars, even when it was shot for a tenth of that budget! Just don’t fall into the “usual” pitfalls and get creative! MORE:

Writing, Selling & MAKING Thriller Screenplays

10 Lessons Of Making A Microbudget Movie

How To Write Your Script To A Microbudget And Not Make It Look Microbudget On Screen 

6 Ways To Make The Most Of Low Budget Visual Effects

10 Ways To Scupper That Micro Budget Film

7) Thriller is NOT HORROR

I can’t stress this enough – just because Horror and Thriller might *seem* similar, doesn’t mean they ACTUALLY ARE. There are significant differences! Find out what they are BEFORE you start writing, or you might end up in a whole world of pain! MORE: What’s The Difference Between Horror & Thriller?

8) Thriller keyword: MYSTERY

Mystery is one of the key elements of the Thriller genre … SOLVING that mystery is of utmost importance, but that doesn’t mean “backending” all exposition to the ending, otherwise it ends up rather “Scooby Doo”! MORE: How Does Exposition Work? AKA 9 Common Exposition Qs Answered

9) Thriller keyword: CHASE

If your protagonist has to solve a mystery, think about throwing OBSTACLES in front of him or her … And then making that character have to CLIMB OVER those obstacles, with each one “bigger than the last”! This contributes to what screenwriting gurus call “rising action”, leading your protagonist to a big “showdown” with the antagonist!

10) Structure is EVERYTHING!

Structure is of utmost importance in the Thriller genre. If you want to write one, you have to NAIL structure right down and know exactly what you’re doing … otherwise that precious tension, mystery and chase will be LOST. So however you understand structure, get it done and get it on the page! MORE2 Things ALL Writers Get Wrong In Early Drafts

Want more on Thrillers?

thriller I’m teaching my interactive workshop based on my book Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays this weekend RIGHT NOW – if you want updates, links and scriptchat LIVE from the class, check out #LondonSWF on Twitter.

If you like this article and want more details on writing Thrillers, buy my book in Kindle and paperback via Amazon and all good bookshops!

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!


B2W was asked to be a judge for the Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition this year.

Bang2writers talk highly of this competition, plus Shore Scripts wrote a great post on last year’s entries for this site, so I was happy to accept.

As a judge, I didn’t read ALL the submissions – just the final five, all winners. All five are good scripts, plucked from a pile of 1800 screenplays and scored for their concepts and craft.

My job as judge then was to read those winning scripts and decide which ORDER I feel they should come in, 1-5. First up though, in no particular order, is my feedback for each winning entry. If you’re into script reading, pay particular attention to my thoughts on:

  • Concept, tone & genre
  • Story and structure
  • Character role function

Ready? Then let’s go …


Black Ice by Katie Cook

OFFICIAL LOGLINE: Told from two perspectives, “Black Ice” is a claustrophobic horror film set in the snowy Lake District and explores the darker side of familial obligation.

MY LOGLINE: When 3 students go off the road in bad weather on the mountainside, their lives are in danger from a deranged young loner and her father, who has been raising her to kill.

WHAT’S WORKING: BLACK ICE is an impressive, claustrophobic Horror film set in the wilderness. It’s refreshing to see the Slasher genre from the serial killer’s perspective as well; the action is well-structured, with the past and present day threads feeling well-balanced. In addition, the screenplay reverses traditional gender roles particularly well, with a female antagonist, a female “have-a-go hero” and a male damsel in distress. Dialogue is excellent, with characters earning the right to speak and poor Dylan’s death is absolutely excruciating. At just 94 pages, this script feels polished and lean, plus this is a writer who knows her genre inside-out (NOT pardoning the pun!!) and in this story I saw shades of HANNA, WOLF CREEK, A LONELY PLACE TO DIE and even classics such as THE SHINING and PSYCHO.

WHAT NEEDS WORK: The screenplay’s first half is not as strong as the second in my opinion, feeling a little familiar in the first instance until Dylan’s death. This is a shame, because BLACK ICE is not your “average” Slasher-Horror by any stretch of the imagination and I think we need to realise this from the get-go on page 1. In addition, there was some exposition I didn’t quite “get”: why is male blood superior to “feed” the mountain, over females’ (especially when Father kills women anyway, such as Harriet’s mother)? This is a key detail if the adult Harriet is to spare protagonist Charlotte and bring about her own downfall. Seems to me the answer is obvious: menstrual blood makes women “unclean”, which could then feed into Harriet trying so desperately to please Father with her own bloodlust, yet never *quite* measuring up (which would then link to “I tried …” at the end). But ultimately, again, placing this exposition upfront (rather than making a more veiled reference to it in the p70s) would help in my opinion.

VERDICT: Some “punching up” and tweaking needed, but minimal. Great development potential here, due to the small cast and limited locations (lots of blood and gore needed, plus a minor car wreck).


Dead Windows by Ben Steiner

OFFICIAL LOGLINE: A teenage boy, haunted by what he thinks is his doppelganger, discovers his father’s horrific parallel life in a secret bunker under their house.

MY LOGLINE: A boy believes he sees himself from various parallel dimensions, only to discover they are the ghosts of the boys his father is killing in their basement, because they look like his son.

WHAT’S WORKING: DEAD WINDOWS has an intriguing concept at its heart that brings forth comparisons in my mind to REAR WINDOW, DISTURBIA and ERASERHEAD. Jack’s father’s desire to kill his son is a taboo subject of parenting and a strong theme or idea to carry a story that many people can relate to, feeling trapped by their responsibilities. A lot of the dialogue is “Dawson’s Creek on crack” which is appealing, plus Sarah’s desire to provoke a reaction from Jack’s father Peter is one of the stronger character moments in the story. There is also good visual potential here with some stand-out moments, particularly towards the resolution: I loved the idea of the “doppelganger” coming out of the washing machine like “a birthing calf”!

WHAT NEEDS WORK: For me, narrative clarity is an issue in DEAD WINDOWS. Though I believe I understood (and enjoyed) the theme or message at the heart of this story, I was not always sure of the role functions of the characters or their motivations, which had a direct impact on my understanding of the plot as a result. Though meant as the protagonist, Jack “feels” like he shares similar screen-time to his parents, Peter and Sarah. Also, all of Peter’s actions are “back-ended” to the resolution, so his murderous actions feel as if it comes out of the left field. Tone is also an issue in my opinion, because the screenplay seems to waver from comedy to horror to drama in various chunks of the story, so I wasn’t always sure of the intention (ie. is this MEANT to be funny?). Exposition-wise, I also wasn’t sure why Jack would imagine doppelgangers before he thought of ghosts; plus I didn’t quite understand the ending: are they all in Hell, maybe?

VERDICT: An appealing concept with interesting ideas that still needs a fair bit of development. Relatively low budget, because it’s set in the one house more or less, plus if ALL the boy ghosts were Jack’s age (ie. teenagers, but played by adults over 18).


Jimmy The Freak by Mark Steensland

OFFICIAL LOGLINE: An ex-con and his mentally-handicapped (but supernaturally-blessed) friend are on the run from a ruthless mega church pastor out to exploit Jimmy’s abilities.


WHAT’S WORKING: JIMMY THE FREAK is basically RAINMAN, re-imagined by the Coen Brothers as a Thriller – so it’s raw, gritty and occasionally whimsical or even funny, with acres of pathos. The characters are three-dimensional and interesting, with thoughts and problems all their own. I love how it’s a church, rather than gangsters, Mike and Jimmy are on the run from! Jimmy is psychic, a supernatural talent that is not unusual in the spec pile, but the way this writer uses it, IS! Too often psychic characters withhold information for no real story reason, leading readers like me to wonder WHY, which is dramatically unsatisfying. Here in JIMMY THE FREAK, the writer really shows how it’s done, using the character’s psychic ability to inform the plot like Agatha does in MINORITY REPORT. It’s a male-led, ultimately macho film, but that doesn’t mean the female characters are sidelined: Melinda arguably steals the scene in every single one she’s in, plus her heartbreaking decision regarding her daughter is a real standout moment. The dialogue is excellent and though it’s lengthy, the writer has a commanding voice on the page from the offset, proving that you can do just about ANYTHING if you do it well.

WHAT NEEDS WORK: I have no notes! (I know, right!!) Maybe if I were to quibble, I’d say cut back on the dialogue a bit as it seems a shame to pay off certain elements in dialogue (such as why Mike took Jimmy). That said, I’m nit-picking. I loved it. Best of all, it shouln’t  be *too* expensive to make – some use of guns/bullet wounds; the street, motel rooms and the church are the main locations, though you would need snow.


Life Expectancy by Louis Ackerman

OFFICIAL LOGLINE: A former geneticist sets out to give he and his wife the child they never had, but defying the laws of nature have their consequences.

MY LOGLINE: A radical but brilliant doctor is offered the chance of a lifetime to work on human clones. When he is successful, he cannot bring himself to kill the test subject, who grows up, bringing chaos with him.

Download the ebook (link at the bottom of the post) to read the feedback

wildfire-blm4When The Devil’s Loose by Ben Watts

OFFICIAL LOGLINE: In the summer of 1988, four young friends set out to discover the truth behind mysterious happenings as an ever-spreading wildfire threatens to wipe out their small suburban community.

MY LOGLINE: Set against a backdrop of wildfires, when four friends discover a body in a sunken plane, they believe it’s connected to the break-ins that have been happening locally, so set out to investigate.

WHAT’S WORKING: A nostalgic look at teenage life, WHEN THE DEVIL’S LOOSE reminds me very much of cinema classic STAND BY ME. The characters of fourteen year old friends Tyler, Georgia and brothers Jeffrey and Aaron are appealing and authentic. Dialogue is good and refreshingly, is not like DAWSON’S CREEK or Joss Whedon’s (which teen speak most often is in the spec pile). It is also refreshing to see protagonist Tyler is not from an unhappy family, plus his friends might have problems at home but all are realistic, based on living through a time of austerity and job losses, meaning the eighties storyworld has intriguing reflections of current times we can relate to. In addition, Aaron’s deafness not only meant there was a disabled character in the story, it actually pays off in the story very well, when he’s in danger from the antagonist because he can’t hear the others’ warnings. When scene description was present (particularly towards the end of the screenplay), it was vital and interesting. I really liked the wildfires backdrop, which was ominous and threatening, though admittedly as a plan it does “seem freaking nuts” (p107) to burn a whole town just to cover up burglaries!

WHAT NEEDS WORK: At approximately 120 pages, WHEN THE DEVIL’S LOOSE is the longest of the five winning Shore Scripts – and in my opinion, unjustifiably so. There seems to be “too many” characters: I found it difficult to keep up with who-was-who, especially in terms of role function. Though the dialogue is good, there’s simply far too much of it, with characters re-treading old ground, telling us what we’ve already seen. Billy Wilder said that if a screenplay is “too long” there’s usually a problem with Act 1 and I would venture this is WHEN THE DEVIL’S LOOSE’s biggest issue: as I’ve noted in my logline, the plane and the discovery of the body is arguably the catalyst for what happens (currently page 22), whereas I would venture it’s actually Tyler’s father Dean’s death that “should” kickstart this story (currently page 89). If Dean were to die FIRST and then cause Tyler to go looking for his killer (discovering how it’s tied in with the break ins and fires), this would make Tyler less passive in terms of his character motivation and also inform the plot more, so we’re not waiting for things to be revealed, such as when Jeffrey discovers that EJ is responsible for setting the wildfires.

VERDICT: Overall, this script has excellent potential story-wise but currently needs some significant development in my opinion in order to be a viable production prospect. A reduction in the cast numbers and “focusing in” on the story and structure, investing in visuals over dialogue would be a good start on the next draft.



There were 21 judges for the 2015 Shore Scripts Competition (and I am just one of them!), but based on my thoughts above, I ranked the winners as below:


You see the official winning order of the above entries, HERE.

Congratulations to ALL the winners in this year’s contest!

Another Free B2W Download!

You can download my feedback above (plus HOW to write a script report!) as an ebook, HERE or click any of the pics above. Please share with your friends and followers!

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

thriller cheat sheet

Click this pic for your FREE Cheat Sheet as a PDF

Did you know?

There’s still places available on my workshop, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays at historic Ealing Studios, in conjunction with LondonSWF, November 28th-29th, 2015!

In this highly interactive class we’ll be putting the genre under the microscope, as well as coming up with our own Thriller concepts, as well as pitching and packaging our ideas … Can you afford to miss it?? Get £50 off with discount code LSF15, NOW!

Get your Thriller cheat sheet (PDF)

Just click HERE or on the pic above. Enjoy!

Want more?

Then check out my book! Get Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays (published by Creative Essentials) by clicking HERE, or the pic below.


Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

Most novels and movies are based, at *some* level, on the confrontation of good and bad characters, i.e. on “the eternal struggle between Good and Evil”. This is quite understandable … As writing Gurus are fond of saying, “Drama is Conflict”!

But very often, we are more drawn to the baddies, but WHY?? Chew on these 7 reasons on why bad characters might seem more attractive to your audience:


1) The villains are interesting!

A simple one, to start: the bad character is likely to be unpredictable. This keeps the reader or viewer alert – we don’t know what our antagonist will do next! She could pick the “good” way or the “bad” way (as well as any other out of 50 suggested!), so we watch her actions with growing curiosity. Thus, no matter how would we approach to the “bad guy”, she will never be boring. MORE: On Heroes & Monsters

2) Villains think THEY are the good guys!

When villains think of themselves as heroes, it creates additional drama because we start sympathize them and even justify their actions. Take for example, Tai Lung from Kung-Fu Panda. He appears as the strongest warrior, the best Kung-Fuist among the Furious Five and the victim of “unfair fate” – it was the fault of Master Shifu and Grand Master Oogway that Tai Lung did not get the Dragon Scroll. Being overwhelmed by own pride and anger, he still remains the adoptive son and first pupil of Master Shifu. Personally, I feel more pity than fear of Tai Lung!

Another example – Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid. In her song to Ariel she openly says: “ I admit that in the past I’ve been a nasty/ They weren’t kidding when they called me, well, a witch / But you’ll find that nowadays /I’ve mended all my ways / Repented, seen the light and made a switch / True? Yes” and this admirable audacity keeps us interested and makes the story intriguing. MORE: 6 Things Every Hero Needs

3) “Too odd to live, too rare to die.”

According to Albert Einstein, “the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious”. Villains make the most out of this notion: they are often secretive, sinister and full of darkness. What’s more, the more mysterious a villain is, the more potential s/he has to scare the audience. Thus, a villain who has no clear motivations confuses us even more! That is why Heath Ledger’s Joker is more baleful than Jack Nicholson’s. MORE: Know Your Enemy (But Don’t Know Too Much)


4) “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a city to destroy.”

Evil characters are real hard workers. A “bad guy” is always busy with evil plans, searching to actively conquer the world! It is not so easy to build an army, gain source of a superpower or enslave and control the human race. And that is why it is so interesting to watch them working. MORE: Kicking Arcs: Action Hero Journeys 

5) “Did I promise you something? I lied.”

Since our childhood, a common culture chases us all into the rigid frames of behaviour and morality. Face it, even though you try to rebel, our conscience will not let always let us. In comparison, a “bad guy” neglects all society’s rules and restrictions and enjoys a “full life”. There is a part of us that admires that, even if we don’t condone it. MORE: 4 Reasons It’s All About Entertainment, Not Theory 

6) Looks ARE everything!

OK, it is unfashionable to say, but let’s face it, we like visually attractive things … And villains often come with elegant outfits and/or extravagant habits.  Take Marvel Comics for example. As heroic as Captain America is, just look at him compared to Red Skull! To me at least, a giant, creepy and skeletal-looking man seems a lot more intimidating and visually appealing than the stars-and-stripes gown of the fellow to his left. What can I say?? MORE5 Ways To Write A Strong Female Character


But there is another reason why we like villains:

7) We are all capable of doing bad things! 

The last but not the least fact why we like evil characters is that we know they are not real. No matter how exciting the story is, we still realise that it is a fiction and that is why we can admire things, which would terrify us in a real life. We are safe, so can understand the deeper motives of the bad characters as they nearly have sad or difficult origins. We can feel their pain or the offense and we simply sympathise them … To *some* extent, of course! MORE: 3 Questions For Your Male Action Hero Characters


So, to cut long story short, I’ve found that evil characters can be much more appealing than seemingly flawless heroes. Villains try to deceive everyone at every turn; that is why “forbidden fruit” is so attractive! “Bad guys” are charismatic and interesting, even if they are insane or look frightening. They go outside the boundaries of acceptable society behaviour, making ambitious plans and doing horrible things, which appeals to our inner desire to break from the routine.


BIO: Justine Thomas is a passionate blogger and a freelance writer at You can follow Justine on Twitter to contact and collaborate with her.

Writing Your Own Thriller Screenplay?

thrillerThen join my workshop, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays at Ealing Studios, in conjunction with LondonSWF, November 28th-29th, 2015! In this highly interactive class we’ll be putting the genre under the microscope, as well as coming up with our own Thriller concepts, as well as pitching and packaging our ideas … Join usssssss and get £50 off with discount code LSF15, NOW!

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!


More and more Bang2writers are attempting epic storyworlds, flamboyant characters and super stunts in their screenwriting. This is welcome progress as far as I’m concerned … As I’ve said many times on this blog, I enjoy big budget action movies and no one does them quite like Hollywood.

However, there does appear to be some confusion amongst new action screenwriters on what *exactly* a set piece is. Here’s a dictionary definition:

Set Piece, noun

1) A scene, action, or the like, having a conventional form and functioning as part of the structure of a work of art, literature, etc.

2) In a novel, narrative poem, or the like: a passage more or less extraneous to the sequence of events, introduced to supply background, color, or the like.

In other words, when it comes to screenwriting, a set piece is a scene and/or series of scenes that:

1) Has a beginning, middle and end

2) Can stand alone (ie. you don’t need to have watched the entire movie to understand the point of the scene, ‘cos of point 1 in this list).

3) Has a specific purpose in pushing the overarching story forward somehow (ie. taking us from one Act to another; or perhaps altering the dramatic context, such as “flight to fight”, or The Showdown in the resolution).

4) Frequently reveals character, especially the protagonist and/or antagonist (ie. “brave and ingenious goody versus deranged and vicious baddie” is a big favourite in the action genre).

5) Reflects the tone and genre of the piece (ie. serious and plausible peril; high octane; fantasy action; comedic elements and so on).

Examples of action set pieces in recent blockbusters:

Max vs. The Pole Cats, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (2015)

Dinosaur hunting, JURASSIC WORLD (2015)

Quicksilver’s epic run, X MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)

It’s no accident you’ve probably seen clips of the above, before – in the movie trailers and on the web via Tumblr, Twitter and other social media. Set pieces are arguably the selling point of action movies: it’s what the audiences ultimately sign up for. Set pieces can be serious, funny or something in-between but ultimately what they ALL must do is EXCITE the audience, **somehow**.

Yet writers will often get themselves tied up in a knot. They may overwrite their set pieces, accounting for every punch, explosion and race in minute detail; or they may leave it TOO MUCH to the imagination, so theirs is barely there on the page. Two opposite ends of the writing scale maybe, but we end up with the same issue, which is a  set piece that “misfires” – the kiss of death when you’re attempting an action movie!

So here’s 5 important questions to ask yourself, next time you’re attempting to write a set piece:

1) WHO is involved?

Keyword: IDENTIFY. Knowing which characters are involved and why, plus how this relates to the overall story, will help you construct your set piece.

Set pieces usually revolve around the protagonist, but are frequently instigated by the antagonist in an action movie. If we consider the Dinosaur Hunting set piece in Jurassic World (2015), which is towards the resolution. Owen and his raptors power off into the jungle in search of Indominus Rex, who has escaped her compound. The idea is, Owen’s raptors will help capture her. Of course, this doesn’t happen and Indominus Rex turns the tables on the humans, via the raptors (which to my mind was the best moment of the film, bar *that* ending).

2) WHAT do we need to understand?

Keyword: EXPOSITION. Here a set piece may underline how the storyworld works (especially in Dystopian futureworlds), but also may introduce a concept that proves important in the story LATER.

Thinking about the Max Vs. The Pole Cats set piece in Mad Max Fury World (2015), this creates a visual spectacle we haven’t really seen beyond the Mad Max universe, plus it builds on the gas stealers from the very first movie thirty years ago. In addition, this sequence has a specific story function. After this happens, one of Immortan Joe’s wives, “Toast The Knowing” will be abducted from Furiosa’s war rig straight out of its “sunroof” by one of these guys.

3) WHEN will it be?

Keyword: TIMING. Space out your set pieces.

You CAN have too much of a good thing. Set pieces can be great, but you need to space them out evenly or risk your story seeming lumpy and uneven. Equally, don’t make us wait too long between them, either. Look at each set piece you want to write in isolation and figure out when it will be in the story, to figure out if you need it (or not).

4) WHERE will it be in relation to the REST?

Keyword: STRUCTURE. Each one, bigger than the last.

Great action movies contain the buzzwords “rising action” … In other words, each set piece is BIGGER than the last. This is why so many action movies include ALL nvolved characters in the resolution (who are still alive!): protagonist, antagonist and all remaining secondaries. In Mad Max Fury Road, we return to The Citadel; in Jurassic World we end up back inside the compound; and in X Men: Days of Future Past we are not only in a huge football stadium, Magneto actually has it floating up in the air at one point!

5) WHY am I using it?

Keywords: GENRE & TONE. Whatever you choose here, you need to be consistent. 

Writing something that will “look cool” may cut it if you’re commissioned, but this rarely works for spec screenplays … because they’ve NOT been made yet! So think why you’re using your set piece: perhaps it is to sign post something that happens later (as with Mad Max Fury World); or to create a reversal or twist (as with Jurassic World). Or maybe it’s a fun moment to reveal character, as with Quicksilver in X Men: Days Of Future Past. He is an irreverant character, so he helps them all escape (thus pushing the plot forward) in his own unique, irreverant way.

Writing Your Own Thriller Screenplay?

thrillerThen join my workshop, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays at Ealing Studios, in conjunction with LondonSWF, November 28t-29th, 2015! In this highly interactive class we’ll be putting the genre under the microscope, as well as coming up with our own Thriller concepts, as well as pitching and packaging our ideas … Join usssssss and get £50 off with discount code LSF15, NOW!

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

First impressions count

Yet novelist or screenwriter, there ARE common errors writers make when submitting their work to readers, agents, filmmakers, producers and publishers.

It’s all very well saying “the story is everything” – and you’d be right! – but at the same time, if your poor writing CRAFT gets in the way of that, HOW is your story going to shine???

The good news is, it’s never been easier to fix the top writing mistakes novelists and screenwriters make. Check out this brilliant infographic from Grammarly which puts the most common errors in the spotlight, having worked with nearly 500 novelists to find out what’s holding writers back.

So use this infographic, plus the linkage at the bottom of this post, to cross reference with your own work and give yourself the best chance of ensuring your writing shines when you submit it. Good luck!

Five Mistakes To Avoid in Your NaNoWriMo Novel Infographic

More links to help you fix those top writing mistakes:

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!

3 Killer Typos That Blow Writers Out The Water

The 5 Biggest Format Errors Spec Screenplays Make

The Format One Stop Shop

Are YOU A Grammar Nerd? Find Out!

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

I’ve read a LOT of scripts (screenplays, novels AND pitch material) and try and demystify the spec pile for writers whenever I can … So when script editor Philip Gladwin asked to write a guest post on getting your script ready for his competition Screenwriting Goldmine, I of course said yes! There’s some REALLY good info and advice here, for your best chance of placing in the contest, which is OPEN NOW. Enjoy and good luck!


What did reading 1,000 scripts teach me? 

In the last two years I’ve been a production script editor on two primetime TV shows, and I’ve been a head of development looking for new writers and new projects. I’ve also been running the Screenwriting Goldmine Awards and I’ve read every single entry. In that time I have read a lot of scripts. Call it 1,000 scripts for simplicity.

In that time some things have become very clear. A lot of scripts miss the mark.

A lot of scripts don’t do what the writers think they do.

A lot of scripts simply don’t work.

Is your script ready?

If you’re going to enter the Screenwriting Goldmine Awards I really want you to have the best chance of placing in the final five.

So before you enter I’d like you to look at your script and ask yourself these questions:


1) Does your script have a strong protagonist?

Is it about someone in particular? If you had to talk about your script could you say “It’s about a woman who…”, or “It’s about this guy/these couple of guys who…”? You can usually do this with stories that stand the test of time. MORESubmissions Insanity: Demystifying The Spec Pile

2) Does something HAPPEN over the course of the script?

Does something happen to the protagonist? Do they start in one emotional state and end in another? If they remain the same, have they changed or saved the world in some way? MOREIs “Good” Characterisation Really About Change? 

3) Does this protagonist WANT something very, very much?

And over the course of the script do they pull out all the stops they can to get it? MORE: A Look In The Spec Pile: Top 6 Submissions In 2014 Shore Scripts Screenwriting Competition

4) Do you have a strong antagonist?

Is there one person in the script whose main job it is to attack the protagonist and block them from getting what they want? MORE: Top 5 Ways Writers Screw Up Their Characters

5) Where is your Act Structure?

Can you see an inciting incident for your protagonist, plus an end of Act 1, end of Act 2, and a good satisfying climax towards the end of the script? If you’ve chosen not to have these things, do you have a genuinely good reason for flying in the face of thousands of years of story-telling technique? (And if you don’t know what any of this means, then why not?)

If you have these five things in place then your script is up on its feet and ready to fight. You could even enter it to the contest and I bet it’s going to be a good read. MORE: Why Structure is about your character “climbing walls, each bigger than the last”


But there’s more!!

You could ask yourself these questions too:

6) Did you plan your script?

I hope you did. Planned scripts tend to turn out better. In fact I really hope you spent quite a lot of time thinking about a beat sheet of some kind BEFORE you wrote any dialogue.

7) Do you use voiceover properly?

Voiceover needs to counterpoint and add depth and conflict to what we see on screen.

Voiceover that just repeats what we are watching is bad voice-over. Best cut it. MORE: All About Voiceover

8) Do your flashbacks earn their place?

Flashbacks are best when they genuinely propel the present day story forwards.

Bad flashbacks stop us dead in our tracks in order to explain something we don’t actually need to know. MORE: Good Examples: Voiceover, Flashback, Montage, Intercut, Dream Sequence


9) Does every single scene have some conflict in it?

In every scene someone must want something, and try to get it. And something or someone must block them.

There are three main types of conflict:

Externalpeople battle each other verbally or physically;

Internalperson battles themselves and their inner destructive impulses;

Environmentalperson battles their environment.

Go through your script and look for one of these conflicts in each scene or sequence of scenes. If you can’t find any conflict then that scene/mini-sequence is almost definitely boring or dead. Find a clever, organic way to add conflict, or think about cutting it.

10) Have you cut all the dialogue you don’t need?

Your characters probably don’t need to say hello and how are you.

And here’s a useful guideline:

You really need to earn the right to have a character’s speech last more than four lines of dialogue in standard screenplay format.

If (and only if) you’re Aaron Sorkin or Bruce Robinson or Quentin Tarentino then please ignore this point. MORE: 6 Reasons Dialogue Is Your Enemy

11) Is your dialogue any good?

Of the dialogue that’s left, does it lay out clearly and openly what the character is truly thinking? If so, then it’s probably bad dialogue. Good dialogue flirts with us. It misdirects. There is a gap between the words, and their real intent. Good dialogue has subtext.

To quote script consultant Philip Shelley: “If a scene is about a man who goes into a shop and the dialogue in the scene is all about him asking to buy a packet of cigarettes, then the last thing this scene should actually be about is him buying a packet of cigarettes.”

Have you used dialogue as a last resort, after the character has made all physical attempts to get what they want? Or are you too in love with words? Think about it! MORE: 5 Reasons Dialogue Is Overrated 

12) In general, are you too in love with beauty?

The story is the thing, the battle between your protagonist and your antagonist, not the beautiful stage directions. MORE: 10 Ways To Revitalise Your Scene Description


About The Screenwriting Goldmine Awards:

The Screenwriting Goldmine Awards was founded in 2012. Its mission is to connect good new screenwriters to the industry professionals who can hire them.

Doors close for new entries on December 10th 2015. Doors into the industry will open for the five finalists in early 2016. For more information, VISIT THE WEBSITE.


Want a free ebook on how NOT to write female characters? Then sign up HERE for your 28 page ebook (PDF), or click one of the pics in the article above.

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

One of the questions I’m asked ALOT by Bang2writers is how to balance writing with a day job, so when Kenneth got in touch asking to write about his top tips on this subject, I jumped at the chance! Here’s Kenneth’s thoughts on the matter and look at my links at the end of each section for more. Good luck!


Whether you just love to write for the fun of it, or you want to use it as an additional source of income that will boost your budget, finding the time to actually do so if you are working a full-time job can seem next to impossible.

You’ve tried to look online for some advice on how to pull it off, but that’s probably not helping, because all you’re getting is clichés like “you don’t want it bad enough”, “where there is a will, there is a way”, or tips which tell you to put your writing above everything — even your friends and family! Everything besides your day job, of course.

Forget everything you’ve read so far. You CAN and you WILL do it. Here are 6 effective tips on how to find enough time in a day to enjoy writing:

1) Always Take Your Best Idea and Run with It

If you have several ideas running through your head, you might be tempted to start with one that will take up less of your time, or which will require less research on your part. However, we advise you to always pick out the best one and stick with it. You will only be able to consistently find the time to write about it if you really love it. If you choose something else, pretty soon it will start becoming a burden for you. You will come home, dreading the fact that you have to work and you’ll eventually quit. That’s a shame, because you could have used that time to work on something that you are obsessed with, or you could have spent it with your family and friends.

Tip: If you are really passionate about an idea, always trust your gut feeling and focus on it. It may sound a bit irrational, but writing should be less about logic, and more about creativity. MORE: Help – My Partner Won’t Let Me Write! 

2) Break Your Writing up into Smaller Milestones

If you are writing a book, or a novel, the very idea of having to write 150 or 200 pages can seem overwhelming. Since you have your day job, you can’t just lock yourself up in your study, emerge several weeks later and have it done. So, you have to make peace with the fact that you’ll have to chip away at it, one small chunk at a time. Might not seem like much at first, but you will be able to see progress over the course of one month. Everyone can find the time to write 500 or 1000 words a day. Writing at that pace, you can have your book written in 4-5 months. If you are a blogger, that’s one post per day.

Tip: Dividing your work into smaller segments will help you realize that it is possible for you to write, as well as keep your concentration tack-sharp while writing. MORE: Share more tips like this by joining the very lively Bang2writers group on Facebook.

3) Be Consistent

Consistency is important for at least two reasons. First of all, if you write consistently, your progress will be linear, and that’s important because you want to see you’re progressing slowly, but surely. Second of all, if you choose to write every day, or every week, it becomes a habit, and habits, as we know, are hard to break, especially if they are enjoyable. If your plan is to write 500 words each day, do it no matter what. If you prefer to write on Mondays, Fridays, and Wednesday, do it every single time, achieving a milestone you’ve set for yourself. Another possible benefit of this approach is that you’ll learn discipline, which will begin to spill over into other areas of your life.

Tip: While it may seem that routine and creativity never go hand in hand, having some order and discipline in your work will help you write more. MORE: When do I give up my day job? 


4) Be Prepared to Capture Your Ideas Anywhere, Anytime

Ideas have an annoying habit of striking at the most inopportune moments, but that doesn’t mean you have to let them slip your mind. Always keep something on you to help you write them down. These days, everybody has a smartphone, or a tablet, which they can access quickly and take a note. If you don’t have any of these, just carry a small notebook and a pen with you, everywhere you go. Even if an idea doesn’t seem to be a particularly good fit for what’s you’re currently writing about, write it down so you can use it for some other project, or keep it on standby until you figure out a way to tie into your current one.

Tip: Regardless of how much time you have to develop your ideas, you should always write them down, because you never know when the situation might change time-wise. Keep track of them just in case it does. MORE: 25 Writing Secrets of Famous Authors 

5) Make Use of Smaller Time Intervals

If you have a family, or if you are going to school in addition to working full-time, it might be impossible for you to sit down for an hour or two each day and write those 500 to 1000 words. Be that as it may, the day lasts for 24 hours, and there are plenty of moments in it which can be used for writing. For instance, if you are taking a train or a bus to work, take out you laptop and write on your way there, and on your way back home. Sacrifice a lunch break or two during the week, cut down on the amount of time you spend on social medial, or eliminate some of the daily rituals you no longer find essential.

Tip: Although those small chunks of time don’t seem like much all on their own, they add up to a pretty useful amount. Make sure you tap into it. MORE: 8 Tips for Optimising Your NaNoWriMo Time

6) Stop Being a Perfectionist!

While it’s good to raise the bar high on occasion and be a perfectionist, you can’t apply that same principle here, because you won’t have ideal writing conditions, so you need to be happy with the fact that you can find the time to write at all. Even if you think the stuff you’ve written sucks, stick with it, because you may be able to salvage a portion of it that is useful. Even if you don’t, it’s still ok, because practice makes perfect.

Tip: Avoid falling into a trap of perfectionism. Give yourself a break and do the best you can considering the circumstances. MORE: 7 Ways To Find More Time To Write 


You can juggle both your day job, and your love of writing. It all comes down to discipline, dedication, and the willingness to make some small sacrifices along the way. The rest is up to you. We hope you’ve found these tips useful and that you will start applying them today.


BIO: Kenneth Waldman is a freelance writer and content editor at essay writing service which provides assignment help for students. Kenneth draws his inspiration from travelling and sport. Get in touch with him on Linkedin.

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

Writers frequently think the Mentor Role Function *just* means the literal version of this character, such as Morpheus teaching Neo how the machines work and how to kick ass in THE MATRIX (1999). But the reality is, a Mentor character can be ANYTHING!!

Remember, a good secondary character HELPS or HINDERS the protagonist in some way, in the course of the story. That means mentor characters (of ANY gender) must teach the protagonist some kind of lesson, literal or metaphorical (or both!). That’s IT. That’s their ultimate purpose in the narrative.

So here’s four male secondary characters who are Mentors, all for VERY different reasons … Enjoy!

15-reasons-jesse-from-pitch-perfect-the-boyfriend-2-26969-1407448831-23_dblbig1) Jesse, Pitch Perfect (2012)

“No. You think you know, but you don’t.”

Impossibly good looking, unimaginably talented and totally SORTED in his outlook on life (not to mention quirky in his own way), if Jesse were female, certain snarky film sites would accuse him of being the much-maligned Manic Pixie Dream Girl. But Jesse teaches Pitch Perfect‘s protagonist Beca and helps her see where she’s going wrong in her life, pushing everyone away. He even helpfully provides himself as the “prize” for her recognition of this lesson as her love interest. Well, we all like a happy ending!

tumblr_m5r1g8F1M81qaw62eo1_5002) Russell, Bad Teacher (2011)

“This shit does not faze me, AT ALL.”

Unlike Jesse, Russell has no particular talents, other than being himself and doing exactly what he wants. Now, Elizabeth (the “Bad Teacher” of the title) may also do exactly what she wants all the time, but she does this at the EXPENSE of everyone else, whether this is her long suffering students, colleagues or potential love interests. Russell makes it obvious from the start he likes Elizabeth DESPITE her neverending flow of calamities and selfishness (and why not? Women occupy this role function ALL the time when it comes to unreasonable men!), but Elizabeth steadfastedly ignores him throughout. Unfazed, Russell basically undermines Elizabeth’s selfish efforts throughout the entire movie, offering the alternative view constantly until she finally caves and basically admits he’s RIGHT. Then very handily, like Jesse, he offers himself up as the prize, but CRUCIALLY Elizabeth isn’t expected to change for him, if *that* filthy hand/tongue gesture he makes to her in the school hall in the resolution is anything to go by …

disney-inside-out-bing-bong-charm-8197-0-17670700-14279890993) Bing Bong, Inside Out (2015)

“Take her to the moon for me, Joy.”

Mentors are sometimes also Expendable Heroes – those characters who die to save the protagonist, as their ultimate act of teaching. This is seen most frequently in the Action/Adventure genre, but can even appear in family movies, too. The most recent example is Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong in Inside Out. This movie had the adults sobbing every bit as much as the kids when Bing Bong accepts his fate as a forgotten remnant of Riley’s past and sacrifices himself for her benefit, helping Joy launch out of the pit of memory! SOB

Tom-Hardy-Forrest-Bondurant-Lawless-tom-hardy-32045938-403-4034) Forrest, Lawless (2012)

“We’re survivors. We control the fear. And without the fear, we are all as good as dead. Do you understand? Do you?”

Perhaps the toughest guy ever to wear a cardigan in cinema, Forrest in Lawless is the hardcore big brother we all wish we had in our corner. Seemingly invincible, completely uncompromising, Forrest teaches younger sibling Jack that reputation is every bit as important as action … And that sometimes, keeping the peace is is every bit as hard work and bloodthirsty as creating that reputation. MORE3 Questions For Your Male Action Hero Characters

5) Tommy, Friends With Benefits (2011)

“You wanna be happy? Find someone you like and never let him go … or her, if you’re into creepy shit like that.”

Gay Mentors are nothing new in the Rom Com genre … but even so, there haven’t been many quite like Tommy! What’s particularly refreshing about Tommy is not that he teaches the protagonist – this is a tried-and-tested role function for this *type* of character in this genre, after all – but HOW Tommy is presented:

From the offset, Tommy is presented as someone who does not live in a heteronormative world, because frankly, why the hell should he??? When meeting protagonist Dylan, Tommy even says he knows loads of places the two of them can go “trolling for cock” … This prompts our hero to say, embarrassed, “Oh, I’m not gay” like so many people *have* to say, “Oh, I’m gay” when others attempt to take them out or set them up with the opposite sex.

What’s more, Tommy presents himself as someone who is completely and unapologetically desirable to both men AND women because again, why the hell not?? His confidence and sexual capital is usually something only afforded to straight people in both movie-land AND society (so I like to think it’s no accident they cast Woody Harrelson in the role, someone who is probably the epitome of this idea, further underlining the notion. Could this have lead to the likes of an openly gay character like Jamal (played by the openly gay actor Jussie Smollett) in EMPIRE being represented with the same kind of erotic capital, normally associated on screen only with straight (white) men? We can’t say for sure, but it can’t have hurt I’d wager).

“Be yourself” is a theme that crops up in MANY genres, but especially Rom Coms and Family movies … But again, this idea is nearly always afforded to those who neatly fit society’s expected boxes. Tommy in Friends With Benefits is not who we “expect” … He even *likes* women – as long as it’s in theory:

“Hey, I love women. They’re beautiful, majestic, mysterious, mesmerising creatures. Smart, empathetic, far superior to men in every way. And if I had a choice, I would be with women to my dying day. But me likes cock, so I’m strickily-dickily.” (!)


Secondary characters HELP or HINDER the protagonist in his or her mission … So a Mentor character will usually help by TEACHING him or her *something* that pushes the story forward and reveals character. This role function can be overt, like Forrest; or it can be combined with a love interest like Jesse and Russell; or the character can be an Expendable Hero, like Bing Bong or perform a comedic function like Tommy. Whatever you do, make sure it works!

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!

ToolboxLooking for The Screenwriter’s Toolbox? FIND IT HERE

November is officially the month of NaNoWrimo, also known as National Novel Writing Month! It’s an exciting challenge where you aim to write a 50, 000 word novel by November 30th.

In honour of this special month, we’ve decided to compile The Novelist’s Toolbox – 20 links full of helpful tips and hints to help you on your way to literary greatness!

For those of you that would like to join the NaNoWrimo Challenge – it’s NOT too late!! Head over to the site, RIGHT NOW and good luck!


1) Getting Ready For NaNoWrimo

Here is a fantastic link detailing EVERYTHING you need to know and do in order to get the most out of the NaNoWrimo challenge!

2) 13 Tips For Productive Writing

We all know how intimidating a blank page or screen can be – Not to worry, here are 13 tips to help make the writing process easier.

3) 25 Ways To Plot, Plan & Prep Your Story

Who knew there were so many different methods to help prepare for your novel! This link by “Terrible Minds” author @ChuckWendig defines each method, so have a browse and get planning.

4) The 4 Story Structures

This link explains 4 story structures and elements that dominate novels, as well as which structure may be the right fit for your story.

5) Advice From 31 Famous Authors

Feeling stuck in a writing rut? Here are 31 tips from famous authors such as Terry Pratchett, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith & Stephen King to inspire you.

6) 7 Apps For Novelists

Here are 7 of the best apps for writers to help make your life that little bit easier if inspiration strikes you while on the go!

7) 21 Tips For Your Opening Scene

Some great advice here on the DO’S & DON’TS of your opening scene – must read for every budding author out there.

8) 9 Rules For Writing Dialogue

Dialogue can be the number one obstacle we all fear. These 9 rules tell you exactly how to overcome this!


9) 11 Tips To Create A Writing Routine

Finding a routine that works for you is SO important! Here are 11 tips to help flex those writing muscles.

10) 10 Tricks To Create Memorable Characters

These 10 tips and tricks should provide some insight on how to create memorable and interesting characters.

11) Creating A Fantasy World

Here are 10 important questions to ask yourself when world building for a fantasy novel. Still very relevant even if fantasy isn’t your genre.

12) Plot Twists

Want to know how to create that amazing plot twist? Every writer wants to achieve that wow moment, so here are the secrets you need to know!

13) 15 Step Self-Edit Guide

These 15 steps cover the first draft all the way to publication! An easy to follow guide to help your self-editing.

14) Why Wattpad?

If you haven’t heard of Wattpad and why it’s such an awesome writing platform, then definitely CLICK HERE!

15) Sagging Middle Syndrome

Having trouble with the middle of your story? This link provides 5 plot devices that can sharpen and focus your middle section in no time!

16) The End Is Near

Making sure your book finishes with a bang is far easier said than done! These tips from @thecreativepenn will certainly help you craft that killer ending.


17) Social Media For Every Writer

A fab source for all your social media concerns, questions and problems. A must read for EVERY writer from @CaballoFrances – I promise social media won’t seem so scary afterwards.

18) To Self Publish or Not?

Here are 15 questions from @JaneFriedman to consider before you decide to self publish or try the traditional route of publishing.

19) 20 Secrets To Winning Competitions

Entering a competition is a great way to gain exposure! Sometimes there’s the added bonus of a cash prize, but with or without, take the plunge and go for it. Who knows, you might just end up winning!

20) All About The Agent

Here you will find a list of 37 links from @WritersRelief covering EVERYTHING you’d ever need to know about how to find and what to submit to a Literary Agent!

Looking for The Screenwriter’s Toolbox? FIND IT HERE


IMG_8071BIO: This list was compiled by Olivia Brennan aka @LivSFB – come find me online at MY BLOG, on Twitter, on the B2W Facebook page and the new B2W Facebook group. See you there!



Know any other great links?

Bang-BangThen share in the comments below with the Bang2writers! Also, you can now join Bang2writers as a Facebook Group to share scriptchat, links or post leads, collaboration opportunities or find fellow writers for peer review. JOIN HERE or click the pic on the left.

Like this post? Then please check out my books, HERE and share on your social media profiles. Happy writing!