Some writers are getting better at presenting themselves: they are realising that first impressions count. They’ve noticed that, to get taken seriously in some of the bigger circles (or even medium-sized ones), they need to start well in order to have a good stab at overcoming the sizeable competition they are up against. So they’re stating their intent; they’re setting up their protagonist and his/her goals; they’re formatting well and their script sails past page ten and into a full read. In short, their Act One rocks. Nice one. So what’s the problem?
They can’t keep it up.
I’m seeing more and more scripts where Act One is great, yet the moment – and I’m talking literally as soon as that first turning point comes in between page 22 and 30 [approximate] – things go wrong. There can be a number of reasons. Usually the plot begins to meander, though I’ve seen several go off at King Lear tangents and several others that have changed their plots and/or genres entirely.
How does this happen? I believe it’s because the writer is looking at their script more as a product – ie. getting it past the reader – than as a holistic story and subsequent plot in its own right. Many clients I read for don’t truly know what their story is about and this, plus that concentration on “beating” the reader is what is ensuring scripts “sag” like this.
I’ve spoken to some writers who say, “As long as I can get past the first ten pages and set up well, nothing else matters.” I would counsel caution on this approach however. The scripts that are set up well, yet go awry from Act 2 onwards are one of the biggest disappointments a reader can get. Only recently I read what started as an AMAZING script from *somewhere outside* Bang2write. Eighteen pages in, I was still going. I was hooked. Got to page 25…And everything stopped. It limped in at 92 pages of aimless journeying thereafter, making me wonder what had ever excited me about it in the first place. I even wished it hadn’t been so good at the beginning, so I might have not been disappointed. It was kind of like finding a hot guy, taking him to bed with you and discovering that actually, whilst he might look like an Italian Stallion, he has more in ahem, common, with a mouse. Damn!
Of course us Readers would sooner have the Hot Scripts just like us laydeez would rather have the Hot Guys. But we’ll settle for the “perfectly serviceable”, even if it doesn’t push all our buttons. Far better that then not wanting to finish and making a run for it out the bathroom window… And we’ve all done that, right girls? Oh. Just me then.