Notes from a Screenreader: Lie to Me


Photo via Go Into the Story.

Lie to me.

Most spec scripts have an importance of being earnest problem. They tell the reader the truth, all of it, all the time. All the backstory, all the exposition, all of what everyone is doing and precisely why, before it even happens.

Lying to the reader in your set-up creates mystery and tension, which is the leading cause of page-turning.

How to lie to a screenreader:

  • Dialogue. Tell the truth with a lie. When your characters say things we know to be false, it tells more of the story.
  • Action. Shroud it in secrecy. There is a lot of suspense and curiosity created by someone doing something there is no obvious explanation for.
  • Character. Try hiding their true nature until it is revealed in action. The sweet soccer mom who has anonymous sex, the drug dealer who gives CPR to an accident victim.

Lying is what sets up reveals, and there is nothing that thrills a reader more than an effective reveal.

— ANNIE LABARBA (@annelabarba)



nywift New York Women in Film & Television supports women calling the shots in film, television and digital media.

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