Photo via Go Into the Story.
Here’s a great magic trick. A magician carries a dollhouse onstage and places it on a table. He says it’s a haunted dollhouse. Every time he takes the cloth away after barely an instant, the haunted dollhouse has produced a fire in the fireplace or a bloody doll massacre or a creepy steaming tea set. Then the poltergeist takes over—right in front of you.
Of course there are no levers or cables from the outside. It’s just a plain old dollhouse carried in from the wings, placed on an empty table, with no one underneath or behind it.
It’s a really easy trick, a literal child could do it, but if you know how it works when you see it, it’s no fun at all.
A spec script that makes a point of establishing all its facts before it starts on the drama is no fun either.
- Be confident. Your showmanship is critical. Your style, your scenework, your presentation. How you set up to reveal. All showmanship.
- Invent. If you’re going to saw a lady in half, don’t do it the same old way. Keep the reader guessing by proving you don’t already have another lady in the box who’s wearing the same shoes.
- Withhold. Withholding facts turns mundane things into mysteries. Work hard to cover up the secrets in your script; show how they manifest before you explain them for maximum curiosity.
Front-loading your script with exposition is the same as revealing the very petite contortionist hidden in the dollhouse attic before you do the trick.
Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.
Photo via Go Into the Story. Like badly built houses, when your characters suffer from faults in their very foundation they can get by just...READ MORE