- Contrived Conflict
- Sidekick Story Problems
- Dialogue which doesn't sound overheard
- Characters who aren't specific
- Main characters without edges
- Absence of specificity to scenes, characters, and dialogue
- Absence of texture to scenes, characters, and dialogue
- Weak verbs and pansy words
There's much more to do and steps that need repeating so this rewrite may never actually be "done". I'll just one day stop editing because the Nicholl deadline is upon me. Tick. Tick. Tick. Now, it's time to take a look at my screenplay with a view toward evaluating --
Symbolism and foreshadowing
Why did I lump two very different literary tools together? Because we writers often make the same mistake with both of them -- we think them to death. Some brilliant somebody in a classroom someplace taught us that these two devices were pinnacles, cornerstones, or defining characteristics of a great story so we respond by contriving, calculating and then planting symbolism and foreshadowing in just the right place. But didn't that brilliant somebody also mention --
- that the WRITER doesn't tell the reader where the symbolism is or what it means -- the STORY does?
- that the WRITER doesn't show the reader where the foreshadowing is -- the STORY does?
Writers can't just ordain that a symbol has certain meaning. It comes from the context of the story. And, foreshadowing isn't a shadow until the story casts light on it. Mis-using these two devices will likely garner a response from a reader that the story feels contrived.
SYMBOLISM - in Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl, the corset is a blatant symbol of how stifled and restricted Elizabeth Swann feels. Nowhere in the film or screenplay does anyone call attention to the corset as a symbol, but it's obvious. However, it's NOT obvious until the story makes it such. In the beginning, the corset is just a corset. But, without it, there'd be no story at all, literally OR figuratively.
A word of caution about symbolism - don't overdue it. How many times did we need to see Superman Returns make symbolic comparisons between the man of steel and Jesus Christ? Once was interesting. Twice was too much. After that, it got downright annoying.
FORESHADOWING - in Mystic River, when Kevin Bacon's character is pondering over a murder and asks how a woman so small got the jump on her attacker, he's just asking a question as a normal part of an investigation. Most of the audience didn't realize it was foreshadowing until the end of the film and maybe not even then. The comment about the killer is both foreshadowing AND an important key to the story.
A word of caution about foreshadowing - too much makes the story predictable and throwing in a lot of fake foreshadowing (red herrings), well that may work in horror films but in most genres, it just ticks readers off.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: As a screenwriter, you will likely identify foreshadowing that other viewers miss. If you happen to be watching a film in the theatre -- oh let's use Mystic River as an example -- and happen to identify foreshadowing early in a film, do not blurt out "oh, man, that means the kid did it!" lest the audience pummel you with snack food.
FYI: Mustard will wipe off your leather jacket without leaving a stain but it will take at least three shampoos to get the nacho cheese out of your hair.
You've been warned.