Notes from a Screenreader

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photo via Go Into the Story

It’s an open secret that you only have a few pages to convince experienced readers that your script is worth reading.

What you might not know is that you can make mistakes on the very first page that prejudice readers, long before you establish the relationships and conflicts that set your story apart.

Opening with a ton of description or a fifty-gallon drum-full of information in the dialogue are red flags; readers look for better storytelling than that.

What makes a perfect first page?

  • An unusual opening image. Have you seen your opening somewhere before? Then it needs a spin.
  • Get the action underway. Don’t start with talking. Start with doing. It doesn’t have to be a big chase scene, or contain an explosion or a car crash. But doing is more interesting than a conversation.
  • Skip elaborate descriptions. Large blocks of text on the first page look very tedious to readers who have no investment in your story yet. Cut every non-vital word and break up large paragraphs into smaller blocks.
  • Proofread it again. No format, spelling or grammar mistakes on the first page. Please.
  • Make your first line of dialogue pop.  Impress readers right away with your understanding of how subtext works.

A clean-looking, action-oriented and original first page is a big, beautiful banner emblazoned WELCOME TO MY STORY!

Next week, the Screenreader will talk about loglines and how to make them ridiculously easy.

-ANNIE LABARBA @annelabarba

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