Notes from a Screenreader: The Deep Freeze Script

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

Scripts that feel rote turn readers off right away even though rote scripts are written by people who know exactly what they’re doing. The plot moves forward, the conflicts are in place, the beats come and go like clockwork.

Scoring high marks for plot and structure, these scripts still feel cold and unengaging because of missed opportunities to dwell with the characters in emotional moments.

Melt a deep freeze script by finding these opportunities:

  • Oh, bother, bother, bother. Open with spills coffee, loses job, romantic partner asks for space, inciting incident. Check, check, check. A trail of misfortune happening to someone we don’t know is not affecting. Introduce us first with more revealing personal moments.
  • The plot must go on! The point in your script just after a major event when everyone takes it like a champ and hustles off to the next plot point. Do not miss this opportunity to poke around in the emotional crater that’s left behind and show how it has changed your characters.
  • One-note relationships. They bicker, or throb with anger or are too shy to speak. All the way until the end. Vary the texture of those interactions one well-motivated note at a time to show that the relationship is alive and changing.

An emotionally satisfying script trumps flawed technique, but it doesn’t work the other way.

— ANNIE LABARBA (@annelabarba)

Anne is a screenwriter, story consultant, and a reader for major screenplay competitions. 

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