Notes from a Screenreader: The Wonkavator

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Photo via Go Into the Story.


Willy Wonka
: No, it’s a Wonkavator. An elevator can only go up and down, but the Wonkavator can go sideways, and slantways, and longways, and backways…

A screenplay should not be a Wonkavator, even if it isn’t linear. What you want in a spec script is a ride straight up through the roof.

  • Don’t hang around in the lobby. Give yourself a running start by showing your protag doing something quintessential to them, then put them on the express to the problem. Meandering setup is not a good omen to readers.

  • Don’t push the stop button. Put your lazy exposition scenes to work. Make them haul the plot and set up reveals and dump fuel on the conflict. If they have time to lean, they have time to clean. 

  • Get us to the penthouse. Finish strong by creating a final conflict that resolves the central question and gives us a bird’s eye view of how far we are from where we started.

Every scene should be one floor up from the last one. No Wonkavating.

ANNIE LABARBA 

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

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