How to Write a Boring Script

When you’re learning anything for the first time, you won’t be very good at it. In fact, you’ll probably make common mistakes that nearly all beginners make. In the world of screenwriting, novices tend to make the same three mistakes over and over again. By recognizing these mistakes and avoiding them in your own screenplay, you’ll dramatically increase your chance for success.

The first mistake is trying to “surprise” the audience with “twist” endings. For some odd reason, this tends to happen with novice horror writers who think they can hide the true nature of their story until the end.

What this does is create false expectations in the audience. A screenplay might create the illusion that the story is really a romance or a comedy. Then suddenly it switches to pure horror with gore, dismemberment, and torture – which goes completely against everything the earlier part of the story set up.

The key is that every story must clearly set up what type of story audiences can expect in the beginning. Notice that every good horror movie starts out with a scene that introduces the horror early. That way it’s clear right from the start that audiences are in for a horror story.

In “Get Out,” a black man gets abducted at night in a suburban neighborhood. In “Don’t Breathe,” a man drags an unconscious woman through an abandoned neighborhood. In “A Quiet Place,” a family moves silently among an abandoned town until a toy makes noise and a monster rushes out and kills the boy.

The beginning of a story hint at what the audience can expect. If you try to suddenly surprise the audience by radically changing the story, you’ll just disappoint everyone as if you walked into a restaurant, expecting to order a hamburger, but the restaurant tried to sell you car parts instead.

A second way to write a boring screenplay is to write generic scenes. Flip through a great screenplay and you’ll find hints that each scene reflects the overall story. A horror screenplay contains scenes that hint of mystery and doom while a romance screenplay contains scenes that hint of love.

If you can flip through your screenplay and pick a scene at random, and nobody can identify what type of story that scene belongs to, that scene is not working. That means your screenplay is not working.

So don’t write generic scenes that could appear in any type of story. Write scenes that could only appear in your type of story.

A third way to write a boring screenplay is to write scenes that fail to grab and hold someone’s attention. If a scene can’t hold and grab someone’s attention, it represents a weak link in your screenplay, which means your screenplay won’t be able to grab and hold someone’s attention.

Instead of writing a scene to tell a story, focus on writing a scene that grabs and holds someone’s attention. The easiest way to do this is through mystery and contrast.

In “Reservoir Dogs,” the opening scene shows a bunch of men in a restaurant, arguing about pop songs and tipping. This creates a mystery about who these men are and why they’re together. Then the next scene shows one man driving a bleeding and wounded man back to a warehouse.

At this point, we still don’t know what’s going on but we have enough details to make us want to know more. By withholding information as long as possible, stories can grab and hold our attention. If you can’t write a scene that grabs and holds someone’s attention, you won’t be able to write a screenplay that can grab and hold someone’s attention.

So let people know what type of story you’re telling, write scenes unique to your particular story, and write scenes that always grab and hold someone’s attention. If you just do these three things, you’ll avoid the mistakes of 99% of novice screenwriters.

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