Beginners want straight answers. Learn to give them.

SAMPLE QUESTION: I’m using Save the Cat. I have a question on the dark night of the soul. Should it run from pages 85-95, or is it a shorter moment that falls somewhere in that range.

BAD ANSWER: Why would you read that book, dumbass? This is why every script feels formulaic. Just write a good script, man.

SLIGHTLY BETTER ANSWER: No idea what you’re talking about. Let me ask some questions so I can see where you’re coming from.

SLIGHTLY BETTER ANSWER: I disagree with Save the Cat. That said, the answer is ______

THE ANSWER THE PERSON WANTED: I’ve read Save the Cat. I see the lowest moment as a 2-5 page scene that can land anywhere in that range.

The person in this example didn’t say “please inflict your words and philosophy on me,” he asked for a question with an answer. If someone asks a question that has an answer, just answer it.
If he’s asking how to do something egregiously wrong (how can I slip a script to an executive’s child at kindergarten?) feel free to correct them, but if they’re using an approach you don’t like, do everyone a favor, don’t judge the approach, let them explore their craft in their own way.

Published by Matt Lazarus

WGA screenwriter offering in-depth writing instruction, notes, critique, and assistance.

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