Screenplay Challenge One: “Subtext” – The Results Are In…

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The envelope please…

The first Write Club Screenwriting Challenge contest results announced – “Subtext”.

Knowing how to avoid gratuitous exposition and on-the-nose dialogue is so critical to developing characters that have depth and motivations that resonate.

Your task was to write a scene with two characters, at least one of whom wants something from the other, at least one of whom gets what s/he wants from the other, neither of whom ever explicitly states what it is s/he wants.

Your Referee for this round was John Rainey.

See the original challenge (and read the entries) here

AND THE WINNER IS: ALAIN DOMINIC

About Alain: Alain is a serious screenwriter with big aspirations and bigger ideas, who maintains a great blog at Dangerous Screenwriter. Check it out!

“Just wanted to give a big THANK YOU to all for putting on the contest in the first place, and choosing my scene as the winner! Consider this my digital hug to you all.
Websites like yours and opportunities for no-nonsense feedback really means a lot to those of us who take our craft and our careers seriously. This kind of stuff must be somewhat of a drain on your already busy schedules, so I just want you to know that your efforts to share your knowledge and inspire those of us who are really trying are appreciated and are having a great impact.” – Alain

What Alain Wins

A copy of SONY Vegas Movie Studio 9 software courtesy of The Business of Show Institute and Sony Creative Software. Congratulations, Dominic, on being the first winner of a Write Club Screenwriter’s Challenge! (Learn more about BOSI and SONY’s support for Write Club here!)

JOHN’S FEEDBACK

All are born to their function.
A common, but durable, lineage.
Rarest breeds. All are precious, all irreplaceable.
No infection great or small must be allowed to compromise that potential.

Now, THIS is subtle subtext. Trista’s subtext is to get a position for her son in the Royal Academy. But the Queen nails her at every turn. Everything the Queen says keeps Trista in her subservient place without stating it overtly. The scene could have been even more dramatic if Trista (Wife) had continued to pursue her scene objective subtextually.  Nevertheless, excellent work! Thumbs up!

RUNNER UP: PAM INGLESE

I think the actions/reactions could be more subtle, and the ending was a touch melodramatic, but the scene fulfills the task. Well done!

Among the others, although they may not have specifically fulfilled the subtext task, we saw some good writing! A cute, well-written scene with snappy dialogue. A powerful scene with an incredible climax that blew me away with its sense of hopelessness as reason debates rage… and loses. From the sublime to the ridiculous, you gave us the whole spectrum.

With an eye toward making the challenge worthwhile for all, and in the spirit of constructive criticism, I’ll share some of the common problems among the entries (not all related to subtext):

  • Double entendre was often confused with subtext. It’s not enough that the words have double meanings, but that there is an agenda behind the words. Thus there was some cute dialogue that unfortunately just didn’t fulfill the task.
  • Likewise metaphors are not subtext. They’re neat, but they’re not subtext in their own right.
  • There was a fair amount of “relationship exposition”… scenes that illustrated a complex relationship, but without subtext and no apparent resolution of an agenda.
  • Don’t forget it’s a visual medium. I’m not fond of nonspecific phrases like “uncertain what to do next”. If that’s how your character feels, try to demonstrate that through their actions in a way that lets the viewer know the character is uncertain what to do next.
  • And don’t describe your character in ways that a viewer can’t possibly know. Don’t tell me that he’s “dressed as he is every morning” or “cranky like always”. As the viewer, unless I’m familiar with his patterns I won’t know that. If it’s an important character trait, you’ll have to find an interesting visual way to communicate to the viewer that this is a behavioral pattern.
  • Watch out for passive verbs and adverbs. Don’t let your characters “walk quietly”, have them tip toe.
  • And I’m afraid I saw a few missing commas. It’s an obsession, I know.’

Thank you all for your entries, and for letting me referee the first Write Club Challenge. Keep writing!

– John

John Rainey – Rated the #1 screenwriting analyst in the country by Creative Screenwriting Magazine in 2003, John has been in the industry as an actor, screenwriter, reader, and analyst for more than 20 years. Learn more about John’s consulting and writing services at raineyscriptconsulting.com.

Read The Winning Entry

EXT. ROYAL GARDENS – AFTERNOON

Trista strolls a respectful beat behind her Queen, following her lead through twisted spires and exotic, flowering orbs.

QUEEN

How fares your son?

WIFE

Spending the evening in a rejuvenation unit, but he’ll pull through. Thank you, My Lady.

QUEEN

My son respects his skill in the cockpit. He claims yours was born with wings.

WIFE

Alas, his heritage excludes him from the Royal Academy. With the right recommendations --

QUEEN

All are born to their function, even Tovarians. He’ll do fine.

WIFE

He is blessed to have a friend of such rectitude as our Prince. They’ve become virtually inseparable.

The landscape is broken by a massive, REFLECTIVE DOME STRUCTURE. Trista and the Queen arrive at a sealed entrance.

QUEEN

I hear you tend to a particularly noteworthy garden.

WIFE

My lineage is of the soil, I suspect I inherited a small amount of talent.

The Queen’s hand glides past a laser scanner and the entrance slides open. It is dark inside.

QUEEN

And your chosen seed?

WIFE

I suppose I have a reputation with J’ran Firs.

INT. GEO-DOME

Trista follows the Queen into the mouth of the sleek, shiny black tunnel.

QUEEN

We have several on the outskirts of the north lawns. A common, but durable lineage. Perhaps my lead technician could give you some instruction.

WIFE

Thank you, my Queen. It would be an honor to learn from such a renowned specialist.

Their footsteps echo through the dark chamber as they approach a curtain of RED GAS, billowing from ceiling to floor. Trista hesitates.

QUEEN

An inoculation cloud. Have you ever seen the Royal Arborium?

WIFE

That was my first time, thank you, my Lady.

QUEEN

Outside was not the Arborium.

The Queen disappears into the red mist. Trista follows.

INT. ARBORIUM

Trista emerges from the cloud into a twinkling, bioluminescent ALIEN FOREST.

It is night time here, the Geo-Dome mimicking a perfect, clear nocturne, complete with glimmering stars and constellations in its seemingly endless “sky”.

WIFE

Heaven’s Kingdoms...

QUEEN

Indeed. The plants that grow in here are of the rarest breeds from throughout the known biospheres. All are precious, all irreplaceable.

WIFE

I see.

QUEEN

Do you? All this fabrication is nothing less than a grand womb, regulating every atom enveloping us to the slightest degree. Every need is met. Every circumstance regulated, enabling every sprout to reach its fullest potential. Good men have lost lives to ensure that every blade in this forest may flourish. To me, it is the very symbol of the strength and prosperity of our entire race. No infection great or small must be allowed to compromise that potential.

WIFE

Understood, my Queen.

18 thoughts on “Screenplay Challenge One: “Subtext” – The Results Are In…

  1. Dominic, your scene was well-crafted, offered bold imagery, appropriate dialogue jargon and rich metaphor. I would love to read the rest of your story.

    Please know that the following statements concern the rules of the challenge and are neither directed at you nor are they an attempt to diminish your talent. I wish you well in your writing career.

    To whom it may concern:

    Rule #5 clearly states that the characters objective NEVER BE ARTICULATED and yet the objective of the winning entry’s character, Trista/Wife, blatantly articulates her objective.
    “Alas, his heritage excludes him from the Royal Academy. With the right recommendations –“.

    And the following phrases, “All are born to their function,” and “A common, but durable, lineage,” are clever metaphors — not subtext.

    Please understand that I have no objective here, there is no subtext, no hidden agenda driving my words. I am merely stating what I believe to be a discrepancy in the adherence to the rules.

  2. congrats to the winner and the runner up. i think this has been fun for all of us.

    thanks to the organizers and to John in particular.

    I think Pam has a good point but I also think the winning scene is the most “complete” and original compared to the rest.

    I would love to do this again, when i’ll write a scene designed for the contest.

    by the way my script “The Ontological Argument” has been shortlisted in the Urban Mediamakers Festival. I would love that you would visit their website and review or just view the page. It will help me in creating a buzz. here is the link:

    http://umff.bside.com/2009/films/theontologicalargument_youssefabdelwahab_umff2009

    John I would love it if you had read the full story but only if i could afford you 🙂

    thanks

  3. Congrats to you, Youssef on the shortlist. Your story is certainly fraught with emotion and intrigue and couldn’t be more relevant. Good Luck!

    I hate to say it, but I disagree with your comment that the winning entry could be seen as the most original. If you consider that there are a limited number of story plots with the only difference being the individual writer’s spin, then the winning entry was no more original than any of the others. I’m guessing what you mean by ‘original’ has more to do with genre, than originality. (Forgive me if the assumed presumption is incorrect). Dominic’s story was ‘unique’ in that it took place in a different realm. It was science fiction. Whereas, the other entries were mainstream, every day life on planet Earth.

    I also disagree that the winning entry was the most complete. Actually, I consider it to be one of the least complete. It was not a self-contained scene. I felt a beginning but not an end. If, in fact, the objective was for Trista/Wife (still confused about that whole thing), to secure a job for her son, then that scene should have ended long before it did. And yet it continued with seemingly unrelated dialogue. I did, however, get the idea that the scene was part of a much larger story. But even so, it should have been self-contained.

    Your scene, Youssef, was far more complete, in that it had a beginning and an end. The two characters met and something happened. The end. Next scene. But, in the winning entry, the two women met, the job recommendation was refused and the scene continued with no further conclusion. This makes me wonder if the objective was something else, although, I have no idea what that may be. Perhaps I’m at a disadvantage because I never read science fiction books or see science fiction movies. Maybe something was lost on me in the translation. But it shouldn’t have been. Structure is structure regardless of the genre.

    Here’s yet another thing I hate to admit — I am confused! I am an eager student, trying desperately to acquire as much knowledge about this profession as I possibly can, but the inconsistencies between what I am taught and what I see practiced are overwhelming. And disheartening.

    Let me be clear about the fact that I do not consider myself an expert. If I did, I would have no reason to utilize such a forum. I entered this challenge to practice my craft and to apply what I have learned thus far. To quote the esteemed, John Rainey, “in the spirit of constructive criticism” I welcome any and all comments about my own entry and would love to hear the comments about the others, as well. Isn’t that what all this is about?

    I hope that in stating my opinions, I do not hurt anyone’s feelings. I try very hard to focus my comments on the body of work and not on the author. Critiquing others helps all of us learn.

    Good Luck to you, Youssef, and to the rest of you! I wish you all well in your writing careers.

  4. Pam, yes you are right I meant unique. and yes the winning scene violated the contest rules.

    but please don’t get confused. films are like songs; its all about personal taste. Some would see 50 cent as a saint others would see him as another gangster. you for example; I’m sure you’ll find star wars an a meaningless 2 hours of CGI, geeks would call you crazy for that. Me on the other hand, I hate titanic and i find it gay. 🙂

    My point is there are no standards in art. please don’t let this challenge frustrate you. and look at the bright side; exposure is what you’ve just gained. two months ago i was going through what you going in now. I sent my script for an expensive british analyst after i spent 4 years writing it. And she almost managed to bring me down and made me stop writing. then I took my chances and sent it to four festivals, i didn’t qualify in two but got shortlisted in another two. not the greatest achievement but it is a start.

    after four years in writing the same script here is what i learned. it is mentally challenging, lonely and one of the toughest jobs/hobbies around. But the moment after writing a good scene feels better than orgasm 😉 no one enjoys it more than the writer him/herself. and my golden rule is; rules are meant to be broken. the crazier you go the more eyebrows you’ll raise. so to me all the writing rules and nothing more.

    well that is all what i got to say. if you have any piece of writing you want to hear a second opinion send over to me. y.abdelwahab@gmail.com

    wish you all best of luck

  5. Thanks for your reply, Youssef. I appreciate your time.

    Here’s my concern: I am not discouraged by the results of the challenge but I am definitely hoping to learn from it. This wasn’t just a game for me, it was another venue in which to learn. If anyone has the time and/or the inclination, I would like to know what did and what didn’t work concerning my entry.

    I have been reading and rereading the entries for the challenge to get a better understanding of what subtext is, and isn’t. The subtleties between subtext, metaphor and even double entendre can sometimes be confusing. Here is what I intended for my scene. Please let me know if any of this came through. If it didn’t, I obviously need to work on improving what I think I say and what actually comes across.

    Description of the room:
    1) clutter and chaos reign. was it enough to provide not just a physical image but a metaphor for what is going in this teenage girl’s life?
    2) open window – though cliche for ‘window of opportunity’
    3) glimmer of sunshine – again cliche for ‘glimmer of hope’ for change

    Description of Lorna:
    1) spiked hair, work boots, etc, was it enough to provide not just a physical image but also insight into character?

    Description of Enid:
    1) pantsuit and pearls, was it enough to provide not just a physical image but also insight into character?

    Lorna’s objective… TO BE HERSELF

    The subtext driving Lorna’s objective:
    1) Lorna removes her underwear

    This action was also a three fold metaphor a) anatomical part of her body that makes her who she is – a woman, b) exposing that area depicting freedom to be herself, and c) her vulnerability (Lorna is vulnerable to her mother’s scrutiny).

    Enid’s objective… TO CONFORM HER DAUGHTER INTO THE PERSON SHE WANTS HER TO BE

    The subtext driving Enid’s objective:

    1) shut off the music- which is a huge identifier of teenage behavior,
    2) close the window – opportunity to promote change in the relationship
    3) lower the shade – shut out the sun and any hope of change.
    a) metaphoric comment about the ‘hedges growing unsightly – in direct correspondence to Lorna’s spiked hair
    4) sidestep the clutter – all the stuff she doesn’t like about Lorna but doesn’t know how to deal with
    5) ‘pick up pile of clothing’ – meaning she picks up on the fact that her daughter wants to be different
    6) drops it to the floor – meaning she ignores it.
    7) straightens the bed, hospital corners, fluff and reposition the pillows – meaning conformity
    .8) talk of Henry – a boy who has a concrete life plan for a respected career

    Lorna’s final actions:
    1) plopping foot onto freshly made bed – stomping on Enid’s attempt to make her conform

    Enid’s final actions:
    1) revealing glimpse beneath skirt/turning away: acknowledging Lorna’s vulnerability/need to be herself but refusing to accept it
    2) cradling her belly, dropping to knees: despair

    Active verbs used:
    1) planted (hands): Enid’s hands planted on hips – planted meaning always there. continuous disappointment.
    2) pouted (lips): Lorna didn’t purse her lips to apply lipstick, she pouted
    3) cradle (belly): image of baby, motherhood
    4) REV and SCREECH: Lorna’s forward motion

    Though this was merely a scene for practice purposes only, I put a lot of thought into each and every word, action and reaction. Now I want to know what did and didn’t work. Does anyone have an opinion, pro, con, or indifferent?

    This might be too much to ask, but it would be appreciated.

    Thank you,
    Pam Inglese

  6. Youssef, I forgot in my last reply to mention the Titanic movie. I couldn’t agree more. Talk about melodramatic. YIKES. I spent the entire movie making derisive comments, i.e. “are you kidding me with this? , Oh my god, Spare me the phony theatrics, and — my favorite — if you love him that much, either move your fat ass over and let him on the board or crawl into the water and die with him”.

    What passes for award winning material sometimes makes me insane! Slumdog Millionaire? Puh-leez! If I hadn’t been with a group of friends I would have walked out. Talk about unrealistic! With its ridiculous gratuitous ending all wrapped up in a pretty little bow. “I never learned to read or write, but I miraculously won a million dollars based on my extensive knowledge of the world. And now I get to marry the girl of my dreams – a girl who’s been a prostitute half her life. Lucky me.”

    And to top it all off, here’s how they end it for the audience members who just shelled out 10 bucks to see a movie that promised a realistic journey into the dark side of destitution in India – “don’t be sad, don’t be moved – look, we’re dancing.” yay h/bollywood.

    And yes, I have never seen, nor will I ever see Star Wars, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Batman, Spiderman, or anything else in that genre. Included in my never to see list are any and all violence movies. I keep hoping humans will rise above their obsession to view violence against its own species as a form of entertainment. Unrealistic violence, at that. (a hammer is used to smash someone’s toes to smithereens and yet they are able to run after their assailant and kill them with one shot, all the while dodging hundreds of bullets). An egregious insult to anyone with any intellect. But apparently it sells. (maybe because there is NOTHING else to see and people are searching for entertainment of any kind). There is such an untapped demographic of wannabe moviegoers looking for intelligent films. That is one of my targets.

    My growing list of won’t see movies makes for an extremely difficult time searching for something to watch on a Saturday night!

  7. First, let me say that it makes me happy to see the site used for ongoing spirited debate regarding the challenge. Exactly the intention! In the self-serving interest of generating more traffic and discussion, ask your friends to visit, read the entries, and chime in.

    Secondly, John is now up against a deadline on a book (we were lucky to get him when we did) and won’t have time to check back in for discussion, but says he’s happy that the challenge is generating conversation and awareness of subtext.

    Re the topic at hand, let me make a couple of broad observations:

    All opinions, even those of seasoned professionals, are opinions. This includes their subjective decisions regarding the success of entries to fulfill the goals of a challenge. That said, they’re likely more informed opinions than those of non-writers or non-professionals. *Likely*. If you’ve read a lot (and I mean a lot) of scripts, for a living, sometimes many a day, there are also certain peeves you’ll grow sensitive to. This is why issues of format (for instance) are important, particularly in spec writing. I personally have no patience for writers who think they can disregard format because their story is so brilliant… If I have several scripts to read, I don’t want to have to learn a new format, I want to be able to ignore format and invest in story. The point being that these personal peeves of the reader may very well weigh against a script, consciously or subconsciously, in spite of an otherwise good story. (This is not to say that Pam’s script contained such peeves for John. I don’t know.)

    When you get feedback from anyone, seasoned writer, producer, reader, manager, agent, mom or dad, it isn’t necessarily right (on subjective issues). Your story (just like any movie) will work for some people and not for others. Your job is to get feedback from many people, look for “ah-ha’s”, look for recurring patterns of good and bad, and then YOU decide which are worth worrying about and incorporating into your piece.

    (Issues of format are somewhat less subjective, more digital, although even there opinions vary slightly)

    My *opinions* follow. Remember, I’m not the judge, and I’m not a teacher. I’m just another writer with another opinion.

    Regarding Dominic’s script:
    > Rule #5 states that the character’s *objective* not be articulated. John clearly states that in his opinion, the Queen’s *objective* is to “keep Trista in her place and subservient” — it’s not “to avoid giving a recommendation”. Nowhere does the queen overtly state “Surely, Trista, you know that in our society you must remain subservient to me.” That would be expository, not subtextual. She makes subtle observations about the trees subscribing to their lineage, and yes it’s a metaphor, but it’s put into service as a vehicle of subtext. That’s a tricky difference, and maybe I’m not articulating it properly, but I believe it’s there.
    > Similarly, Trista does not overtly state her objective to get her son a recommendation by saying “My Queen, a recommendation from you or your son could get him into the academy”. She makes the observation that *a* recommendation would be helpful, but the Queen simply infers that a recommendation won’t be necessary… that if he’s born to be a flyer, he’ll do fine. She sweeps that aside, and moves on to her own objective, which is to express to Trista that she must remain in her place. If I had to guess, I’d say John was more focused on the Queen’s objective (and its subtextual communication within the script) than on Trista’s, since the Queen is the one who reaches her goal.
    > Interestingly, Trista and the Queen’s objectives are not opposing. Trista wants a recommendation. The Queen’s objective is not “I don’t want to give a recommendation” – It’s deeper than that. It’s that she doesn’t believe a recommendation is necessary because people are born to their roles, and she wants Trista to respect that and remain in her place. The subtext for the Queen is the *why* behind not giving the recommendation.

    Regarding Pam’s script in particular, I’ll make these comments:
    > I enjoyed it very much. The subtext worked for me. I especially like that Lorna drives her goal without any dialogue.
    > I did not read the window as a metaphor for opportunity. I read Enid’s action as disapproval of her daughter apparently dressing in front of an open window.
    > “Trimming the hedges” is often a metaphoric phrase for sculpting or trimming pubic hair… so that’s how I took it to be applied here. Wasn’t sure how it related.
    > I read Lorna’s goal in the scene to get Mom’s attention by offending her… a desire to “rile” or “offend” mom for attention, even if it’s negative. The removal of the panties as an effort to get attention. The foot up on the bed as a final effort to get mom to notice and rattle her cage, which it does. Thus the “flicker of triumph” on Lorna’s face.
    > Pick up the clothing a metaphor for “picking up on Lorna’s intent”? Didn’t get that. Simply an effort to control Lorna and her space, and a realization that she simply can’t.
    > In my opinion, depending on the *words* in the descriptive text to carry story intent is a mistake. By that I mean, if the *word* “planted” is the tool to carry intent, that’s a literary tool, not a scriptwriting tool. It’s the *action* of planting the hands on the hips that communicates in film. You can’t depend on the *words* in left margin because they don’t make it to the screen. If you’re inclined to apply literary tools, specific *words* to carry intent, do so in dialogue. When actions describe intent, find ways to describe said actions such that the intent is communicated through the action. Make sense?
    > I think this statement is wrong: “The subtext driving Lorna’s objective: Lorna removes her underwear.” Removing her underwear is not the subtext. It’s the action that (hopefully) communicates her subtextual goal – to rile her mom (get her attention thru negative means). Yes?
    > I would recommend taking the feedback from here, getting more from other sources, looking for patterns, and pursuing changes that resonate with you as being *right* for your script(s).

    For me the most interesting point is the differentiation between subtext and metaphor. I know I recognize the difference when I see it, but it’s got me thinking about how to articulate it in a somewhat objective way. Not sure how close I got.

    Thanks for sticking around and generating an interesting conversation!

    1. to both Chip and Youssef, with my thanks…

      CHIP — thank you SO much. this is exactly the type of feedback i need. good bad or indifferent does’t matter. i’ll take whatever you can offer.

      first off, thank you for clearing up Dominic’s entry. it is starting to make more sense now that the objectives were clarified. the critique i read from john sorta made me more confused. again – not understanding the genre, i think it gets lost on me. it makes more sense now. (sorry Dominic, i just didn’t get it.)

      concerning my own entry:
      ‘trimming hedges comment’ was more to do with enid worrying what the neighbors would think – about what they heard from the window (loud rap) and what they see as lorna’s new look (although not necessarily through the window in that scene). again, so helpful to know what i think i say and what someone actually reads.

      as for other references, etc. they may have been too weak to make any difference, but i guess the fact that i am at least considering how to use my wording etc is a step in the right direction.

      you were definitely right about the subtext driving lorna’s objective comment you made, it was totally the action. i don’t know why i even said that or how that statement slipped past me but i do know the difference, and you were dead on. seriously – after too many hours, sometimes i confuse myself.

      you were also dead on about the action description needing to be translated into the action itself. regardless of this scene being purely a spec that would never become a film, i dropped the ball on that one for sure. good call.

      i couldn’t agree more about the differentiation between subtext and metaphor. i studied shakespeare so i can pick up on it, but i have a harder time manipulating the nuances in my own work. and i certainly have a harder time articulating what i mean when discussing it.

      as my husband is my breadwinner, i have the luxury of writing all day. and i do – novels previously, but this past year has been devoted to two screenplays.(not yet attempted to submit anything, but very close). i take classes all the time and have belonged to many writing groups. like i said, i consider myself a perpetual student. so taking time away from my current script was not just a welcome distraction but also an ardent attempt to continue honing skills.

      this has been far more helpful a critique of my scene than hearing my ending was melodramatic. (please don’t read anymore into that statement than what’s written. i appreciate that mr rainey is a busy man!) so thank you! would love to keep a writing dialogue open for future challenges.

      YOUSSEF:

      i want to thank you for taking the time to consider my comments and offer your thoughts. all of your comments were very helpful. and correct!

      as for story content, yes it was not unique. my thought was to concentrate on subtext first, story second. it could/should have been the other way around.

      you were also right about the wording of lorna’s objective. that could be seen in two ways, i see rebellion in teenagers as an expression of self, though they may not know who they want to be yet, they certainly know who they don’t want to be (their parents.) i can also see how some people would perceive her actions as trying to annoy the parent. good reminder, we don’t all see one situation the same way. what is clear to me may not be to everyone else.

      suggestions for less predictable behavior and more twists- excellent! i wish now that i had concentrated as much on the story as on the subtext. the biggest disadvantage – it wasn’t part of a bigger story, so it lacked in depth.

      as for the language part – i write the way i speak. my vocabulary has always been a bit over the top, but not on purpose. my youngest son is the same way, as a little boy people were always asking how he knew such big words and how he was able to use them in the right context. i didn’t even know – he was too young to read! i should be more conscious of that though, as i have a 3 women friends, one from poland, one from china and one from saudi arabia and all three of them give me blank stares from time to time even though their english is pretty good for a second language. my apologies for that.

      as for being too serious about writing – well, i am sometimes, but not always. i approached this challenge as a lesson – like i would in the classes i take. so i did take it seriously. but your suggestion for relaxing and enjoying my writing, is a good one to remember. i hope writing never becomes a chore – lacking in fun. i am fortunate enough to be able to write every day so there is much joy. i even enjoy writing these comments. (as you can probably tell)

      to chip and youssef, thank you both for taking the time for my questions. if i can ever return the favor, please let me know. ~ pam

  8. Alright Pam I can see the effort you put in this, I’ll let you know what i think but remember I’m only an amateur so don’t take it so seriously.

    I’ll start with the con:
    *the overall theme of a teenager who is stubborn with her parent is not something new.

    *Lorna objective seems lost; she looks like someone who is trying to piss her mother and not someone who is trying to be herself. teenagers just don’t care in general.

    * The reader can predict the end of the scene right after reading half way through. NOW THIS IS IMPORTANT> writers have the greatest advantage over the audience and that is knowledge. meaning don’t give away all the information right in the beginning keep them wanting to know more. leave room for twists and surprises. there is no doubt the winning scene did this. If i was writing this scene. I would have made Lorna more manipulative person, she would playing an angel in front of her mum, where she is gently blocking her offer to meet henry. and at the end of the scene she would be seen outside kissing her punk boyfriend or even girlfriend (more shocking). audience like to be manipulated.

    *this point i think it is only applicable on me: i think you focused your energy on showing your vocabulary library, someone like with english is my second language i struggled a bit. I would say save distributive skills to crucial shots: like when revealing she is going commando. otherwise keep the reading flowing smoothly.

    *my last comment you said “this is not a game to me” means you are serious about it which is good but could be too serious. writing requires relaxation, you are writing because you want to write and nothing more, enjoy it.

    now lets see the bright side:
    *both of the characters are clearly drawn; if this was a 90 pages feature this would have been great. because you managed to create a sense of feeling of a characters in a very short space.

    *all the actions done by the characters reflect their true personality. this is something that i personally struggled to preform. it gives the audience a sense of belonging to the characters.

    *You built up the room nicely and given it a good though about the theme of the scene.

    *technically (writing rules) i think yours is flawless.

    *finally this where i’ll contradict myself: i think you are too serious about writing, this is persistence but my advice……… breath first then write.

    Well these are my thoughts i hope you find them any useful.

    thanks for reading

  9. MR.C,

    Thank You for allowing me to be a part of such a passionate and articulate group. The way I looked at this contest, was to come up with a fresh idea, in a short amount of time. This can be a lonely business, but with the outreach and feedback, we can *smile* from time to time.

    I jumped into the networking thing feet first by going to L.A. I appreciate that, Marvin Acuna, gave me this rare opportunity. It made me realize among other things, that I may not be perfect as I learn, but it’s okay to make mistakes in order to grow …

    I wish this group all the *light* I can muster up. You are all winners to me.

    Thanks,
    Carrie

    1. hi carrie,

      i saw your comment and thought i’d offer a tidbit of info that pertains to your entry. a couple of days ago i came across an online article about nikki finke. until that moment i had never heard of that name, though i recognized it from your entry. i had assumed it was a character you made up but i didn’t know what her significance was in the context of your scene.

      i had also not been aware of the disney/marvel takeover-merger-acquisition thing. but re-reading your scene, it started to make sense to me – it was all about the disney/marvel thing! not being a fan of spider man or any super hero stuff, i didn’t know what your story meant. i get it now, but i didn’t then.

      not sure if you wanted to know that, but i thought i’d throw that out there. – pam inglese

  10. Pam, glad my feedback helped.

    Here is a favor to ask but don’t worry about it if you can’t do it,

    the thing is I live in egypt, it is very challenging to reach agents in the US or the UK and make them read my script. if you know anyone who is in the business and willing to give it a read. that will be more than great.

    if you don’t then don’t worry about. i really enjoyed writing the feedback either way.

    thanks.

    1. Youssef,

      I would be happy to provide names, but I don’t have any. I have not yet begun to compile a list of agents for myself either. From what I hear, it’s a daunting task. I will definitely keep you in mind though. Sorry.

  11. Hi Pam,
    Being that it was news that week the judges knew what I was talking about. Keeping up on the news, is just as important as honing your skill, in this buisness.

    Writing is the blood of what we call “screenwriting”. You are executing that quite excellent . Breaking down my stories and being able to explain them back is my biggie that I’m working on …

    I did this to see what I could come up with in a time crunch. I can go back many times over, after I’ve studied it, and think how to change it. Exactly what will happen on the spec that ever gets made. You will rewrite until perfection.

    The winner only revealed a fragment of his story. He did encapture the scene with his subtext, by not stating what he’s getting at directly. I understand this now. It doesn’t mean that people won’t have different opinions. That gets back to the blood thing, I want the words to pump through me, until I get them right …

    Best of luck,
    Carrie

  12. Wow, my sincere apologies to Chip and everyone who took the time to comment that though I’ve visited Write Club since my win, this is the first time I’ve been to this page & read through the comments. I am truly embarrassed, as evidently my win was a bit controversial for some and I should have been around to defend myself. Again, sincere apologies. And with that…

    Pam has a few disputes, but her major one seems to be with rule #5: the character’s objective never being stated by dialogue.

    To my understanding, subtext is about what’s going on INSIDE a character and between characters, what they REALLY wants but can’t outwardly state.

    As Chip points out > the Queen’s scene/overall objective is to prove her stature, not keep Trista in her place Trista does not overtly state her objective to get her son a recommendation by saying “My Queen, a recommendation from you or your son could get him into the academy”. She makes the observation that *a* recommendation would be helpful, but the Queen simply infers that a recommendation won’t be necessary… that if he’s born to be a flyer, he’ll do fine. And the following phrases, “All are born to their function,” and “A common, but durable, lineage,” are clever metaphors — not subtext. metaphors are not subtext. They’re neat, but they’re not subtext IN THEIR OWN RIGHT Interestingly, Trista and the Queen’s objectives are not opposing. Trista wants a recommendation… as for story content… my thought was to concentrate on subtext first, story second. it could/should have been the other way around. >
    For me, story must come before subtext. If I start with subtext first, I now must create the action around it and suddenly the scene isn’t about the action/plot/story, it’s about subtext which has now become text, because since I started with it first and built around it it’s now in the foreground instead of where it belongs – running underneath all things.

    And I think you sorely misjudge entire genres of films. Yes, when done poorly, action/sci-fi/horror films can be among the dumbest, most destructive forms of entertainment out there. But done well, these films have the power you’re looking for – the power to transform, uplift, even educate.
    If you really want to write films that get bought, made and actually seen, I’m afraid you’re going to have to watch films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars and Spiderman. In fact, you’ll have to study them carefully because they’re cultural touchstones for a reason. They strike chords that reverberate throughout culture and time because they are shining examples of GREAT STORYTELLING. How can you aspire to write great films – as I assume you do – and not study some of the greatest films ever made? Stanley Kubrick could make people squirm and wince, but he was a masterful storyteller. Ignoring someone of that stature’s work would be like wanting to become a novelist but refusing to read Hemmingway, Stephen King or Shakespeare.
    They are masterful in structure, tone and pace. Their themes are timeless and speak to people across the world and across generations. They have inspired millions, and whether film audiences know it or not, it wasn’t because of cool explosions. People love and remember these films because of their SUBTEXT, what those stories were REALLY about, struck a chord.
    If you want your work to do that you have to study what worked before, what didn’t and why. That means studying all genres, good examples and bad.

    Sorry about the length of this reply, just wanted to cover my bases. Thanks again to Chip for the wonderful community, website and contest.

    Keep writing, everyone!

    Alain Dominic

  13. Thanks for the feedback – but i guess i am still confused. there have been 3 different versions of what the subtext of your story is/was. but it’s ok. the purpose of the contest was to become more aware of subtext. it certainly did that. for me anyway. and in case it was overlooked, i truly did not have any animosity toward you or your work because of the outcome. i only wanted to understand the rationale behind the decision.

    as for misjudging entire genres, we will definitely have to agree to disagree. to understand films one does not need to view ALL films. nor to understand literature one does not need to read all books. however . . .

    i did break down and finally saw the latest scifi extravaganza, avatar. special effects aside – which is NOT why “i” go to the movies in the first, second or last place – i could NOT have been more BORED or more disengaged in the story. (though i did understand the subtext and its social relevance. but i certainly would never have gone the route of animated characters to tell such a tale). to me it was a huge waste of time. my husband said “wow. that didn’t seem like 2 1/2 hours, did it?” i replied “nope. it felt like 4 1/2. but hey, we have these really cool 3D glasses.” so i rest my case. that will in fact be THE VERY LAST minute i will ever waste on scifi.

    again – thank you for attempting to clarify the situation. and good luck with your writing career.

    Pam

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