Thursday, 26 October 2017


I am currently in pre-production on a feature film.

I don't just write, I direct also.

Please excuse my hiatus from blogging as I'm focusing my attention on the creation of my feature film.

In the meantime, please read through my back catalogue of screenplay reviews and screenwriting tips. There's a wealth of information there for you for free. I truly hope it helps you to identify weaknesses in your script and helps you to improve your storytelling.

I am still running my screenplay coverage service, but due to high demand my prices have gone up. Prices are listed off to the right.

All the best,


Friday, 3 March 2017


Short post today. Being why I've called it a bite-sized tip. 

Look at the script you're working on. 

Ask yourself - and be honest - is it HIGH CONCEPT?

What is High Concept?

Pretty simple - High Concept is something that can be explained really easily. 

It's also where STORY is more important than the CHARACTERS. 

Here's a test. 

Someone says, what's your story about?

How do you describe it?

1) Can you say it succinctly in ten words? Such as - A young boy has the power to see dead people - The Sixth Sense.

2) Or do you start by saying, well, it's about this girl, and she has trouble with her mother, but then she gets to college, and she discovers...

Do the 'what's your story about?' test.

If you fall into category 2 then you don't have a high concept story.

That means you have a DRAMA. 

Now there's nothing wrong with dramas - it's just that you have a far higher chance of selling your script if it's high concept. 

But don't worry - or think that your drama has been a waste of time. Quite the opposite. You've been working on an EMOTIONAL story for the past - however long - that's great. It should mean you have well-developed characters and a story with a heart. 

Now it's time to take that well-constructed drama and find a HIGH CONCEPT setting. 

One way to do this is to change your story's genre. 

How would your drama play out if it were a HORROR, or a THRILLER, or a SCI-FI? 

They're the three genres that sell the best. 

Sure, this will require a re-write from page 1 - but writing the new THRILLER or HORROR, or SCI-FI won't be as difficult because you've already developed your characters for so long in your drama. 

The bite-sized take away from today is to aim for HIGH CONCEPT.


Because that's what sells.

Take the drama you've been working on and re-write it in a high concept genre. 

Thursday, 2 March 2017



35 votes on the 2016 blacklist which made it the second top screenplay of that year.

Written by Dan Fogelman.

Logline: A multigenerational love story that weaves together a number of characters whose lives intersect over the course of decades, from the streets of New York to the Spanish countryside and back.


This is a complicated tale to summarize. There is no one single protagonist. There are about 6 main players. And as the logline suggests, these players are spread out over several years. To summarize this story would be to give away many of the plot points. Which I'd rather not do as this is a great script, very worth reading. 

This story is about connectivity. It's really about the butterfly effect - that the smallest of actions can lead to the biggest of actions. 

The first main player we meet is WILL. Will is an enigmatic chap who sees a therapist as his wife and mother of his child died in a bus accident. 

From this jumping off point we look back into the past and how it came to be that the bus accident occurred. After that, we look forward into the future and see how the bus accident affected Will's child. 

I'll leave the story summary there as to give any more detail really would give the story away. 


When I first read the logline I rolled my eyes and groaned... I imagined a slow paced, deep character study that was going to be so soporific it would soon have me unconscious. 

How wrong I was. 

Even though this story eschews the single protagonist mold that Hollywood loves - it manages to keep you invested in every character and each set of character's story.

How does he do this? 


That's the main takeaway for today. 

Every character we care about. 

How do you make an audience care about a character or multiple characters?

The first step toward creating characters we care about is to put them in positions that we can RELATE TO.

Think about that word.


Thrillers are very exciting. CIA operatives doing international espionage is a lot of fun, but as far as reliability goes? Almost no one watching a CIA film is going to have actual international espionage experience.

The only way to make a CIA thriller relatable is through the relationship problems the characters have because we all have relationship problems. 

LIFE ITSELF is not a CIA thriller at all. It is a plain drama. But every character story is about relationship problems - which is something all humans can relate to. 

Have you ever noticed that sometimes you go and see a movie and you come away having had almost no emotional experience at all? 

Then other films make you cry and really shake you up, get you thinking?

The reason for this is RELATABILITY.

Creating an emotional connection between your characters and your audience will create a far more well-received screenplay than focusing on plot and structure. 

Don't get me wrong - a film with no plot and structure and ALL emotional connectivity would be a terrible film. Plot and structure are the frame over which you drape the emotional element of your story. 

So - in specific how do you make an audience like your characters?

Think about real life... we judge people on the ACTIONS they make. 

Put your hero in a situation that requires a REACTION. Think about what the expected reaction would be.

Then, here's the trick - switch up that reaction. Surprise us with how the hero reacts. But make sure that the reaction is altruistic. We love watching heroes who sacrifice their own happiness for the sake of others.

The reason I bring this up is there is a main character in LIFE ITSELF who is presented with a problem.

He makes a decision that at first seems rough and uncalled for. 

Then as a reveal at the end of the story - we come to understand that the decision was really a huge self-sacrifice. He essentially gave up his joy and happiness for the sake of his wife and child. 

That really hit me on a gut level when the beat was revealed. I was blown away that someone should sacrifice so much for the sake of their loved ones - and here's the kicker - the loved ones didn't even KNOW that he sacrificed so much.

It is one thing to sacrifice when those you are doing it for are aware you're doing so. 

Then it is the next level up to sacrifice for people who don't even know you are doing so. 

That is true altruism. 

Look at DONNIE DARKO - the one thing that made that film sooooo exceptional was that Donnie gave his life to save the life of a girl - who would NEVER KNOW that he died so she could live. 

That is a powerful story point. 

LIFE ITSELF is full of powerful story points. Which is why it succeeds.

It is a lot like WHEN HARRY MET SALLY in that it spans decades and is a really true look at life. 

That's another good word to consider when you're trying to write a story that lands on an emotional level. 


I find myself tuning out of so many films these days simply because the story doesn't ring true. 

It doesn't matter what world you are creating - be it a sci-fi, a western, a horror - the story beats need to ring true in accordance to the world rules you are creating. 

My major problem with the LOVE story in Ben Affleck's The Town was how unreal the life story was of Ben's love interest Claire - played by Rebecca Hall. 

In the story - Claire lives a solitary existence and she can't find any decent man. 

Then along comes Ben and even though he's a bank robber she loves him. 

I'm sorry - that doesn't ring true. 

Have you seen Rebecca Hall? She is incredibly beautiful, intelligent, charismatic. In real life, women like Rebecca have countless beau's seeking her affection. 

In The Town - we were supposed to believe someone like Rebecca had no other options in her life. 

It just didn't ring true. 

When writing your story - don't write what you NEED TO HAVE happen for the sake of your story - consider what would happen in real life.

If you have written a female lead who is charismatic and beautiful and intelligent but just can't find the right guy - you need to give us a REALLY good reason why she can't find the right guy. It can't just be that all the guys she dates are idiots - because - in real life - there are countless great guys out there. 

Only in badly written film scripts are all the guys out there - bad eggs. 

So they're the two TAKEAWAYS for today. 


If you can create characters that RING TRUE in the world you are creating, and if you can make us RELATE to them, your script will sing. 


Monday, 27 February 2017


TITLE: Blond Ambition

Written by: Elyse Hollander

Length: 119 pages

Top of the 2016 Blacklist with 48 votes. 

Rep: John Zaoirny - Bellevue Productions

Logline: Chronicles Madonna in the 1980s New York as she struggles to get her first album released while navigating fame, romance, and an industry that views women as disposable.


The logline really sums it up - We start with Madonna at the start of her booming career in 1984. Her first album has dropped and it's an uber success. Everyone wants her and things couldn't look better. 

We then jump back one year earlier. Madonna doesn't have half the recognition she has in the opening scene. But she doesn't have no success. She is in a successful band called the Emmy's, and they're signed to Sire records, one of the big four record companies. 

But things aren't going their way. Her A&R rep only wants to have sex with her, and her agent at Sire won't even try to convince his boss to release their record they've recorded.

Madonna is frustrated. Her band-mates seem more interested in getting drunk and being cool than actually striving for success. 

The problem is the production of their album. Whoever produced it, did a really bad job. All the mixes are waaaaay off. Madonna knows that their only chance of success is to get a really good producer onboard. She tries to get the producer who did David Bowie's last album, but she can't even get an interview with him, she's that off his radar. 

Everything seems to be lost - until - a Latin DJ by the name of Jellybean enters her life. 

Jellybean is the most sort after remixer in all of New York. He's also impossible to get a meeting with. But that doesn't stop Madonna. As Jellybean is DJing at the coolest club in NY, a dance-off begins on the dance floor. Madonna cuts in on the dance off - and whips her opponent's ass. 

Jellybean sees this and is intrigued. 

Their relationship develops from there. After much coercing, Jellybean eventually agrees to produce Madonna's album. 

History tells us just how successful that first album was - so that's not where the intrigue of the story is. What keeps you hooked is watching just how determined Madonna is and seeing what she will do to achieve her goal - world domination. 


Very often I'll read a screenplay that's at the top of the blacklist and have almost no idea WHY it received that many votes. But not this year - at least not with Blond Ambition. 

This script is solid from start to finish. It's great even if you're not a Madonna fan. I'm apathetic about Madonna - I can appreciate and respect when a singer-song-writer is as successful as she is, but my iTunes has none of her songs in it. This script is so well executed, a love for her music is not necessary. 

You know what makes this script successful? It's all about a woman's drive to succeed. There's a lesson in that for screenwriters. People love to watch stories about underdogs succeeding - but they love to see the underdog EARN their win. 

If the road to success is too easy, the opposite happens - viewers will get annoyed with your hero, they'll start to hate them because they had their success handed to them. 


BIOPICS are always in demand. Why? Because people LOVE true stories. Even when we know how the story ends - we love to see the journey and the fight that these people went through to achieve their goals. 

A biopic about Madonna is sure to make money. She is one of the most successful female music artists in the world. Arguably THE most successful in the modern era. 

There is one downside to writing a biopic about a famous musician - the film will only work if the rights to the music can be bought. And that can send the budget up into the stratosphere. 

I highly recommend writing biopics - and if you want to see a guide on how to do it well... read this script. 


This would be the 'worst' part of this screenplay. It is densely written. But when I say 'worst', please note that I write it in quotation marks for a reason - the writing here is stellar. 

I only skim read the descriptions - as they were waaaaaay over written. But there are two ways to read a script. 1) Speed mode. Where you skim read, or 2) Normal mode - where you take in every line. 

Most people skim read to get a feel for a script - if you can read 120 pages in 60 minutes and still understand the story - then that - in itself - is testimony to the writing ability of the writer. 

If I were a producer with an eye to making this film - then I'd sit down, take my time with the script and savor every word and every scene.

So as a writer, you have to try to find a balance. 

You want to write a lean script so readers who are skim-reading can zap through your story and still understand it. But you also want there to be substance to your tale. 

This script, I feel, is over written by about 20% - but it's still a damn fine read.


Biopics are funny when it comes to structure. If you're telling a true story - you are bound by the facts that happened in real life. 

But here's where good writing comes into. 

You can have the EXTERNAL EVENTS play out as they did in real life - but you - as the writer - control what goes on INSIDE your hero. 

So to that end, you can create a more traditional structure while still staying true to real life events. 

It's interesting to note that MADONNA'S FLAW is NOT resolved by the end of the script. 

Madonna's flaw is that she uses people to get what she wants - the sacrifices are her personal relationships. 

With that in mind, this story is actually a tragedy. 

A tragedy is when a hero learns of their flaw - but even though they know about it - they choose to KEEP their flaw - and ultimately their life is doomed. 

A great tragedy is Leaving Las Vegas. If you haven't seen it, or read it - it's a great film and book. 

But the thing about M's flaw is that it drives her to succeed. It's very interesting in that regard - the one thing that destroys her personal relationships is the one thing that allows her to excel far beyond all her contemporaries.


Both executed incredibly well. 

The way to tell if a writer has really put time and effort into their characters - is to judge them by how well they write their smaller characters. Even the bit players here shine. 

Here's a tip - try to name every single one of your characters in a script. When a character is named - RECEPTIONIST or NURSE #4 - that character suddenly doesn't feel real. Give them a name and they suddenly feel real.

Dialogue is well done here also. Each character has their own voice and way of speaking. It's a great example of how to do dialogue well. 


The strength of your VOICE comes down to how easy it is to read your sentences. 

Sometimes I'll open a screenplay and it will take me three reads of the first paragraph to understand what happened. That's bad writing. That's poor sentence structure. 

Then, other times I'll open a script such as this one and the first paragraph is so easy to read your eyes slide across the page with ease. 

Here's a tip - try to write the way you talk. For some reason, writers often assume a different voice when they write. They feel there is a certain style they have to adhere to. 

There really isn't.

Writing is simply conveying a story. The easier it is to understand the story the better. 


This film is period. Being set in the eighties means it's almost as expensive as setting it in the 1900's. 

Also, the cost of licensing the music would be uber expensive. We're talking millions - just for the rights for the music. 

Also, it's about Madonna - so all the big name actresses would want in on this role - so - again, you're looking at a lot of money for the leading role. 

I'd say this film couldn't be done on much less than 20 million. That's the absolute lower end.

Realistically I can see this film being made on or around the 40-million-dollar mark.

But if it were well executed - it would stand to make a good return.

Which, really - is what the film BUSINESS is all about. 

Sunday, 11 December 2016


The importance of your characters ranges from your hero right down to soldier #11. 

But regardless of the importance of your characters, when you introduce them you need to write their name in CAPS.

When a reader reads your screenplay, at best they read with a 70% focus. The majority of readers have a hell of a lot of screenplays to get through, they don't have time to hang on your every word. They speed-read and get a feel for if your story was clear, the characters popped, the concept is sellable etc... 

This is why we put character names in CAPS the first time we introduce them. This signals to the reader that this is a NEW character. 

Let's start with how to introduce your important characters. 

When a character is a main player, it's better to give the reader more information about them. 

When you introduce a character in detail but then that character only has one line and they disappear from the rest of the script it can be confusing for the reader. 

Don't waste time introducing un-important characters in detail. 

When introducing your hero, you need to cover three aspects - 

Physiology - what they look like. Are they strong, are they weak, are they tall, hunched? Give us a visual picture of them. But don't just list their physical traits. Try to be inventive and creative with the way you describe them. Rather than saying John is fat, you could write John substitutes exercise for eating and his waist-line shows it.

Remember, your job is to entertain the reader as well. When you write dull, dry sentences the reader will start to check out. The more interesting you can write a sentence, the more engaged your reader will be.

The next is SOCIOLOGY - where your character fits into society. Are they a queen, a beggar, a royal Knight, teacher etc... 

The next is PSYCHOLOGY - their state of mind. Are they bi-polar, are they Zen and calm, are they quick to temper, etc... 

You want to get these three aspects of your character across in one sentence.

After you write your character's name in CAPS, you then put their rough age in brackets - i.e... JOHN WILLIAMS (40s) - or MICHELLE JONES (20s).

You can put a specific age if you want - such as JOHN WILLIAMS (43) - but most actors play an age range that is roughly 2 decades. 

Only write a specific age is it's relevant to the plot. 

The other exception is when writing the age for under 20. 

There's a big difference between an 11-year-old and a 16-year-old. 

Likewise, a 3-year-old and a 9-year-old. 

When you introduce characters that are less important it's best to keep their introductions minimal - focus on their function, as that's the most important aspect of their character introduction. 

LUCY RHODES (30s), a paramedic, is the first to the scene, she pulls the glass away and... 

If there is something important for us to know about Lucy's physical trait, then you could describe that also... 

Perhaps Lucy only has one arm. We need to know that so tell us. 

When introducing less important characters only tell us what we need to know for the story to make sense.


While it is inevitable that you will have smaller characters in your screenplay, just because they only have one or two lines doesn't mean they should be any less developed. 

One way readers separate the pros from the rest is how developed smaller characters are. 

If you can get a hold of the screenplay - The Disciple Program - by Tyler Marceca - this script is an example of incredibly well developed minor characters. 

A lot of amateur screenplays have too many minor characters. 

I suggest you go to the screenplay you're working on at the moment and do a pass that just focuses on the smaller characters. 

Your first step is looking to MERGE minor characters. 

Often there are three small characters all serving the same function. 

Why not merge them into one character and develop that character a little more.

If you have one minor character that has six lines, rather than three small characters with two lines each, that merged character with the six lines will feel more real and more developed. 

Once you have gone through and merged as many of your minor characters, then spend a day going through and developing each of your minor characters.

Try to give each their own special attribute, something that makes them feel like they are a real character, not just something thrown in for the purpose of serving the plot. 

Imagine that character's OWN STORY. 

You don't need to go into too much detail, but give thought to who they are and what makes them tick. 

Monday, 28 November 2016


At the heart of every good story is a drama.

At the heart of every good drama is a journey. 

A satisfying journey results in a change in your hero. 

The change in your hero stems from their flaw.

So, in essence, every good story relies on the hero being flawed.

When your hero isn't flawed, then there is no INNER journey.

They can go through an amazing external journey, but all that external shenanigans are really nothing more than spectacle. 

To create an emotional connection between your film and your audience you must give them a hero they can identify with. 

The best way to do this is by giving your hero a flaw.

Now that can be easier said than done. 

How do you figure out what your hero's flaw is?

Typically, you decide your hero's flaw BEFORE you start writing.


Because you can use the hero's flaw to guide the journey of the story. 

But what if you get half way through and realize that the flaw you decided on for your hero isn’t the right flaw? 

What if you have been manufacturing scenes to tie in with your hero's flaw but those scenes have pushed the story in a direction you don't like, or didn't intend to happen?

I've personally experienced this with my writing.   

Many times I've finished writing a first draft, looked at where the hero’s flaw has taken the story and I realized it wasn’t the story I set out to write, it wasn't the journey I wanted my hero to go on. 

That's ok.

Go back and re-write. 

But re-writing from page 1 is tiresome. 

What if there was a way I could find the hero's flaw that best suits the story without having to write in a flawed flaw in the first draft. 

There is a way...


What the hell do you mean by that?

Glad you asked...

Start by doing a rough structure of your film. 

You've got a basic understanding of the Hero's Journey and you use this to etch out the major beats in your story.


This rough outline should be roughly 5-10 pages long.

Ok, first step done.

Now flesh out that basic structure into more detailed scenes.

Don't get caught up fine tuning each scene, just layer in more information on top of that first structure you created.

Ok, so now you should have a document that's roughly 30-40 pages long. 

You should have a really good idea of the journey you want your hero to go on. 

Now this is where you can reverse engineer your hero's flaw.


Whatever the personality traits your hero needs to achieve the goal at the end of the film should be the personality traits they are LACKING at the start of the film.

To use a real life example…

I'm writing a story where a young mother must ultimately believe in herself and stand up for herself and her daughter. 

They are the personality traits she needs to survive the ordeal of the film and to defeat the shadow. 

Now that I know where she needs to end up, I now know where she needs to have come from at the start of the film.

I know she needs to believe in herself by the end of the film...

So I...

... make it that she doesn't believe in herself at the start of the film, she lacks self-confidence.

She also needs to stand up for herself and fight for herself by the end of the film...

So I... her not standing up for herself and not fighting for herself at the start of the film. 

Before I did this process, I was toying with serval different flaws for my hero.

None of them seemed to fit.

I decided to write the story without a definitive flaw for my hero and see the journey that she would have to go on. 


...the one thing your hero doesn't want to do - should be where the story takes them.

While we're talking about flaws... 

...I'd just like to clarify what a flaw is.

A flaw is NOT just a negative personality trait.

It is more nuanced than that.

A negative personality trait could be that someone is a chain smoker. There's nothing positive about being a chain smoker. 


... if that chain smoker just happens to live in a place where everyone else are chain smokers and no one minds them chain smoking - that negative personality trait is NOT a flaw. 


Because a flaw is something that stops your hero from achieving their full potential.

A flaw holds your hero back.

Look at the film JAWS.

You ask anyone what sheriff Brody's flaw is in that film and the majority of people will say that he's afraid of water.

While it is true that he is afraid of water, it's not a flaw as his life is not impeded by being afraid of water.

His job as sheriff and his day to day life doesn't require that he be able to swim. 

NOW - if he was a surf-life-saver and he was afraid of water then that personality trait is a flaw because it affects his ability to perform his job.

What is Brody's flaw in Jaws?

Glad you asked...

... Brody's flaw is that he's irresponsible.


What are you talking about?

When we first meet Brody's son he has a cut hand because Brody has failed to fix the swings.

Later on, he says to his wife and kids, don't play on something else (precisely what eludes me at the moment), I haven't fixed it yet.

Twice we see that Brody has failed to do something that he is supposed to do.

Then later, he KNOWS that there is a man eating shark feeding in the waters around Amity Island – but none the less, he capitulates to the pressures of the mayor and allows the beaches to be left open.

Consequently, a young boy is eaten by the shark because Brody failed to be responsible. 

He failed to do his job, which is to be responsible for the safety of the Islanders. 

Brody's journey from there on takes him on one of responsibility. 

He has to be become responsible for the safety of the whole island. 


Go to a script that you have started to outline.

Don't worry about writing in a flaw for your hero right away.

Flesh out the story without a flaw until you have a really detailed outline - aim for around the 30-40-page mark.

Now that you know where the journey will take your hero, now you know what it is they need to do to survive the ordeal and defeat the shadow, reverse engineer and create your hero's flaw by taking away those personality traits from your hero at the start of the film. 


You've just reverse engineered your hero's flaw.

Sunday, 27 November 2016


What is exposition dialogue? 

Let's firstly look at the word - exposition. 

The dictionary says exposition is, 'a comprehensive description and explanation of an idea or theory.'

In film terms, this means that elements of your story are directly explained to the audience. 

In the world of film directly explaining something to your audience doesn't come across very well.

It is always preferable to SHOW rather than TELL.

We've talked about the importance of having characters SHOW their emotions rather than TELLING them.

It is far better to SEE John being angry rather than John say, 'Damn it, I'm angry as hell.' 

It comes down to the subtly of performance. 

When a character acts in an over the top way their performance feels unrealistic.

Why is this?

Think about real life.

The majority of people don't directly say what their emotions are, they infer it. Their mood changes to reflect the way they're feeling. 

Exposition dialogue divides into two parts.


It is always preferable to SEE all the important plot points of a story than have a character explain what just happened. 

Audiences want to SEE the story unfold before their eyes, they don't want to be TOLD something by a character. 

There's a great example in Aliens.

Near the beginning of the film, Ripley says to someone that she has experience using the power-loader unloading cargo.

That's expositional dialogue as it is a character TELLING us something about the story. 

Later on, we SEE Ripley using the power-loader to unload some cargo.

Then, in the climax of the film, Ripley uses the power-loader to fight the alien. 

Had we not SEEN Ripley using the power-loader it wouldn't have made as much sense later on when we see her using it to fight the alien.

The dialogue where we're TOLD she has experience using the power-loader is really easy to miss. 

Expositional dialogue often stands in place of flashbacks.

Flashbacks really should be avoided in film.


Because a flashback puts the story in the present on hold.

As a storyteller is it your job to ALWAYS MOVE THE STORY FORWARD.


Go to the script you're working on at the moment and go through scene by scene.

Firstly, identify all the instances where you have a character TELLING rather than SHOWING.

Secondly, divide the TELLS into 1) CHARACTER TRAITS and 2) PLOT POINTS.


CT are the make-up of each character's personality. 

Each character will have little quirks that make them unique. 

What is each character's temperament? How do they react under pressure? Are they benevolent, or are they selfish? Are they kind or nasty? Etc... etc... 

Anywhere in your script that you have a character trait being TOLD to the audience, you must delete and replace with an ACTION that SHOWS this character trait. 

That's the first part of cleaning exposition from your script.

Now comes the slightly harder process. 

Cleaning out plot point exposition. 

Plot points are beats in your story. EVENTS. 

It is always far better to SEE an event rather than have a character TELL it.


Imagine the difference between SEEING a murder take place, vs having a character run into a bar and yell to anyone that's listening, 'Someone just got killed out in the alley!'

The difference should be obvious.

To see something first-hand is far more impactful than hearing about it from an intermediary.


Go to all the instance you have where you TELL an event rather than see it and delete that dialogue, replacing it with THE ACTUAL EVENT. 

For a lot of people, this process will be very difficult.

For some people, it will completely change their script. 

If you find that you have a script that has a lot of EVENT BASED EXPOSITION, then you might need to go back to page 1 and look at the WAY you tell your story. 

A small amount of event based exposition is fine. But if you find that you have event based exposition more than three or four times in your script, you really need to go back to square one and reconsider the WAY in which you are telling your story. 

A great example of event-based exposition that really works in a film - is in JAWS.

The scene where Quint tells Brody and Hooper about his experience with sharks when the Indianapolis went down in shark-infested waters. 

It would have taken away from the moment to film that monologue as a flashback. It would have also cost a huge amount of money. 

In this instance, there's no other way for us to KNOW why Quint is obsessed with killing sharks. Until now, that aspect of his personality has been a MYSTERY. 

Here, just before the final showdown with Jaws, we understand why Quint is the way he is by way of plot point exposition dialogue. 

This is one of the ONLY moments in Jaws where there is plot point exposition dialogue. 

The rest of the story unfolds before our eyes.

There are instances where we are TOLD that Brody has a fear of water, which is character trait exposition dialogue - but we are also SHOWN his fear of water multiple times.   


Firstly, there really should be no instance in your dialogue where you have one character tell another character about a personality trait of any of your characters.

There's no excuse not to SHOW personality traits. 

The only exposition you should be writing in dialogue are events that are critically important to understanding the present story line, where you can find no other way to SHOW that event. 


Just say you have two characters working together on a heist.

A third character is engaged to work on the heist, but there is a huge amount of tension between one of the first two characters and this third character.

Finally, the other character asks, 'What's up between you guys?'

In this instance you have two choices, you can either go into a flashback to show what happened in their past that is the cause of the tension, or you can have the other character simply say, 'we had a falling out over a deal that went sour.' - or something to that effect. 

I would suggest you use plot point exposition dialogue like this only if it is IMPERATIVE to understanding the present storyline.

Here's another test for you...


Go to the script you're working on at the moment.

It should now be completely free of any instance where you have exposition dialogue talking about character traits.

Look at the instances where you have exposition plot points in dialogue.

DELETE the first one.

Now read the scene.

Does it still make sense?

Quite often you will find that exposition dialogue that tells about previous plot points can be deleted without it altering the story.

You will often find that by deleting the exposition plot point dialogue you will create mystery.

Think about our example used above - the three guys on a heist but there's tension between two of the guys. 

Once you know WHY there's tension there's no longer any mystery surrounding that subject. 

If you delay answering that question you have created a mystery that will keep the audience guessing. 


Unanswered questions will keep your audience engaged.