Peggy Bechko: 3 Ways to Make Your TV or Film Script Stand Out

by Peggy Bechko

Let’s face it, the stories have all been told.

Truly original stories are tough to come by. We all have to get really creative. The screenwriting market is completely saturated.

Believe it or don’t. Like it or not. That’s the truth. The slush pile is deep. We may all think, “yeah, but” my script is one of those “truly great scripts” that “always get noticed and find their audience”.

Hmmm…

Think of it this way. Have you seen a herd of cattle? Sheep? Well, that’s the slush pile and the script we want to sell is in there… somewhere…one cow.

Now maybe you could teach that cow to tap-dance or you could try some other methods of getting noticed, so let’s talk, and I don’t mean about how to teach that cow to tap-dance.

Let’s all consider how to avoid the ‘thanks for the read, but not for me’ rejection we all dread.

First things first – imagination followed by fantastic execution. If the idea isn’t imaginative enough then no amount of polished, amazing execution and presentation is gonna help.

The writer NEVER wants his/her script to feel like just one of the herd. As a writer you’ll have to dig deep and force that creativity to the surface.

It’s not like you don’t have it, you know you do. And, you can write your own version of pretty much anything, but you’re going to have to come up with that new twist the audience hasn’t seen before or a new character no one has seen brought to the forefront in the past.

Creativity is a skill. Work on it. Develop it, and never stop working on it. Creativity isn’t something that you have or you don’t. It’s something you work at and develop, like public speaking skills or woodworking.

THEN apply the fantastic execution so the producer sees that film in his/her head when they read.

Another thing. Do you know your world, the one you created, down to the last blade of grass?

You’ve given your story a setting, Africa somewhere, Brazil, New York City. The goal is to make your setting a character in the story you write. It’s not a cardboard cut-out backdrop, it’s integral to the story being told. If not, why not? It must feel real and present and most important, original.

There are a lot of writers out there and you don’t want to get lost in that crowd. The writer has to know the characters in the story down to the bone as well – and create fully fleshed out characters.

The characters have to be ones the audience can identify with. Not necessarily like, but care about. Give them real lives, know them well. Everything YOU know about your characters won’t literally be up on the screen, but if you’ve created the characters well, it will shine through.

Create characters with depth the audience can bond with emotionally and you’re going to grip them through to the end. The combination of setting and character, both done to perfection is something that can’t be ignored.

And, lastly, take some time to invest in the genre you’re writing in. I

f you want to write mystery, watch mysteries, old and new. Science Fiction? Watch lots of it. And on and on.

Check out the classics, the recent hits and the ones that bombed. Why, why and why? Learn from the best. Really know about the genre you want to write in.

And, on that note, know how to take criticism because you’re going to get a lot of it, no matter what genre you’re writing in.

Very few scripts are great from the get-go. BUT, there are lots of scripts with potential if you, as writer, can examine your own work critically, listen to valid criticisms and be ready always to ‘kill your darlings’.

Listen to the feedback of others. They might not always be right, but they most certainly possess another perspective. And, if it’s a producer odds are pretty high they’re right at least in many of their notes – this is, after all what they do.

If you can’t take criticism because you’re unable to listen to it or unwilling to take action on it you might reconsider what your professional goals are.

Imagination. Stoke your creativity. Listen to criticism. Don’t settle and the skills you need will be refined until your script does stand out from the herd and that cow tap-dances.


Peggy Bechko is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor. Learn more about her sensational career HERE. Peggy’s new comic series, Planet of the Eggs, written and illustrated with Charlene Brash-Sorensen is available on Kindle. And, while you’re at it, visit the Planet of the Eggs Facebook page and her terrific blog.