Gerald Hanks Filmography

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Stone Cold" Screenwriting: Arrive. Raise Hell. Leave.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, no one in the offbeat world of professional wrestling was a bigger star than “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Although his chief in-ring rival, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, became an international movie star, Austin was much more popular in his role as the anti-hero who beat up his boss, flipped off the crowd, and poured beer down his throat.

So what does pro wrestling (or “sports entertainment”) have do to with screenwriting? Among the numerous merchandise items designed for his character, Austin had a T-shirt printed with the motto: “Arrive. Raise Hell. Leave.” As a screenwriter, you would do well to keep that motto in mind when writing each scene.

Arrive (Late)

Many rookie screenwriters write their scenes as if they need to fill in every detail. Instead of having your character leave the house for work, your scene may show the character showering, brushing his teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, grabbing his keys and wallet, and heading out the door. Unless these actions reveal some specific aspect of your character or relate directly to your story, you should cut these extraneous activities and get to the meat of the scene as quickly as possible.

Raise Hell

In a previous post, we looked at the reasons you should add conflict in every scene. Conflict can serve one of two purposes: it either moves your story forward, or it reveals aspects of your characters. Conflict moves your story forward by showing the barriers between your protagonist and his goal. It also reveals important aspects of your characters by showing what your protagonist will do to overcome those barriers and achieve those goals. If your character doesn't “raise hell” to get through those barriers, your scene (and the entire story) will fail to capture the audience's attention.

Leave (Early)

In each scene, every one of your characters should have a goal in mind. Your character either achieves this “scene goal” or comes up short. In either case, your character should not take a lengthy period to discuss, analyze or recap what just happened. Your characters (and the audience) know what happened, so your best choice is to move on to the next scene. The following scene can involve either the next step in your character's arc, or a strategy session to develop a new plan where the previous one failed, but you need to get out of each scene and onto the next as quickly as possible.

Open Up a Can

In his interviews to promote an upcoming match, Austin often promised to “open up a can of whup-ass” on his opponents. Although he didn't always win every match, he kept his promise for giving an exciting and impactful performance every time. Shorter scenes also allow you to create emotionally powerful moments in your screenplays. With longer scenes, especially those that take their time getting to the point, you risk losing your audience before you can open up a can of emotional “whup-ass”.

Deliver a “Stone Cold” Stunner

While filmmakers are always on the lookout for strong stories, they also must keep an eye on the expenses involved in scouting, casting, setting up, shooting and editing each scene. Short scenes show producers that you can write an economical story, in terms of both time and money. When your scenes can convey the action of your story in short, powerful bursts, you're on your way to delivering a “stunner” of a script.

If you want a script that kicks ass, gimme a “Hell Yeah!” Or, you can contact us at StoryIntoScreenplayBlog [at] gmail [dot] com. We provide face-to-face or online consultations for both new and experienced screenwriters. Whether you want to polish your script for contests, prepare it for agent meetings or hone your skills for pitch fests, we can help. You also check out out us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and support us on our Amazon store.

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