Get those Horror Amateur Scripts in! This Friday is Amateur Offerings: Horror Edition! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with a title, logline, genre, and why we should read your horror script – and don’t forget to include a PDF of your screenplay!
Genre: Fairy Tale
Premise: When a prince sets off on a journey with his princess-to-be to lift a spell that’s made her really boring, he discovers a shocking reality about their existence.
About: This script finished in the middle of the pack of last year’s Black List. Although she doesn’t yet have a produced credit, writer Cat Vasko parlayed this Black List showing into a seat in the Godzilla/King Kong writer’s room. How awesome is that!? Get on that Black List, guys and gals, and you could be writing inside some of the biggest franchises in Hollywood within a year.
Writer: Cat Vasko
Details: 105 pages
Writing is hard.
And one of the hardest things about it is keeping the faith.
The reason so many writers quit is because they can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.
What they don’t realize is that if they keep writing, keep practicing, keep learning, they’re going to get better. And, at some point, their skill level is going to surpass that which is required to make it in this business.
There’s a saying I came across recently: Every fish worth catching is going to wiggle. That big breakthrough is the fish you’re trying to catch. But it’s a fighter. It’s going to fight you the whole way. Don’t give up. Cause when you finally catch it, it’s all going to be worth it.
Speaking of feeling good, I need to feel good after last night’s Cubs game. What’s up with our bullpen?? Sheesh. Time for a light and fluffy crepe of a screenplay to bring a smile to these 95 degrees in LA lips.
Winnifred is what’s known as a “Lady-In-Waiting,” which is a fancy way of saying she’s a potential princess’s servant. Her master, as it were, is a woman known as Generica, who’s currently in crisis mode as she prepares, like every other eligible lady, to try and land the studly Prince Prescott.
The thing is, Winnifred isn’t exactly Lady-In-Waiting material. She dances to the beat of her own drum, and that drum plays a song called, “Screw you guys, I’ll do whatever the hell I want.” Which is unfortunate, because it gets her fired.
That’s okay. Winnifred has always wanted to go on an adventure, and this is the perfect opportunity to follow her dream. So she wanders into a forest, gets caught in a storm, only to bump into Prince Prescott’s castle. Prescott, who’s surprisingly cool, invites her in, and immediately falls for her feisty YOLO demeanor.
Prescott’s servants like Winnifred, but she’s not refined enough to be a princess. So they bring in a “Fairy Hotmother,” to make her hot and princess-y. Unfortunately, Fairy Hotmother is new on the job and accidentally turns Winnifred into a princess drone who agrees with everything Prescott says.
Determined to rid her of this annoying quality and bring back the girl he fell for, Prescott and Winnifred travel across desert, sea, and forest to find the “Book of All Undoing,” which is the only thing that can erase the spell.
However, once they get to it (major spoiler) they learn that they are one of the Grimm fairy tales, and that they have inadvertently derailed every other fairy tale on their way here. This has caused the world of fairy tales to slowly implode, which means a simple journey about saving a princess, has turned into a story about saving the world.
I was close to writing this one off.
Everything that was happening was stuff I’d seen before. And not just once, but many times. From Enchanted to Shrek to recent spec sale, Fairy Godmother. Basic fairy tale subversion stuff.
But then, around page 60, the characters come upon the Book of All Undoing, and bump into Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, where they learn they’ve disrupted the entire fairy tale universe.
There are couple of interesting things about this. First of all, Vasko has her main characters achieve the “big goal” by page 60. They’ve found what they’re looking for. What this does, is it creates the ultimate “Now what?” The audience has no idea where you’re going to go next, and that’s a powerful thing, when you have the audience on a string like that.
But here’s the catch. You have to have a plan in place for the script to go. I’ve read a lot of scripts that have the hero achieve their goal by the midpoint, or the 3/4 point, and they don’t have another plan in place. They don’t have a new goal to replace the old one. This leaves the last 50 pages feeling like a giant wandering mess. So, sure, you get your big “Now what?” moment. But it doesn’t matter. Cause you don’t know what’s coming next either.
Vasko introduces this secondary goal of saving the entire fairy tale universe that’s effective because it’s bigger than the previous goal. So even though we’ve solved our main script problem, we’re excited because we now have to solve an even bigger one.
I do wish this script had a little more character development though. When you’re writing fairy tales, you’re writing in the genre that invented character flaws. So you want to be big and clear with those.
For example, the only problem in Prescott’s life that I picked up on was that he felt like he was getting too old. There was a good opportunity to set up Prescott as a prince “in name only.” He couldn’t actually do any prince things because he was scared to leave the castle and be out in the real world. That way, going out on this adventure becomes more of a character-building experience, and that’s what you’re trying to do with scripts – is explore character. Build character.
But here’s an important note. Some of this was hinted at with Prescott – that he was scared to go on adventures. But it wasn’t hit on hard enough. And I see too many writers doing this with flaws. They’re way too subtle about them.
You can sometimes pull this off in more adult genres, like Drama. Those moviegoers tend to be more sophisticated and therefore can pick up on subtleties. But in comedy and fairy tales and action-adventure, you want to put flashing lights around your character flaws. Those are going to be explored in big on-the-nose ways.
The last thing I’ll say is to be careful about things that sound good in principle but are a challenge to execute. By placing this “boring” spell on Winnifred, that gives the plot purpose, since now Prescott must go on this journey to reverse the curse. However, you’re now stuck with 40 pages of a character (Winnifred) who just nods her head and says, “Whatever you please.” It takes away the best thing about Winnifred’s character, which is her personality.
I just want to remind you guys that rarely are choices black and white. For everything you gain with a choice, you’re going to lose something as well. So you want to weigh the consequences and decide if the losses are worth the gains.
But yeah, this script really surprised me with that twist, enough to reinvigorate my interest and keep me eagerly reading until the end. Which is why I thought it was worth the read. :)
[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius
What I learned: Character names create instant images in the readers’ heads, whether you want them to or not. This is actually why so many writers go with the name “John.” It’s because they want a name that’s so generic, it doesn’t conjure any images in the reader’s head. This allows the writer to create those images for you through his character’s actions. Anyway, here, we have Winnifred. That’s a perfect name for this character. It instantly conjures up an image of a homely looking unkempt woman, which was the writer’s intention. Had Winnifred’s name been, “Lucinda” or “Kassandra,” those names evoke completely different images. So think hard about what to name your characters!