This is my first post in about a month because it's the end of the semester and I've been reviewing so many student screenplays that my eyes are bleeding like poorly placed stigmata. I'm so exhausted that I've even lost the ability to craft a compelling opening sentence.
I thought this might be a good time for me to make a list of the most common problems that I saw in all of this semester's scripts while they're still fresh in my mind. Here's a categorized list:
- Too many ellipses. (Also in descriptions.)
- Using parentheticals to tell the actors how to deliver their lines.
- Having a character say how he's feeling instead of using subtext.
- Meaningless words, such as "uh" or "well" or "anyway."
- Writing about conversations in description, instead of writing the words in dialogue.
- Emphasizing words in dialogue with caps, bold, underline, Italics, etc.
- Expositional or on-the-nose dialogue.
- Following a slug line with dialogue instead of description.
- Putting dates or times in the slug lines instead of in description or dialogue.
- Not writing a new slug line when the action moves to a new location.
- Too many typos.
- Descriptions too wordy.
- Using anything other than active, present-tense verbs.
- Using too many adverbs.
- Writing what the characters are thinking.
- Protagonist doesn't have a clear, tangible external goal.
- Protagonist doesn't have an internal flaw that makes his goal difficult for him to achieve.
- No antagonist.
- No helper character.
- Supporting characters have nothing to do with the central conflict.
- Protagonist not sympathetic.
- Setup: Doesn't establish clear protagonist with an internal flaw that affects his daily life.
- First act: No catalysts that push the protagonist to begin pursuing his external goal, or that aren't effective at doing so.
- Second act: No point of no return event at the mid-point. End of second act low point doesn't relate to protagonist's external goal.
- Third act: No resolution for protagonist's external story and/or internal story. Protagonist doesn't demonstrate any internal growth.
I hope these are helpful!