Today we’re taking a look at a drama where the protagonist falls for the man who’s taking care of her dead cousin’s body, in a discreet manner.
Sound cool? We’ll see.
Logline: Suddenly a preacher’s daughter must decide where to hide a body, igniting an affair with a mysterious man.
Quebecca Blake, 22, accidently kills her spoiled cousin, Starlyn Ross, 23.
In shock, she feels unable to convince others Starlyn attacked her. She’s faced with getting the body out of her apartment, unnoticed by ever-present students from the nearby college campus.
Quebecca’s solution lands her in a shadowy world of the wrong side of the law. Unusual bonds forge with an intriguing man, called “Fetch”, who helps her. They later learn the body was removed, and found somewhere else.
Twists and turns with an obsessive cop lead to more crossroads and the eventual showdown.
Alright, let’s get to it.
1.) Can we visualize the description?
Here’s our opening image:
Bordering a college campus in the Florida panhandle…
SUPER: BREWSTER, FLORIDA
EXT. SEA GULL APARTMENTS – DAY
It’s a shabby, non-security two story building.
INT. QUEBECCA’S APARTMENT – DAY
QUEBECCA BLAKE, 22, is attractively wholesome. She looks
classic in a white stretch lace blouse, a cameo pin, and
long tan skirt.
She slumps against the wall, horrified. Her long brown hair
hangs damp and wild.
Her eyes roam over her efficiency apartment, riveting on…
A large cedar chest at the foot of a full size bed. It’s
covered by a crochet scarf and a large potted plant.
She closes her eyes, heaves a moan. From her jewelry box she takes a key, locks the chest, snugs the key in her purse.
She combs her hair, dashes on makeup. Startled, she remembers something, and kneels at an overstuffed chair, groping under.
She pulls out a foot tall knight-in-armor ornament with a
square marble base. The knight bears spattered blood stains.
Wow, that was a lot. This touches on the BIGGEST issue with description in the script, there was too many details we didn’t need.
It needs to be trimmed down:
INT. QUEBECCA’S APARTMENT – DAY
QUEBECCA BLAKE, 22, is attractively wholesome, slumps against the wall horrified.
Damp hair clings to her face and is almost as wild as her eyes, which dart around the room focusing on–
A large cedar chest at the foot of a full size bed.
She closes her eyes, heaves a moan. From her jewelry box she takes a key, locks the chest, tosses the key in her purse.
She looks in the mirror and pulls herself together.
Startled, she remembers something, and kneels at an overstuffed chair, groping under.
Out comes a bloodied knight-in-arms statue on a large marble base.
For the most part I think I got everything.
Remember, we don’t need the actual town (it should be able to take place anywhere), exterior shots, or clothes.
Keep it simple and only focus on what’s important to the plot, i.e. the chest, the chair (or the carpet under it), the knight statue, etc.
More problem areas:
In a long pink summer dress, Quebecca eats spaghetti with flashy strawberry blonde, STARLYN ROSS, 23. Starlyn wears a low cut orange slip-dress.
Again, only give us what the characters are doing, and enough initial description that we get a feel for the characters. “Flashy strawberry blonde” works perfectly for Starlyn, especially with her later dialogue and actions.
She saturates it with insecticide, Lysol, and Rose cologne.
Do we need all the names, or would “various chemicals” suffice? (“Homemade chemical cocktail” might work good too.)
Quebecca approaches her car, carrying the new manila envelope.
She unlocks on the right, places it on the seat.
As she shuts the door, she feels a HAND on her right shoulder.
She jerks, and looks back.
Do we need a play by play of getting in the car? Nope.
She’s about to get in the car when a hand grabs her shoulder. Whether we see the envelope or not isn’t important, since later we’ll infer she tossed it inside when she gives it to Fetch.
And that was where I stopped taking notes on over detail.
Now remember, these are just a few chosen instances, not ALL OF THEM. So don’t fix these then carry on. Go back and see where other problem areas are.
One little nugget of GREAT description came from page 43:
His measuring eyes tell her she should want the position.
BOOM. Is it unfilmable? Probably, but it worked. It was short and to the point and we instantly get a feel for how Grady is looking at Quebecca.
There should be more defaulting to this type of description rather than the over description we have now.
That spoon feeding of details is what lost points.
4 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
Yes, but with a few odd things included.
She strokes her fingers over its shining armor. In fantasy she sees the knight morph into Fetch…
Starlyn told a vicious lie about
your parents, Quebecca. I’ll take
you to your father to prove it.
You killed me with that knight. You
can’t keep him.
Quebecca holds the knight close.
Now the format of the last bit is as dialogue which I know isn’t right. I was also confused by the transition “SHE IMAGINES:” and wondered why it couldn’t just be:
Quebecca imagines Fetch as her knight in shining armor…
Then just have her snap back to the present.
This method continued every time Quebecca drifted off to a daydream, and was odd.
Testing her front door knob, she sees how loose it is. As she looks at the knob…
The doorknob turns, clicks, and Fetch
Ah, Quebecca…It breaks my heart to
do this. Unfortunately, the best
witness is a silent one.
He pulls out a gun, shoots her in the heart.
Quebecca gapes at the doorknob, hand
over her heart with a glazed look.
Again the she imagines and resume scene are indented as dialogue, but I have to ask, isn’t there a better way to do this?
Do we even need it at all?
I enjoyed the Starlyn bits, as that was clearly Quebecca’s guilty conscience, but these other ones felt odd and jolted me out of the story.
Another format problem I had was “series of shots” but there only being one shot. That needs to be left out.
SERIES OF SHOTS:
– Waitress comes over, takes orders, leaves
END SERIES OF SHOTS
Not only is that one shot, it’s a boring scene we don’t even need to see.
This falls under “entering late and leaving early.”
There was one other series of shots, which felt clunky and I think there was only 2 shots.
My advice? Leave these out. It hints that you don’t know what you’re doing, especially since I believe the other scene(s) were like the one above and not even needed.
Oh and one last thing, this is technically a dialogue format question but I’ll put it here.
On page 29 Quebecca’s talking with her dad. Next to DAD should be (O.C.) or (O.S.). This let’s the reader instantly know Dad isn’t right then and there.
But spelling was good, and the page length was where it needed to be.
5 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
This was a weird script for me. The dialogue at the beginning was very long and not well done, but the second half was above decent.
It’s almost like the author paused halfway through, read a screenwriting book, and applied it to the second half of the script.
A.M. said she wasn’t a fan of subtext, but there’s a lot of it anytime Quebecca gets into a romantic situation.
A lot of the early dialogue felt very on the nose or odd. For example:
Where else can I take those times?
Lots of them so nice. Every person
has their good and evil. I pray you
forgive us all.
She’s talking us through what’s she’s doing. Since she’s packing up every memory of Starlyn she has, she should just do that, then say the line following the one I linked above. It works better.
I didn’t mean to. I did want to get
away from you. But never like that!
I’m sorry; you know I am.
Florida has the death penalty. My
folks will see that you get it.
Why couldn’t you leave me alone?
Everything I cared about, you jabbed
a knife in. Had to deflate it. To
feed your own sick ego.
This whole town will be on your case.
You’ll become a living shame. It’ll
happen. Your dad’s gonna be disgraced.
Oh, no he won’t! You insulted my
folks–and kicked me first. I defended
myself–And them! I’ll block every
thought of you, and never look back.
Hardy-har-har! You? The wonder-wimp?
I think not.
Think again, you double-crossing
weasel. You brought this on yourself.
From this moment on, you never
existed, Starlyn. And I’m getting
this body out of here FAST.
What if Fetch doesn’t show up?
He has to. He wants the money for
He’s probably trippin’ to England
now. Maybe London. Or Liverpool.
No. He was amazingly understanding.
I’m sure it was real.
What if he shows up, then turns on
you? Twists your arm till you give
him the money. He steals it and
leaves. After shooting the witness.
WOW, lookit that wall o’ dialogue.
Now I’d argue a lot of this was “on the nose” too, but more importantly this is a great example of where WE NEED to be more economical AT THE LEAST with what we have our characters say.
Anytime something is two sentences or more, we MUST go back and ask, “Can I fit these ideas into one sharp line?”
Page 28 – More long winded Quebecca dialogue.
Page 30 – Decent exposition, but again, make it sharper and shorter. Quebecca should sound more paranoid, and frantic asking her dad what she should do.
Page 36 – Too much everyday speak. Fetch and Quebecca are falling for each other, but make their discussion deeper and more interesting so we know they’re star crossed lovers.
Then there’s the odd dialogue.
All it takes is say the wrong
thing…He calls his gang over–
This and A LOT of other instances were structured weird. It made me feel that perhaps the author was a native English speaker, but not native to American English. (Does that even make sense?) Felt like there were phrases or slang unknown to me.
God rest you in peace, Starlyn. It
should never have happened. It’s way
beyond us now.
God rest you in peace? Stuff like that is what I’m talking about, and doesn’t come across right.
Like I said though, a lot of the second half stuff was shorter, and the dialogue between Quebecca and Fetch got A LOT better.
Oh and on page 14 Fetch asks her to come back in 5 minutes, then just explains everything. I chalked this up to a typo, but figured I’d mention it.
Main point here is to go back and trim the fat, then worry about making it better.
If a character has more than one sentence of dialogue per instance, then that bit needs to be looked at and most likely reworked
3 out of 10 points.
4.) Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium chosen in which to tell his/her story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?
I did enjoy the story and it was an easy read. On the play question though, a lot of the tension is situational, in that it didn’t need a lot to set it up.
My default (as most of you know) is whether I can see a trailer in my head. Kind of, but it’s unclear whether that trailer would present the love story, the drama of getting away with a crime, or both.
8 out of 10 points.
5.) Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Are the writer’s ideas, based on this sample, likely to continue to be original?
The one thing I liked, other than the story being unlike something I’ve read before, is how A.M. constantly kept Quebecca in trouble. There wasn’t really a down moment for her once she kills her cousin.
Even normal situations we wouldn’t think about are suddenly “oh shit” moments when people are talking about Quebecca or her cousin.
10 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
The logline is definitely enticing.
Even the first scene presented is good, as we’ve come in late on Quebecca being in trouble which instantly has us asking, “What the hell just happened?”
15 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
Continuing to slowly leak that to us is another great effect.
I even like how on page 15 we’re with Quebecca asking Fetch to take care of the body for her. (Religious good girl entering the underbelly of crime.)
The bit I’m not entirely sold on is the flashback.
I like knowing they were at the bar before, but it just seems out of place, like we did A so B could happen. (We went to the bar the previous night because we needed Quebecca to know where to go to meet Fetch and fall for him.)
I think there should be a better reason for us being there and IT HAS to lead to the fight that Quebecca and Starlyn have.
Remember, this is a screenplay and it all has to tie together. (No random events. Random events piss readers off.)
10 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
The rest of the story went well for the most part.
As I mentioned, the heat put on Quebecca from Grady especially was very good. Plus I liked how his partner knew she was fishy from the get go.
That whole “pulling off a murder” part of the story is fine, but what I’m not sold on is the love story.
Realistically it shouldn’t happen. Even if Fetch wants to, the line of work he’s in probably means he’s a very controlled individual, so his meeting and falling for Quebecca would be something very private.
(Again realistically, I’d think he’d forget her altogether.)
There’s not enough of a set up for “true love” that convinced me he’d want to be with her against all odds.
For instance, page 39, they’re chumming around campus and making out at the end near her apartment building.
This is the SCENE of the CRIME and as Quebecca is technically going with Mark, ANY questions about Quebecca’s behavior at this point would be bad. Plus it’s the middle of the day with students walking around watching.
Again, I think she should very much want to kiss Fetch and be affectionate with him, but he should be fighting it at every turn, knowing it’s bad for their situation.
This sets up her using the disguise wonderfully at the end. I actually liked this, as people clued us in to who Fetch is when he’s not with her, not to mention it was giving her everything she wanted only to have it stolen away by the bloody carpet. (Walker get your mind out of the gutter.)
The only other problem I had is the ending.
I liked her going to jail, but I HATED the fantasies she had there.
I already mentioned the Starlyn fantasies are good, but I think the Fetch ones are just too cheesy and make it over the top, taking away from your writing.
I’ll mention the rest of the ending in the next question, but overall, crime story’s good, and the love story needs some work. We need to be convinced they’re right for each other, not just taking your word for it because that’s what you’ve written.
6 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
Okay, the ending.
I was VERY confused by how Fetch reacted when Cal brought the reward money in.
Did Fetch know about it? Was he behind it? Was there a typo that lead me to ask these questions?
I do think it’s good because it leaves the ending in jeopardy, but we’ll need an explanation for why he did it, or why he’s so nonchalant with Cal.
A GREAT solution to this would be a scene where we think Fetch is setting her up, but it turns out to be false. Remember though he can’t both set her up AND meet her at the end. That taints their love, even if she doesn’t know it. (WE WILL REMEMBER!)
The other part I think an audience or reader will have an issue with is Quebecca’s a tease AND with a lot of guys.
I get the “I’m waiting for marriage” angle, but if she’s serious with Mark, that prevents her from doing other things. Especially going out with Grady.
“Do you want to get dinner sometime?”
“I’m sorry, but I’m seeing someone.”
It’s that simple.
Her going out with him also takes away from the Fetch story, because we’re left wondering if she really does know what she wants.
The bonus to fixing this and denying Grady is it will lead to more drama overall since he is a psycho. (Who looks at engagement rings after one date?)
Lastly, the other problem I had was with how lenient the judge was on her. Even given “emotional distress” she won’t give up who helped her, plus she hid and lied about what she did for a long time.
A court would HATE that and want to make an example of her. Don’t make her sentence convenient for the story.
6 out of 10 points.
It was cool to have the killer fall in love with the gangster who’s taking care of the body. (Even better if you read the details instead of just my generic synopsis in that last line.)
There’s an issue with how the crime story melds with the love story. One of those is good, but the other needs some work.
Bringing those two stories together in a believable manner, while also honing the protagonist, should yield an interesting and entertaining script.
Total 67 out of 100 points.