Today we’re taking a look at that fiend of the forum, CE Martin. If I remember correctly, CE comes over to us from novels, and by what’s he’s written here I’ll argue he knows how to craft a good story.
Mythical by Charles Martin
Two teens find the burnt corpse in the desert that turns out to be an undead super soldier. Can they help this soldier regain his memory and complete his mission from beyond the grave?
Several friends are out in the desert on a motocross vacation.
They stumble upon a boat and a dead body, with a problem being the nearest body of water is twenty miles away.
A storm approaches and our characters head back to camp, but the downpour is absorbed by the corpse who regains life and stumbles into their camp.
After downing another cooler of water, it turns out this super soldier, Antaean, can’t die so our two main characters, Jimmy and Josie, attempt to help him figure out what happened.
The three take Jimmy’s truck back to the boat, to a gas station where they skirmish with two red necks, and finally the mall.
It’s here that Antaean remembers he’s a soldier on a secret mission, stalking a shape shifter before he can kill the vice president, who’s rumored to be a sure thing for president come the next election.
Walking away from the help of his old army colleagues, because he can’t be sure if the shape shifter infiltrated his old division, Antaean takes the kids with him in order to stop the shape shifter before it’s too late.
Away we go.
1.) Can we visualize the description?
Yes, but it’s a bit on the long side.
As I mention in most of my reviews, blocks of action/description should never be more than four lines long.
There were several cases in this script where they were five or more lines, and a simple solution is to just break them up.
A BETTER solution is to go back and eliminate things that aren’t needed.
Josie looks back to Antaean’s body, then jogs over to her
motorcycle. Jimmy hands her a helmet. Josie gets on her
motorcycle then puts it on. The group start up their
motorcycles and ride off. The rain is very heavy now.
Could easily be:
Josie takes a last look at Antaean’s body, then puts on her helmet and rides after her friends.
Another long description at the bottom of page 19, but I did notice it elsewhere, so take a second look and fix it.
Remember, WHITE SPACE is a writer’s best friend as it keeps readers reading.
Another big problem right from page one:
6 motocross riders are racing their motorcycles through the
Six motocross riders race through the desert.
No one ever “is doing” anything. They do them. And while we’re there, spell out numbers.
Josie’s gaze is interrupted by a splash of water on her cheek.
A SPLASH of water interrupts Josie’s gaze. OR A SPLASH of water on her cheek breaks Josie’s concentration.
This was problem that occurred more than once, so go back through and change any present progressive to present tense.
I know we discussed this in the forums a bit, when you were asking for the proper way to do it, and I think finding that Terminator 2 script was right on.
I had no problem following Ketzkahtel as he shape shifted by doing the “Ketzkahtel/Cook” format. I wanted to let you know this, as it worked great.
The two biggest problems were stated above though, so go back through on a proofread, and see what else you can streamline to create more White Space.
5 out of 10 points.
2.) Does the author use an acceptable format?
Surprisingly, yes. I have to say, with some of the questions being asked by CE in the forum, I was a bit nervous this was going to be a rough one.
A few things did stick out though.
Numbering each scene before the scene heading. This isn’t needed and was a bit distracting.
Using the scene heading is fine, and numbering the scenes generally only happens once a script heads to production, and it wasn’t done properly anyway. (As long as you are under 110 pages and have a scene heading every couple of pages, you’re fine.)
One page 23 the director’s jargon just became too much. Stick to a plain description of the scene as if it were being looked at by an outsider.
Like I’ve said numerous times before, directors get to pick how we see your story, so unless you’re ponying up the millions of bucks it’d take to bring your story to the big screen, don’t step on his or her artistic toes.
Everything else was pretty on the mark though, and easy to follow.
OH, 94 pages? Beef that up a bit, to make this is a decent action film.
7 out of 10 points.
3.) Is the dialogue free of exposition and rich in subtext? Does each character have a unique voice?
The dialogue was just okay.
There were parts in the script that had a lot of exposition.
Now I know Roy chants “Incluing!” But I wanted to see more of it. There’s a part in Jimmy’s truck (page 57-58) where they talk about Ghost Walkers and astral projection. Instead of talking about it, it’d be MUCH easier and exciting to see it happen. (Using the X-Men style astral projection, where forms appear as see through human forms is an easy way to do it.)
This is a MOVIE, and SEEING it is much better than HEARING about it.
More exposition should be drawn out in the form of a puzzle for Antaean on who he is. Beating up on the kids with martial arts, but wondering why he knows how to fight. Maybe he has a tattoo or a picture that leads them to the Korean War veteran.
Don’t drag it out, but don’t give it away instantly either. Make the characters work for the answers.
I noted early on page 5, the characters keep repeating Josie’s name as they talk. Leave this out. You want us to know the character’s names? Once is enough, whether it’s during an introduction to an undead soldier, or sternly scolding a character for not wanting to help.
Antaean’s character was decently defined, and I got he’s kind of a nice guy, but likes to tease. (I actually saw the Arnold being a perfect fit for his one liners.)
On Jimmy, I’d clean up his dialogue as he seems almost too big of a sissy in some places. I do however like how his concern for Josie shows through his hesitation.
Josie is alright, but her, “I want to help him” stuff seems too good to be true. She should have more questions initially, as the guy did just magically return to life.
It wasn’t horrible, and nothing really stood out as “on the nose” so the one tip I would give is to keep it economical.
If dialogue runs over two lines, question whether or not it can be cut back.
(BTW – Page 32, Josie has a line that’s absorbed some dialogue too.)
One last thing to note, the final fight scene between Antaean and Ketzkahtel should be broken up with some dialogue.
There’s literally three pages of description broken up by, “Mark!” That’s intimidating to read, so see where you can scale that back, or maybe put in a super villain monologue to break it up. (Just don’t overdo it.)
4 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?
It’s definitely a movie. The action scenes, the shape shifting, and the really cool way Antaean comes back to life would all make for a worthy theater experience.
10 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?
I like the world the author presents.
I’m reminded of Jordan’s Jurassic Park review, where he talked about magical realism. This story had that.
There’s magic in it, and even past super heroes, but it’s very close to our world.
The one thing I’d like to see, is more of that brought out into the story instead of just talking about it.
8 out of 10 points.
6.) Does the script have a hook?
One of Roy’s perfect “coming in late” type scenarios.
There’s a group of kids motocrossing out in a desert, but CE doesn’t waste a lot of time with it. He has them reach the top of a hill and look down to see…
A wrecked boat in the middle of a desert.
Not only is the boat wrecked, but there’s a dead body next to it, with two huge holes, one in the head and one in the chest.
Burnt weapons and ammo surround the body, giving us a “WTF?” feeling.
Aside from a few present progressive mistakes, it’s very well done.
15 out of 15 points.
7.) Is that hook effective?
The characters begin to debate on page 3 about what a boat is doing out in the middle of the desert.
Ultimately, it starts to rain and the kids willingly leave the body to the elements, except for one of our main characters, who feels a familiarity about the corpse, but ultimately follows her friends.
We’re then treated to a cool scene where the dead body absorbs the moisture in the rain and begins to regenerate itself, becoming the soldier Antaean.
The kids have a bit of exposition back at camp, as their relationships play out, then head to bed.
Antaean naturally observes their campfire and heads towards them, where he drinks more water and becomes uber buff.
The kids wake up and try to fight him, but he can’t be injured or hurt, so they agree to help Antaean with a bit of convincing from Josie.
All in all, it wasn’t bad, but the main problem is there’s too many characters. Any time spent on developing a relationship to a character that doesn’t show up later is a waste of a reader’s time and will only make them mad when there’s no pay off later.
I’d greatly suggest cutting the cast back here dramatically, and keep the action between Antaean, Josie, and Jimmy.
10 out of 15 points.
8.) Is there enough to maintain the hook? Reveals, conflict, etc.?
A lot of the structure was good. We had most of the plot points we look for in a story, but too much of it was either exposition or convenient for the writer.
The midpoint is good, where we find out Antaean was on his mission to stop Ketzkahtel, a shape shifter who wants to kill the Vice President.
Unfortunately he only talks about it while he, Josie, and Jimmy eat at a mall food court.
This, I’m assuming, is a super hero action movie. So a big opportunity was missed for action here.
I understand the need for the flashback, to describe how Antaean came to be, but you need to introduce him in the present time, and do it early.
It’d be MUCH better if Ketkahtel comes to find Antaean in the mall or something similar, and is trying to kill him, but Antaean can’t remember why.
Him crashing into a chinese quick serve in the food court, then having the dragon sign fall on him, MUCH better way to have his memory suddenly jogged then to just have him look at it.
I already mentioned the ghost walkers too, and a great way to keep us in the dark is to have our group of three run from both the ghostwalkers/telepaths AND Ketzkahtel, so we’re not sure who’s good and bad.
The other thing is I think there was a missed opportunity to develop the Jimmy loves Josie story (or B story). You laid the groundwork for it, and it would have worked, but it was abandoned until the end when it was too late.
By the way, Jimmy CAN’T die. At least not in the manner you left him. He needs a heroic moment if you’re going to do this to really have the maximum effect. You gave us a soap opera death, where we don’t see him die, nor do we see him being put in the grave. In Hollywood that means he’s not dead. (I know Antaean references this fact for a sequel, but you have to treat this like a contained movie. Sell the spec script first, then you sell the sequel.)
I LOVED the idea that Jimmy and Josie were supposed to be safe with the Secret Service agents, but essentially were delivered right into the hands of Ketzkahtel. This sort of idea of having the EXACT opposite happen from what’s supposed to keeps us on the edge of our seats, so good job there.
Last point I’ll make is the ending. It stinks. A HUGE epic battle for the main villain to just get away. People will NOT like it, especially since you more or less take the easy way out to make way for a sequel after several pages of intense fighting.
There needs to be some way for Antaean to win, like perhaps Ketzkahtel can only die in his most powerful form, the dragon.
Not sure how this would work or come out, but there needs to be a better sense of closure instead of, “I’ll get him eventually.”
Know when to get out. It’s better to end your story early leaving people wanting more, then end it late, and they walk out, more concerned with going to the bathroom.
3 out of 10 points.
9.) Does the story play to a target audience, and have the elements demanded by that audience?
Starting off, too many characters initially. We have 3 jocks that basically just stand around, and can be morphed into one person.
On top of that, they’re all closely named with a Josie, a Jimmy, and even a James. (Same as Sunday’s review, the author got his own characters confused and used Joey instead of Josie on page 41.)
I’d REALLY argue to cut these down into just Josie and Jimmy. Jimmy likes Josie, and it’s untold whether she returns his feelings. This should be played up, and creates more tension if the two of them are on the trip alone.
Since the initial group leaves, and it’s unclear whether they report to the cops or not, they’re unimportant, so drop them and play to the strengths of your story.
Maybe even have Jimmy steal Antaean’s necklace or something, and Antaean takes it back during the water scene in a way that embarrasses Jimmy.
The same can be said for all the agents at the end of the story. If an agent doesn’t have dialogue (or important dialogue) keep it Agent 1, Agent 2, etc. Only name the important ones, like the two in the elevator with Josie and Jimmy.
How was Antaean familiar to Josie? That was never answered. She was a relative of Ketzkahtel, fine, but that doesn’t instantly translate into knowing Antaean. The ball was dropped here.
There was a convenience plot point where Antaean knew Ketzkahtel would be a secret service agent. How did he know this, other than he just does?
Page 78 there was a problem, in that Josie and Jimmy are in the custody of the secret service, and the elevator door opens with them fleeing into the arms of two more secret service agents. WHY would the agents outside the door aim at the other agents and not the kids running from them?
These kind of problems were present in the script and are missed opportunities for more conflict.
Also, WHY did you just let Antaean and the kids walk away in the mall? That was a HUGE cop out. Sure he outranks the Major, but doesn’t having amnesia make one “unfit for service” and essentially take rank away? CE, you should have done more with this.
To make it more believable, make the army want to get Antaean back before Ketzkahtel kills him. Sure, they can’t kill him, but Ketzkahtel can, and that’s a big problem assuming they just lost an entire squad to the shape shifter.
Similar to question 8 though, there was a framework in place to keep this moving, and appeal to a majority of moviegoers, they’d just come out scratching their heads on why CE took it so easy on his characters.
4 out of 10 points.
Sure there are some structure and formatting errors, but overall the story is a good one with a solid premise.
A few of the areas that need to be cleaned up are focusing on the main story, and making it as hard as possible for Antaean to remember what his mission is, and then making it even more challenging for him to complete it.
A lot of the initial characters should be dropped also so we’re only presented with the ones important to the story.
The structure is in place, and I’d argue CE is a story teller that can cross the finish line, he’ll just need to make sure he does it by including a few more screenwriting beats, and do it without us realizing it.
Total 66 out of 100 points.