Thread: Copperhead

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    Tim - thanks for all the advice - and the obvious - so obvious that I forgot about it - putting in a title page... duh!

    Blaine, thankyou so much too, spending time to feedback on this ole 'newby'. Yip, I do enjoy writing the odd short story, and I've written a wee novel, 'who-dun-it' - crime mystery my pleasure. The script writing - well this is my first ever script and had no idea even what a slugline was (TRUE!)

    Thanks to everybody's feedback.

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    Ahhh Snakes! This was a great use of probably one of the most fascinating and feared creatures on the planet. It's really genius to use them as a sort of weapon and I think it fits well in the western genre. I had to sort of back up a few times to make sure I was following the characters and action correctly but I have a feeling that the whole thing would play out well as a film. I'm just glad I didn't read this one before I went to bed!

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    Mark C - thanks for the feedback on my script. Being Scottish, I had to research on US snakes (God bless Google!) - that's where I found the Copperhead, a pit viper found in and around the Appalachians.
    Can I just say, scanning once more through your script, I think 'Joe' has one of the more entertaining storylines in the Fest. You weren't scared (or maybe you were... but went ahead anyway) to depart from the traditional shootout. Imagination is as important as the techs. Yip. Good luck!

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    Senior Member Rustom Irani's Avatar
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    Mar 2009
    Bombay, India
    Your opening slug made me smile. Though an apt description for a Western, I'd much prefer Dusty Plain as it makes for a more arresting image of setting.

    Now the make of the revolver in parentheses. Why? Here's the thing about description: If you write it down I feel it'll be shown.

    I imagine, a totally zoom across barrel of gun, kinda shot with the makers name prominent.

    This opening would be so powerful and punchy with curt sentences. It's all about pacing.

    You can have FLASHBACK after the slug if you don't intend to Super Title 10 YEARS AGO.

    "Tonight he has promised to prove faith by the handling of serpents."

    Your dialogs and his actions are gonna clue us in. So no worries. Lose this info.

    This bit is a totally different scene:

    "Brother Garth feels a terror out-with the norm in his
    previous experience of snake-handlers. His thoughts fall
    back to the memory of that day, before the shells burst
    around them. He and Hayward had clung to each other in fear
    before the end of that day... made up surely, although
    later going their separate ways. So, why was piss running
    down his leg now in a steady stream - he couldn’t stop
    it... couldn’t even try."

    So write it as one.

    You have a novelists mind set right now. While your descriptions are poetic and beautiful, in a screenplay it does you harm as the audience will not feel these emotions you describe unless the actors perform their actions and say the dialog's as you worded them.

    I know it's tough, but you have to find a balance. This is leaning away a bit.

    Anyway, back to story. The last scene has the most dreaded aspect of screen-writing. Dialog exposition.

    It's when characters explain what has happened and what's gonna happen. Avoid this at all costs.

    It doesn't help that you explain who they are in the description.

    But this was pretty good dialog and a great situation. The whole script could have essentially been this face off.

    Love your characters and their backstory and RAEF as a snake handler is original, brilliant and awesomely cool.

    The dads only confused me. They make for good backstory but if you aren't going to expand this, then they take up breathing space.

    My advice? Pace the shoot-out and trim the fat. Just add the Church sequence and inter-cut it with the faceoff and show Willard in those scenes.

    I hope I haven't offended you sounding all uppity with my advise. But hey! You haven't read the manure that was my early writing. Man you are light years beyond that.

    Spit, polish, work on trimming. A LOT! Always show and don't tell. Let visuals and audio do the talking. No describing emotions, no backstory info in dialog and no exposition.

    You have a great sense of character and structure to write a script. That's the hard part all covered.

    All the best and thanks for the extremely generous views on "The Patch-up Kid".

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    Thanks Rustom for the advice - and explained in a way that I can understand. This first script has been a huge learning experience for me. Before going on to write another script, I'll be making corrections to Copperhead. This is such fun... SERIOUS fun, hehe.

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    Senior Member Russell Moore's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
    West Michigan
    Hey NJPage....just re-reading some entries. Script format aside, you're writing is really good. What really stood out for me on a second read through was the dialogue, something I've struggled with. But your dialogue is very natural and authentic sounding.
    Can't say enough, what a good first effort this is.
    the writer formerly known as "Conlan Forever"

    Need a short script?
    Have an idea? Want to collaborate? Contact me.

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    Senior Member MrKilloran's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
    Rhode Island
    I've got nothing really to add that hasn't been said.

    Decent, new story, that needs to be tightened up. Trim the action blocks down, a lot, give yourself a little breathing room. Also work on not having too much exposition, the entire ending for instance is one big explanation, show rather than tell it brings more immediacy to the scene.

    Keep it up!

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    Senior Member seansshack's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
    Apologies if I'm repeating what others might have said here as I didn't have time to read through what was discussed:

    First off - put in a title page. Throws the viewer and fellow writers/reviewers will just harp on about it.

    If you need to show the year - put it in as an on screen. Remember the viewer won't won't see whats in the slug:

    ON SCREEN: 1955....

    Same with 10 years previous etc.

    Split up action in shots/paragraphs like this:

    Three US soldiers form a rear guard, preparing to advance
    on the enemy. Then, SOLDIER ONE, eyes stark with sudden
    terror, breaks from the platoon and retreats in panic,
    scrambling and scrabbling his way up a muddy bank (slope).


    Three US soldiers form a rear guard and advance
    on the enemy.

    SOLDIER ONE, eyes stark with sudden
    terror, breaks from the platoon and retreats in panic.

    He scrambles his way up a muddy bank.

    Try an avoid passive wording such as scrambling (ing's) and change to scrambles (active rather than passive).

    Place parenthetical on separate lines (Laughs) in dialogue + under character names. (SEETHING AND SOBBING)

    Some of the dialogue is a bit long winded in places. Try to say more with less where possible + I would avoid trying to write accents (but more a matter of style).

    Enjoyed the story and have no real pointers on that.

    Just reading a couple of comments below this a I type and noticed someone commented this to be your first script. If so. Bravo to you. Great start.

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    Senior Member preston's Avatar
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    Jan 2006
    planet earth
    notes as i read:

    "EXT. TUMBLEWEED SKITTERS ACROSS A DUSTY PLAIN - DAY (1955)" - you've mixed description/action into your scene heading. easy fix...

    how is the bullet's caliber going to translate to film?

    wait, 1955, now a flashback 10 years to WWII... not a typical western. let's see where this goes.

    dialog's a little choppy, not too bad.

    oh man, now the war is over and we're in a log cabin. so far this story is going a lot of places...

    your description of the church is a little book-ish, with things like: "There is a tangible smell of sweat in the room, indistinguishable from fear." - consider ways to SHOW this, instead of TELLING it.

    so far, page 3 is a bit rough with a lot of separate action happening all at once. breaking it would help this.

    lots of book-ish writing on pg. 3... very rough going.

    oooh, a snakebite to the neck! pg. 4 is starting off good.

    gotta find a way to show us their childhood friendship - after all, this is writing for film. you get the idea though; i won't keep repeating this.


    ok, this story kind-of derailed for me at the end. honestly, i got lost with what was happening, and the snake in the tree just came out of nowhere (no pun intended). maybe with some re-writing you can improve on this interesting idea.

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    Hi Preston - thanks for the feedback, and yeh, all true - except the 'choppy dialogue' bit, disagree on that. As you rightly say, p. 3 bookish and that's because I write short stories / and mystery novels. Yip - this is my first script ever and lots to learn - Blaine had to explain to me what a 'slugline' was - but appreciating all the scorn (ADVICE) being heaped upon my head! hehe...

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