10. Shane Blackisms
Simple fact is: Hollywood bigshots don't read spec screenplays. Not to begin with, anyway. First of all, your spec will likely fall into the hands of a script reader, who, based on a few pages alone, will decide whether or not years of work will move up the chain or get thrown in the trash. It's harsh, but that's the way it works. Shane Black realised this depressing little notion when he was in his early 20s, and decided to do something about it: how else do you think he managed to sell the script for Lethal Weapon
when he was just 22 years old? I'm cheating a bit here with this entry, because this doesn't relate directly to the script for Iron Man 3
, but Shane Black's work in general. Still, it's invaluable advice. Faced with the fact that he desperately needed his script to jump off of the page and force somebody to read it all the way to the end, Shane developed a screenwriting style that appeared personal, honest and genuinely entertaining to read. He wrote his script with dashes of humour and little meta touches that spoke directly to whoever had it in their hands. Nowadays, these are known as Shane Blackisms. Take a look at what I mean. Here's a section of "action" from Black's original Lethal Weapon
"Okay. Okay. Let's stop for a moment. First off, to describe fully the mayhem which Riggs creates would not do it justice. Here, however, are a few pointers: He is not flashy. He is not Chuck Norris. Rather, he is like a sledgehammer hitting an egg. He does not knock people down. He does not injure them. He simply kills them. The whole room. Everyone standing."
See how much fun that is to read? That's practically inviting somebody to continue on through its sheer readability alone - if you've got a script that reads like that in a pile of a hundred, I know which one I'd want to spend a couple of hours with. I'm not saying that you should aim to replicate Black's style - that's his own. But don't be afraid to make your screenplay your
own - inject it with your own flourishes. It's worth the risk. Don't go overboard of course, because you're still writing a screenplay, and some things you can't change. Black's approach made his scripts some of the highest selling in Hollywood history. Sure, it was probably easier to sell them going on the success of Lethal Weapon
, but Black's approach (write the screenplay for the reader) is one of the most important lessons you can learn about screenwriting in general. Let your voice come through - make the screenplay as exciting to read on paper as it would be to watch on the big screen. View the writer/reader experience as a one-on-one conversation. You just happen to be out of the room.