Only In America
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Only In America

A “rags to riches” story taking place in Philadelphia, 1920.

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    perloff says
    June 24, 2012, 4:27 am
    Overall
    Concept
    Story Structure
    Character
    Dialogue
    Grammar
    Budget (1-Low / 5-High)

    I agree with ssabatino when she says you are just skimming the surface of these characters. Remember that storys are about character revelation. The function of story is to provide building conflict that force characters into difficult dilemmas where they must make more risk-taking difficult choices, gradually REVEALING THEIR TRUE NATURES. To put it succintly, when shit hits the fan, people show you who they really are. You need to be really clear on what they want and really map out the ways they grow/change. Every character needs to have a specific journey. The only characters that dont change are the bad guys.

    Remeber too that when you are writing exposition or backstory into your dialogue that you need to DRAMATIZE it. Dramatized exposition serves two needs: It’s primary purpose is to further the immediate conflict. It’s secondary purpose is to convey information. The novice reverses that order. the writer must create a motivation for the dialogue that is greater than the facts. (This stuff is word for word right out of Story by Robert Mckee – the single greatest book on screenwriting ever written).

    Another thing about the dialogue. You use it to turn the story. In a good movie information doesn’t come out in dialogue. It comes out in the verve and forward motion of the story. A lot of times information is conveyed in the subtext. Think more about subtext when you compose a scene. Good dialogue tells you more about what’s going on in it’s subtext than on it’s surface. Nobody ever says what they are really thinking and feeling. Everything that is said hides what cannot be said.

    On page 6, you write “ad-libbing” That’s the lazy way to go. You need to know what they are saying. You are the writer. Storys are about specifics. Details. You get to play God. You are the God of this story. Embrace it. Carry the weight. You are the writer.

    No flashbacks. Don’t do it. It is the mark of an amateur. I used to write flashbacks. It’s okay, we all did. Don’t do it anymore. It kills momentum. A reader’s attention is always in jeopardy. Flashbacks kill momentum. You have to come up with a clever way to incorporate this information into dialogue, imagery, symbolism, a photograph, etc. Flashbacks are the lazy route. Once you get a movie made you could do whatever you want. But if you do it as an amateur people are going to critisize you for it.

    Some parts were very confusing. Too many characters. If two characters in your story have the same attitude and react in kind to whatever occurs, you must either collapse the two into one, or expel one from the story. when characters react the same you minimize opportunities for conflict.

    I also got confused with all the changes in time. I couldn’t get a hold of what time we were at. You need to be very careful about stuff like that. Readers always need to know they are in safe hands. A good rule of thumb is to assume people are going to be confused. I;m not saying it’s always your fault but some people are just bad readers. A friend of mine who works for an agent at one of the big Hollywood agencies told me that his boss reads scripts while he is on the phone. I’m not kidding. Try to do some extra leg work to really make sure your reader always feels secure in exactly the correct place and time. this goes for writing scenes too. What does it smell like on the boat that leaves Germany in the beginning of the story? what does Anna’s bedroom look like? Really try to find the authentic details that capitivate readers and keep them turning pages.

    The best character in the story was Dimitri. I’ll tell you why. He has dimension. Character Dimension means contradiction. He’s judgemental … and a closeted homosexual. Well that’s pretty hypocriticItal isn’t it? It’s a nice contradiction. It’s authentic. It makes the character pop. Ambition is interesting. Guilt-ridden ambition is EVEN MORE interesting. Why? The contradiction. What is the better character, a thief who is enraged and foul-mouthed or a thief with a charming voice and a nice smile? The later. Don’t believe me? See George Clooney in Out of Sight. iDimension. It means contradiction. Think about this when you are coming up with characters.

    I would advise checking out screeenwriting books. Save the Cat, Story, Adventures in the Screen trade, and On Writing by Stephen King will be fascinitating if you enjoy learning about writing.

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  2. ssabatino says
    May 25, 2012, 12:27 am

    Your pitch is misleading. This is not a rags to riches story – and your title is completely wrong. What you have written is actually an amateurish attempt at an epic romance novel.
    You started with promise, but early on, you killed off your more interesting character, Dimitri. He dispises Anna, and she never really knew the depth of his loathing. We no sooner learn the juicy information that he was the gay lover of Anna’s husband, then he OD’s on Heroin. With his departure from this slow moving tale, we were left with boring Anna. Anna had no depth. In fact, all the characters skimmed the surface of the story. How could you possibly develop any of them when you are covering 20 + years of action?
    Your initial concept is intriguing, and it should be your logline: A gay Russian Bourgeoise artist of the early 20th century escapes the revolution by escorting the naive, Jewish peasant wife of his lover to the United States. There’s a story in there!

    Work on more pithy dialoge. The characters sound like teenagers.

    Some grammar erros.

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