indiana jonesSo. There I am —

Reading an exciting action script. [Well what should be an exciting action script but we will get to that.]

So far, it is an exciting action script. It opens on cool stuff. Something Matrixey. People in cool clothes pulling cool power weapons and pulling even cooler stunts. Diving through air. Leaping tall buildings. Defying motion normal humans cannot defy. Everything looks good, everything is barreling along, the clothes are cool, the characters are cool, the setting is cool, the action is cool, I am totally expecting cool action, and then —

It starts raining and everyone sits down to play cards. And play more cards. And play more cards. And, yes, MORE FREAKING CARDS.

Fifteen pages later, I flip forward and do a page count on just how long these characters are going to play cards.

And they play cards a long LONG time.

Okay. Listen. If I were reading a script about high stakes poker and some card savvy gambler fighting for his life? I might expect a fifteen or twenty or thirty page [well okay not really but still at least the subject matter would be appropriate] card game to just crop up in the middle of the script. I mean, it is a script about card playing, maybe it could happen. But this is not a gambling script. And this is not a card player script. This is an Indiana Jones script. Or a Matrix script. Or a King Solomon’s Mine script. Or a Lord of the Rings script. And —

Are characters saving the world from evil?


Characters are playing cards.





Listen. Take a step back. Think about what you are writing.




Ask yourself —

Would Frodo sit down in the middle of saving Middle Earth and play five card stud for half an hour?

Would Neo?

Would Indy?

Oh hell no.

Action characters save the world and that is just not how you write an action script.

But. People are doing it. Every day. Over and over again. I keep seeing it. Action stops for no good reason and characters start playing cards. Or some mundane thing. That takes up a quarter of the freaking script.

Okay. Do not do that. Ever. The end.

Your Don’t Do That Adams Girl


19 Responses to action!

  1. Good thing I didn’t write an action script!

    Seriously? They do this? Have these people SEEN an action movie? I can’t recall a single one where the chracters played cards for longer than a minute or two (at the most) and that we in Mr & Mrs. Smith where the current Mr. Jolie was setting up a kill…

  2. max

    Yes. People do this. It is pretty much always a bad sign when you go, Wait, back up, just how freaking long is this scene? And stop reading pages and start counting them instead. But even a worse sign if you are reading action. I mean, okay, that should not happen ever in any genre, but especially should not happen in action. Especially action.

  3. And, they wonder why Hollywood is more open to newbie scripts…


  4. Actually, Frodo liked to play Twister. (It was in the deleted scenes).

  5. Damn it, that should be “isn’t”!
    *smacks self in head*

  6. max

    Wow, I so have to recheck special features on the Lord of the Rings disk I do not remember anything about Twister on there.

  7. RC

    how funny…

    maybe the script should be about gambling not action.

    –RC of

  8. max (if you’re permitted by the Nicholl to say)

    do you and/or other readers grade on any sort of curve with your evaluations of the scripts? that is to say, do you read it cognizant of the fact that it’s been written by a person who has not been paid more than $5,000 for writing gigs yet? or do you judge it strictly on an objective basis of “is this a great script?” no matter what the assumed skill level of the author? just curious.

  9. max

    chris, the assumption is no one has been paid $5,000. That would disqualify entrants.Why would that have any bearing on whether is was a good script?

  10. Sorry, I was unclear. I mean, because everyone entering are amateurs (at least to the extent that they haven’t sold a script yet), are the scripts judged on that level. Or is it expected that even at this stage, the most successful entrants will submitting work that is at or near professional-level quality?

  11. max

    All Nicholl readers look for is great writing. That is it. Either the writing is great, or the writing is not great. Whether or not someone has been paid in the past has no bearing on how good the writing is. It does have bearing on who may enter the competition. The purpose of the competition is to discover and help talented writers who are not working professionals yet.

  12. Anonymous

    So when can we expect the first results. Biting my nails here, sometimes biting into flesh, bleeding, I’ve got red on me.

  13. max

    I do not know when letters go out.

  14. max

    PS: Hey, when the letters do go out? If you made the cut, I was your reader. If you didn’t make the cut, um, it was some other reader.

    Good luck everybody.

  15. Anonymous

    Yeah, I hate you. I mean, I hate one of the other readers. Got my rejection/you’re-a-big-fat-loser-and-you-might-as-well-keep-washing-them-heads-of-lettuce-because-this-is-not-going-anywhere letter.

    Went straight to my wall of shame/inspiration. Keeps falling off because of not using ACCO brand thumbtacks.

    Do you do coverage? If so, how much? If not, why not? If maybe, why are you so damn indecisive?

  16. Anonymous

    By the way, I was fighting this dude on rooftops the other day, when we both fell off and flew down three stories, landed on a black sedan, got back up, fought some more, shot at each other while we both escaped the hail of bullets by dodging them at incredible, un-human reflex speeds, calmed down and decided to settle it once and for all in a high stakes game of backgammon.

    It was fun. Maybe I’ll share my experiences one day and write a script about it.

  17. max

    Sorry you got the rejection letter. Yes I do coverage, when I have time to commit to it, which varies wildly. Info about that is on the main site at

    Keep fighting crime with backgammon.

  18. Anonymous

    Great. I’ll start hustling some backgammon players I know and I’ll see if I can manage to save up.

    Seriously, I am interested in your coverage. Except, well, I’m five years old and live in an orphanage. The people here discourage us from dreaming, since we’re orphans and all. I have to do my writing at night in the pantry with a small flashlight when no one’s around.

    I’m going to —

    OH, NO!

    Someone’s coming! I have to go!

    Why won’t this damn flashlight turn off!

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