Weekly Updates

Audio Version

Morgan's Advice

Here is a direct link to Morgan's advice for feedback.

Dashes and Ellipsis

I did a short lesson on dashes and ellipsis that I want you to watch.

Name and Group in the file name

If you want to get on my (and Morgan’s) good side, if you add your name and group (b, c, d...) into your file name, it helps organize us.


I’ve seen flashback used a little more, so I thought I’d say my thoughts on this quickly. I am not a fan of them, only because they ruin narrative momentum: 1) we often know the outcome, so there is no dramatic value, 2) and if there is no dramatic value, then how is it moving the story forward.

Always ask yourself, how is this scene adding value, and if you cut it, what does the story lose? And if you need it, does moving it to the start help build the dramatic stakes.


Some of you are starting to offer different time designations in your script (DUSK, MORNING, SUNSET, ETC...). Although many production scripts have this, the importance of DAY and NIGHT has more to do with your crew: they want to know if its dark or bright and what equipment they need to bring.

So, only use DAY or NIGHT as your time designation.

If a scene must take place at a specific time of day, then designate this in the description: “the sun rises on the horizon,” “street lights flicker to life,” “the kids rush down for breakfast.”

“begins” or “starts”

These are often used before a verb: “she begins to run.” Cut them with glee!

Don’t waste valuable space. They are empty filler words that add no value to your sentence. Either a character is doing something, or they aren’t.

Bolding and ALL CAPS

Don’t bold, unless your writing program does it on your title page or sluglines.

Don’t use ALL CAPS on anything except your SLUGLINES, CHARACTER intros, or CHARACTER NAMES in dialogue.

If you want to use them for emphasis, then use them selectively. If everything is emphasized, then nothing is.

Copyrighted Music

I’m seeing a lot of this popping up this week. Avoid mentioning specific copyrighted songs. A production has to go through a whole process of getting the music licensed, and they may not want to spend that money. Instead, suggest the type of music that you want for the scene: “Britpunk plays on the radio” or “she pops in a cassette and 80s arena rock blares.”

Widow and Orphan setting

Lastly, watch for widow or orphan lines at the beginning or end of an action paragraph or dialogue. These may end up dangling at the top or bottom of a page, and separated from the rest.

There is a setting in most writing programs (often in the print preferences) that you’ll need to check. For example, here is Celtx.

Example of settings for widow and orphans.

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Audio Version

Want, Obstacle, and Outcome

This week, we dig deeper into beginnings and endings. These are the wants, obstacles, and outcomes of our stories, and we're going to explore some of the relationships between them.

Story begins with conflict

Conflict = want + obstacle

Want is the thing that drives your characters through the story and acts as a flag to signal when the story is complete.

For example: a character wants a treasure, and we know the story is complete when they either get it or they don't.

But want isn’t enough.

We also need an obstacle. An obstacle is the thing that stands in the way of your protagonist’s want.

If either of these two elements is missing,  then you have no conflict, which means no story.

Want = Obstacle

Want and obstacle are two sides of the same coin that drive the story's action.

Both your protagonist and antagonist are driven by their wants and this puts them in direct conflict with each other.

For example: your protagonist wants the treasure, but so does your antagonist. This puts them in conflict and are each other’s obstacle.

Also remember that both characters must want their individuals goals badly enough that they are willing to do anything to achieve it.

Do you know the wants of all your characters?

Lastly, either want or obstacle will begin your story:

  • The adventurer wants to get the treasure (want)
  • the teenagers want to survive the monster (obstacle).

Either of these will light the fuse that propels the story forwards.

Three essential criteria for a good antagonist:

  • The antagonist must be equally matched with your protagonist.
  • You want an antagonist who is willing to fight to the very end for what they want.
  • Most importantly: the want of the antagonist should be the obstacle to the protagonist.

Conflict must start as soon as possible

Often writer want to "set-up" their story. This often means they want to introduce characters, settings, or situations before the “real” conflict of the story begins.

However, this is telling, not showing, and it slows the progression of your story.

So instead of worrying about the set-up, focus your attention on building up the conflict of your characters.

But what if the main conflict doesn't happen right away?

Overarching Wants

At the start of the semester I said that want exists even before your story begins. Characters have deep external or internal wants that drive throughout their lives.

  • Luke wants to fight in the Rebellion
  • Shrek wants to be left alone.

And this want either puts them in conflict (Luke struggles with his uncle) or places them in stasis (Shrek seems happy), which we need to disrupt with conflict to activate (or re-activate) the story.

Stasis and routine are death to story.

But notice how each of these overarching wants are linked to the larger conflict (the big why of the story).

  • Luke wants to fight in the Rebellion, but his uncle wants him to stay on the farm. When the droids show up that leads him to his want. (solution)
  • Shrek wants to be alone, but he has to help and work with others to get back to what he wants. (obstacle)

So, when working on your story, try to get your want and obstacle to occur as soon as possible. Not only the main conflict, but also consider what the overarching personal conflict is of each character.


Due to dramatic conflict, our characters must be willing to reach or exhaust the limits of their abilities and resources to get what they want. Stories only come to an end when characters either get or don’t get what they want.

The two primary outcomes are:

  • Success: They get what they want (but this doesn’t stop them from wanting: “Behind mountains are more mountains.” Or Macbeth.)
  • Fail: They exhaust all options or reach the limits of their abilities and resources.  This leads to failure or them giving up.

But there could also be:

  • Succeed/Fail: the character gets one thing, but not another.
  • They change their want (growth and change).
  • Logical exhaustion: Can’t reason the solution. (rather unfulfilling)
  • Failure to realize free will and choice.

Final Thoughts

  • We all want something. Your characters will begin their stories already wanting something.
  • No obstacle means no conflict, which means no story.
  • Want must be equally matched with an obstacle in every way.
  • Either want, or obstacle begins your story.
  • Story is done when character's either get what they want, or don't, or somewhere in betwee.

Film 310 - Week 4 Exercise - Want as Obstacle

Write a 2-3 page script of any type that contains two characters whose wants are counter to each other.

Choose who your protagonist is and focus on telling your script around their side of the story.

Ask yourself:

  • How is your antagonist’s want working against your protagonist’s want?
  • Are they equally matched? Are they both willing to take this to the very end?
  • What is the outcome? Do you know why it is this way?

Marking Criteria:

  • Does it achieve the purpose of this week’s assignment?
  • Proper screenplay format (including active, present tense; sluglines; character introductions)
  • One character must drive the action with a want, face an obstacle, take actions, and face responses, leading to an outcome.
  • Proper spelling, punctuation, grammar.
  • 5 mistakes allowed per script.
  • Proper page count of the assignment.

Due: Sunday Sept. 27 at midnight (Saskatchewan time).

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