Writing Horror: Check-In 7, Revising the Second Half of My Spec Script

For this seventh check-in, I will finish looking at the revision process for my own spec script, Mother Knows Best. I will tackle the second half of my script, and this will be crucial to making sure the story I want to tell is wrapped up in a concise and satisfying way.

During revisions on the second half of my screenplay, there were a couple of big takeaways I had from the process. I will share those here:

Takeaway 1: Clarify the Rules of the World

My story takes place in a world where spirits can return to haunt living people, and while I do concede that some people believe that this is a possibility in our own reality, the rules of my world are not inherently clear. For that reason, an explanation of the forces at play in the script is necessary. However, how these rules are communicated is a critical question.

Too often, a story set in a world different than our own takes too much time at the beginning to try to explain the rules of this new world. It leads to an incredibly slow intro that essentially operates as an infodump. Considering the first ten pages of a script is most often where an executive decides whether or not to buy a script, taking the first ten minutes of the film to explain a confusing set of rules to the viewer is a terrible idea.

Instead of dumping world information on a reader early, integrating the world slowly into the minds of the readers is a much more effective strategy. Having the main character learn of the world as the story progresses draws a reader into the environment seamlessly (think of Harry Potter as an archetype for the bewildered protagonist planted in a new world). This is what I attempted to do in my horror script, including different scenes where little pieces of the new world are revealed to Art (and, by extension, us as the viewers).

Takeaway 2: Emphasize Relationship Dynamics

The biggest problem I ran into when writing my horror screenplay was (somewhat surprisingly) finding a good way to cultivate burgeoning love between two of the main characters. For a story revolving around topics like sexuality and attraction, building meaningful and believable relationships is of the utmost importance. Therefore, I had to find a way to hint at a past relationship between my two characters, while also escalating those feelings in a relatively short timeframe.

In any story, relationships and how they change are what draw readers into consuming the product. A story without meaningful relationships will always struggle to succeed, regardless of any other aspects the tale has. I ran into this problem because I had some difficulty establishing a base for a relationship to grow. In order to solve this problem, I had to dedicate more time to building a stronger dynamic between the two main characters, especially in ways that emphasized visual storytelling over more dialogue (hearkening back to last week’s takeaway to focus less on dialogue).

My efforts on this front are far from over, as I will continue to search out the most compelling relationship I can cultivate at the center of my own script.

In the final blog post, I will wrap up with what I took away from this entire process, as well as any final thoughts on the entire experience. I look forward to it!


  1. micrittenden says:

    Sam, it sounds like this project is coming together and you’re learning a whole lot! I’d love to hear more about it after you’ve had some time to implement your takeaways. Matt.