The past few weeks, part of my writing schedule has involved revising the outline of my animated fantasy-comedy spec. It’s been fun to develop – having a previous draft to work with really helps. The action sequences, the story, the jokes and sight gags haven’t been too difficult, but I’ve been making more of an effort to build up the emotional aspect.
This isn’t to say I’ve never included that. It just hasn’t been as prevalent in the early stages of planning and plotting process.
It’s not enough to just show the stuff that’s happening, you need to show how it’s relevant to the characters. While the plot is about the external goal (what do they want?), there’s also the importance of establishing their internal goal (what do they need?).
Sometimes the internal and external goals work together, and sometimes a character will achieve one and not the other. There’s also the tried and true “they got what they wanted, but it wasn’t what they needed” (and vice versa). It all depends on how the writer wants to the story to go.
To help myself get a better grasp of this, I’ve been reading the scripts for and watching other animated films to see how they approach it. There has also been the occasional “read a few pages of the script, then watch how it plays out onscreen”.
*helpful tip – for prime examples of incorporating emotion into story, you can’t go wrong with well-made animated films. They do a fantastic job of setting everything up as fast and efficiently as possible. Sometimes singing is involved. And as it should be with live-action, each scene manages to include advancing the characters’ emotional arc as well as the story arc.
As more than a few readers have said to me, sometimes my writing is more about what we see onscreen and not as much about what’s happening to the characters on the inside. Hopefully that won’t be the case this time around. Since I’m still outlining the story, I try to include what the emotional impact is in each scene. Does the point of the scene affect the character(s) the way it’s supposed to?
At first, this was pretty challenging, but watching how other films accomplished it, it wasn’t as daunting as I initially thought, plus the more I think about it and plan for it, it’s not as bad as I thought. It’s helping with the overall development because I’m taking that sort of detail into consideration as part of the initial planning stages, as opposed to trying to work it in later, along with avoiding a few unnecessary rewrites.
Since this is a slightly different approach for me, I’m sure it’ll be chock-full of trial and error along the way, but am fairly confident it’ll yield the results I’m hoping for.
I hadn’t realized it had been quite a while since I’ve written about how my writing has been going, mostly because there hasn’t been as much of it as I was hoping, and what there has has been proving to be a bit of a challenge. Therefore…
The past few months have been me working on rewriting/overhauling the fantasy-comedy I wrote last year. For some reason, it just wasn’t clicking for me, hence the lengthy break.
So when I decided the time was right to dive back in, I really had to figure out what the problem was.
I still loved the concept, and a lot of what I’d already written, but something still seemed off. So I went to my tried-and-true practice of “take a step back for a closer look”.
What was it I liked about the story? Did the way it played out seem like the best way to tell it? What could be done differently, yet still yield the same results (or something even better)?
When I was first putting the story together, I must have gone through at least half a dozen different ways to start it. Each one had it’s own pros and cons. I don’t strictly adhere to “this plot point HAS to happen on THIS PAGE”, but I do what I can to stay in the neighborhood.
As I wrote down scenes I wanted to include, a pattern started to emerge. If I started the story THIS WAY, that would lead to THIS happening, and maybe I could rearrange a few things so as to get the full impact of what I was going for.
Then another realization came to me. The story was working, but my protagonist was the wrong character. Another character initially created as a big supporting role seemed to hold more potential, plus having things revolve around them would really punch up the tone of the story.
More pieces of the puzzle were falling into place.
Because of this drastically new approach, I don’t have the option of just recycling scenes from the previous draft. Each scene has to be rewritten to accommodate this new perspective and really play up the impact this new protagonist has on everything around them.
It’s a challenge, but the new story is slowly coming together. My enthusiasm for putting myself through all of this and my confidence in the story is as strong as ever.
I’ll admit this is also taking longer to than I wanted it to. My initial hope was to have completed the outline a while ago and have a new draft done by the end of the year, but that ain’t gonna happen.
Instead, I’m totally fine with the rest of 2021 being all about hammering out the outline and its subsequent fine-tuning. Kicking off the New Year with pages isn’t a bad way to go.
As we head into the weekend, here’s hoping for a whole lot of productivity for everybody’s current projects.
I came up with the idea/concept for my fantasy-comedy more than a few years ago. Up until last year, putting it together consisted mostly of the occasional jotting-down of ideas for scenes and sequences. Figuring I had enough to work with, I worked my way through writing a first draft.
That was the end of last year.
After working on several projects since then, including some still in progress, I’ve decided to make things just a bit more complex for myself and start on the next draft.
The core concept and execution are still pretty solid, but after a lot of help and suggestions from some trusted colleagues, I’ve got a better grasp of which parts need some major work. It’s not as long a list as I expected, but there’s still a good deal for me to work on – especially from the perspective of character development; namely – my protagonist.
There are still some aspects to his internal and external goals that need tweaking, so a lot of my time lately has been all about that. And I was already racking my brains trying to figure out what would work best not just for that character, but also how all of it relates to the antagonist as well as the supporting characters.
Initially a daunting prospect, I am finding the more I work my way through this, the stronger the story seems to become.
I’m also working on fleshing out the storylines for some of the supporting characters, making sure to incorporate the theme into each of those. It’s also been a pleasant surprise to realize/uncover previously hidden connections between some of them and work those into the story.
As is my usual M.O., I’m taking my time in figuring all of this out and doing what I can to make sure everything is as solid as I can make it (for this draft, anyway) before starting on pages.
And what might be the most important angle to all of this – I’m enjoying it. This is just a fun story to work on. It is definitely the kind of thing I would write, and I hope that vibe really comes through in the finished product.
Until then, and as it always does, the work continues…
Any screenwriter who’s done their homework can tell you there are plenty of platforms and websites out there offering up the opportunity to put scripts on display.
Granted, I know this little operation of mine isn’t the biggest or the most well-known, but I also know how frustrating it can be when you’ve got a script you’re really proud of and want to let the rest of the world know about it.
I’m a big believer in supporting the writing community, and wanted to do what I could to offer up that same opportunity to any and all interested parties.
“Send me the vital details for your script, and I’ll post ’em!” I announced.
And 167 of you did exactly that.
What you will find below is a virtual treasure trove of material.
Film and TV scripts covering a vast spectrum of genres, many with accompanying awards and accolades.
But the most important part is that each and every one is available for you to read – courtesy of the writer’s email being included.
Something grabs your attention, makes you think “I’d like to read that.”? All you have to do is contact the writer and ask. Maybe they’ll want to do a swap.
This is networking and establishing professional relationships at their finest.
So settle in and start perusing. Hope you find something you like.
(And as long as I’ve got your attention, feel free to hit the ‘like’ button, and even take it one step further and start following this blog.)
12 HOURS 2 STEAL
A struggling artist must navigate a series of instructions to steal a valuable treasure for an unknown puppetmaster after she downloads an audio tour podcast for a specific painting in a gallery.
Winner, Best Unproduced Feature Screenplay – UK Motion Picture Festival, Spring 2021
Finalist – PIMFF 2021
Finalist – European Cinematography Awards 2021
Official Selection – Amsterdam World International Film Festival 2021
Finalist – Best Script Award 2021
Official Selection – Rome Independent Prisma Awards 2021
An aspiring country singer willing to hustle, a broke bartender with a big heart, and a two strike criminal find their lives thrust together under the neon shadows of Music City after a robbery gone bad turns to revenge.
Quarterfinalist – 2019 Nicholl Fellowship
Winner – Best Screenplay, 2018 California Film Awards, Orson Welles Awards, Best Screenplay
Finalist – 2019 Los Angeles Crime and Horror Festival
Quarterfinalist – 2019 Roadmap/Road to New Republic
Selection – 2019 Sacramento International Film Festival Screenplay Contest
While stocking shelves in a retail store, a struggling, newly single dad gets caught in a diabolical game where he must follow the instructions in each box he opens, or his estranged children will be murdered.
A young man in recovery is recruited by his N.A. sponsor to join a cult-like group of thieves. Lured in with the prospect of helping his father’s shaky new sales career in the home-security sector, Ethan learns the hard way, there’s no honor among thieves.
A suicidal comic, trapped in an isolated cabin with a traumatized ten year old girl who hasn’t spoken in over a year, discovers that if he assumes the persona of her favorite cartoon character, she’ll respond. They put crazy on hold, have a hell of an adventure helping each other survive, and begin to heal their personal wounds.
In an isolated, small town, a squeamish, vegan, lesbian detective falls in love with a sadistic, serial-killer cannibal and battles her inner and outer demons in an intimate and twisted psychological cat and mouse battle for survival. With the help of a brave Deputy in a wheelchair, she learns she needs to become her fear to overcome it.
Lexi, a heavily tattooed woman in her mid-20’s, who was known to be an on-the rise young skateboarder during her childhood, gave up her talent as she approached her mid 20’s due to her the loss of her father and her mother in rehab. She lives with her disabled grandmother and likes spending time with her abusive boyfriend. However, with her finances hanging on by a thread each day, she decides to run back to the one thing she loves the most, skateboarding.
A young burlesque dancer reeling from a breast cancer diagnosis forms an unlikely bond with the much older members of her support group, and must push past conservative mindsets and patriarchal, ageist ideas of beauty in order to run a burlesque workshop helping her fellow survivors reclaim ownership of their bodies.
When a superstar college quarterback suffers an injury that threatens to derail his pro career, a shrewd sports marketer offers him lifetime financial security if he can carry a team of talented misfits to the Olympic trials… in curling.
A young boy who’s always wanted to go on an adventure is dying of lung cancer. On the brink of losing all hope and youthful imagination, his friend’s teddy bear comes to life, bringing him on an adventure unlike any other.
Stereo podcast week 4 – $10,000 grand prize winner.
While the Vice President of a video game company tries to prevent her kidnapper from hacking into her company’s data, her coworker and best friend of over 40 years tries to escape the hacker’s accomplice.
Two colleagues who don’t like each other – and who are both in other relationships – fall in love and get married over one Passover. It’s a story about family, following your passion, and fish (gefilte, and otherwise).
Chloe Monet, desperate to prevent a predicted death, is introduced to two jet-setting brothers from Greece, exposing an International diamond scheme. Although diamonds are considered a girl’s best friend, in this case they are a source of contention and danger.
As the final battle between Good and Evil approaches, five desperate orcs plan to steal a magical shield from their Queen’s enormous fortress so they can pay for their escape from the inevitable slaughter.
A vengeful train robber and a female Samurai forge an unlikely partnership as they race across the Old West to rescue the Emperor’s daughter and stop a gang of thieves from stealing five mystical swords.
Finalist – 2021 Screencraft Fellowship
Top 100 – 2021 Table Read My Screenplay Genre Competition
After their conspiracy theorist buddy goes missing, two dumbass vets enter a seedy town with a seedy strip club that just happens to be full of seedy 80s clad stripper werewolves, and once again they need to save ‘Merica.
Coverfly – Overall Top 10%
Quarterfinalist – 2021 Richmond International Film Festival
Quarterfinalist – 2020 Big Break Script Competition
Tricked into babysitting their godchildren, a trio of egocentric dudes find themselves in the middle of a robbery turned kidnapping, leaving them one kid short. With the aid of a frenemy cop, they must defeat the bandits and save the kid before daddy returns.
As his people face constant persecution in 16th century Prague, Chief Rabbi Judah Loew suffers a crisis of faith and creates a Golem as a means of protection, only to lose control of his monster and be forced to stop it before it brings about an even greater threat.
The do-nothing son of a recently deceased business mogul is tasked to deliver his estranged father’s ashes cross country in order to inherit the family fortune. Along the way, he must evade 2 hit men hired by his father’s spurned business partner, with his unbeknownst secret agent girlfriend assisting him along the way.
A grieving man isolates himself on an island after the loss of his daughter and wife, but when his wife returns, his sanity and devotion are pushed to the brink as she shows increasingly violent, animalistic behaviours.
An inclusive dystopian sci-fi screenplay about a hot-headed woman, who after her mother is taken for missed organ payments, joins a small rebellion effort to save her, but when they uncover darker truths about the repossessed victims, she must save the people of the encased city, which seems impossible because the powerful CEO is standing in her way.
Upon accidentally gaining access to a sovereign fund containing billions of dollars, an awkward social-climber has to siphon as much money as he can, using brilliant and complicated financial structures, before the authorities close in. Based on the real-life fugitive Jho Low who was involved in the biggest financial scandal in history.
1st Place – Table Read My Screenplay (Genre: Historical / Biopic) 2021
DEA Special Agent John Fisk and Kayla, his detection dog, are a force to be reckoned, when a mission goes sideways, killing him. Waking up wounded and alone, it takes the unwitting help of a rookie agent for Kayla to exact justice.
Rooted in a gateway valley, a family of homesteaders and Indigenous band become targets of a railway tycoon intent on exploiting a recent gold discovery in the neighboring hills. Driven to defend their way of life the valley’s inhabitants must put aside their differences and join together if there’s any hope of preserving honor and justice in this brave ‘New World’.
Determined to attend senior prom, a teen born with a rare genetic disorder must also overcome social anxieties to secure a prom date, until a teacher he is smitten with provides him with a unique opportunity and arrangement.
Adaptation of my short script GENERATION CY, which placed in the semifinals in the 2020 Barnstorm Film & TV Fest
For transgender teen, Andy Cooper, finding love – much less a date to prom – is a pretty tall order. Things change when Andy rekindles his friendship with Valedictorian, Olivia McDonald. Together, the duo confront transphobic peers, family struggles, challenging friendships and life altering SCARS.
Official Selection – 2021 Script Summit
A biracial teen comes of age in inner city Miami, and resents her mother’s return home after serving a lengthy prison sentence.
The good news: Disgraced, down on his luck, dog-loving, former special-op, Mutt Hickock, finds his fortunes changing when he’s named the executor of a billion and a half dollar trust. The bad news: The massive fortune has been left to a pampered, Persian cat, which Mutt not only can’t tolerate, he’s allergic to as well. The worse news: There is a very badass group of people from Mutt’s past that want the cat dead so they can get their hands on the money. The worst news: Killing Mutt in the process would just be a bonus.
In an attempt to save his dying relationship, a socially inept slacker finds a way to adopt a literal monster baby, sparking a cross-country road trip to return it before someone dies or all their money runs dry.
When Nazi Germany invades her Ukraine homeland, a 24-year-old University student enlists in the Rifle Division of the Soviet Red Army, over the objectionss of her family and the recruiter; she becomes her country’s most prolific sniper.
When a damaged Somali Soldier’s hidden past is uncovered, he faces his demons to shepherd an innocent family on the run to Europe. But blood ties to the vengeful military regime hunting them force him to make an impossible and deadly choice.
When an Army ranger is forced to pass an unconventional sobriety program or face a dishonorable discharge, she stumbles upon a dark plot within the facility capable of undoing her past while sabotaging her future.
Best Feature Screenplay – 2021 FunMill Film Fest, Cleveland, OH
When an orphan discovers that she has been adopted for the sole purpose of being an organ donor for her sickly new brother, she must fight her new family and escape their old mansion before her life is taken and her lungs are harvested.
In the days before Hurricane Katrina, a former investigative journalist is drawn back to New Orleans following the death of her sister, where one of the Crescent City’s oldest families is on the verge of summoning an ancient god of prehistory.
In 1970s Indianapolis, a 2nd-generation hot rodder finagles a way to stay out of the Army (and the County Jail) so he can keep doing what he loves – RACING – but a cop with a grudge is obsessed with wrecking his life, and making him pay for ALL his family’s crimes.
Finalist, Official Selection – 2021 Die Laughing Film Festival
When a revenge plot goes horribly wrong, a sickly priest finds himself caught up in the chaos. As violence unfolds around him, and doubt enters the fray, he must do what he can if he wants to get out alive.
Ruthless mercenaries, fanatical cultists, and celestial horrors won’t stand in the way of an all-girl urban explorer team hell bent on rescuing their young sister from the grip of a shadowy monster in a secretive lab.
Wanted for murder, a Navy SEAL must save his fiancé by plunging into the most desperate hunt of his life–a shattering search for a brilliant killer who has come back to finish a job he failed at several years before.
Loosely based on the twisted tale of America’s first serial killer family. Set in the absurd and abnormal town of Labette, a determined yet naive young woman strikes up an unlikely companionship with a gunslinger, teaching her that she must forge her own way in the world. But when you come from a family of murderers, heads are guaranteed to roll.
Berlin 1938. The Catholic Church makes a deal with the devil and a reluctant young priest must either comply with the church’s appeasement of Hitler’s government or rise up against two powerful forces to become the hero the world needs.
In the endless rain and crop failures of an apocalyptic volcanic winter, a mythic being – both man and monster – comes to the aid of a diverse blended family to bring back the sun. (MAGGIE meets THE SHAPE OF WATER)
Returning from Iraq, Jacob Diaz works as a social media monitor where he’s forced to constantly watch videos of cruelty, conspiracy, and hate. Fed up with the inaction of his supervisors and the authorities—plus the toll on his psyche—he hunts down the offending posters in search of peace. Finding that he has become a viral sensation himself, he must now escape a rabid fanbase that uses him as its inspiration.
A refined young woman must avenge her father’s death by becoming what she despises most, a pirate. Chasing her father’s nemesis across the high seas and through the Queen’s court to extract vengeance and save the kingdom.
A Katniss Everdine heroine in a Princess Bride world. A story for girls that want to be the hero and a princess.
In 1810 England, a bankrupt and disgraced London socialite has three days to uncover the truth about her ex-lover’s disappearance and make amends for her role in her sister’s death before she’s taken by a mythical entity that punishes wrongdoers.
When an overworked, underpaid college grad finds the promises of her higher education degrees aren’t paying off, she teams with two misfit friends to steal a prized sculpture from their alma mater in order to save her father’s house and finally make a difference.
When a vindictive bounty hunter transports a bank robber from New Mexico to Colorado to pay for his crimes, the outlaw tests his captor’s weakness and forces the bounty hunter to find out if he truly has the courage to dispense his own personal justice.
After a 17yo student at a pretentious New Orleans Catholic school digs into her Colombian heritage in search of a pretty, petty picture to paint to get back at her infuriating Religion teacher, her project on Santa Muerte leads to her lighting candles and murdering her lecherous uncle, but did she find Santa Muerte or did Santa Muerte find her? Maybe death is her destiny?
Chapter One: Evil Roots Run Deep. In the Montana Wilderness of 1845, a French-Canadian fur trapper with a dark past is captured by a Native American family. But after duplicitously talking his way out of their captivity, he faces a reckoning for his sins, stumbling into an even more harrowing nightmare that proves as haunting as it is deadly.
When a tenacious AAPI teen witnesses four corrupt policemen beat her dad to death, she must learn to convert her auditory PTSD into a newfound power to uncover the identities of the killers and seek revenge- even as it transforms her from a naive streetkid to gold-suited superhero, Aurem!
After accidentally waking King Arthur in the present day, a disillusioned businesswoman must sort fact from fantasy if they’re going to survive his enemies, both ancient and new – problem is, she may be one of them.
When a doctor from a family of cops is unfairly suspended from a prestigious hospital, he is thrown a lifeline by the Croatian Mafia in his old hood. Committing to help their ailing boss as an underground war erupts, he may discover his professional calling, if he can survive..
A staffing service clerical error reclassifies a hopeful henchman as a supervillain, forcing him to reluctantly fulfill his new managerial obligations instead of what he really wants: to win back his estranged girlfriend and find a decent benefits package.
Found footage, Rock-Mockumentary, Dark Comedy, Thriller, Music
Decades after the underground rock scene of the 1970s ended, a son discovers his father’s lost interview tapes with some of rock’s lesser known “legends,” and discovers that rock ‘n’ roll may never die, but it sure can kill.
A preteen girl’s life becomes increasingly complicated when she unleashes an adolescent, hard-to-manage genie, who can’t leave until he grants her three wishes and realizes he may not want to leave at all.
A cheap private eye has to step up his game after he unwittingly uncovers a cold case involving murder, smuggling, and police corruption to become the unlikely hero and survive his deadliest adversary yet.
When a New York City medical intern of Navajo descent suddenly manifests supernatural healing powers, she must learn to control her abilities with the help of her long-lost medicine-man grandfather, and discover how a shadowy genetics corporation was responsible for her father’s mysterious death.
After her husband’s mysterious death and the disappearance of her 9-year-old son, a teacher discovers a dark secret in her home that catapults her out of suburban London into the heart of Mumbai’s underworld.
A freak accident offers the director of a failing funeral home the solution to her family’s money problems: murdering the men responsible for her husband’s death and reaping the financial windfall of their funerals.
Based on a true story. Two newly recruited female Resistance members risk their lives to rescue downed soldiers and translate Nazi secrets as part of a civilian spy ring, only to face betrayal and capture.
At a hybrid state-run boarding school, the boys’ soccer coach must merge his team with the girls’ and win a tournament to stay funded, but can’t get his own daughter to play ball let alone the rest of the team.
Placed on Coverfly’s 2020 Red List – Top-rated Family Televsion (one hour)
#2 – Coverfly’s Red List – Dec 2020 – Top-rated Family Television (one hour)
When Hurricane Katrina blows the film industry up from New Orleans to Shreveport, a displaced eccentric talent agent, a rebellious preacher’s wife, and a diverse group of local actors form unlikely bonds at a weekly acting class, all hoping to get their big break in the other LA.
After being framed for a massive senior prank he didn’t commit, ex-serial prankster Freddie Slifko is forced to repeat his entire senior year at his Catholic boarding school where he vows to pull off the biggest senior prank of all time.
Surrounded by cornfields and casual racism, the town of Standard, Nebraska is anything but— When a blatantly racist statue of the town’s founder is defaced, a high school journalist and his best friend discover that their hometown is at the center of a story that threatens to tear apart not only their community but a society that has yet to come to terms with race in America.
A “What If” comedy where the U.S. builds The Wall and it successfully eliminates all drugs and violence in America, leading to unintended consequences and a looming threat from the one place they forgot to take into account… Canada.
When a teen witch accepts a cemetery restoration apprenticeship, her ability to interact with spirits is reawakened. Unfortunately, so is her evil father’s desire to steal her power and use it to unleash the damned souls that he controls on the living world.
Second rounder – Austin Film Festival
Finalist – Fresh Voices
Quarterfinalist – Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards
Facing eviction, three pot-smoking, golf cart-crashing, fun-loving retirement village ladies embark upon a black market scheme in order to save their homes and continue to live life on their own terms.
After she unexpectedly kicks the bucket and finds her recently-deceased boyfriend did not make it into Heaven, a saintly medical student escapes back to Earth and uses her second chance at life to stumble her way into Hell.
After an alien device catapults the Moon through hyperspace to the farthest edge of the galaxy, the citizens of Tranquility Base must survive an interstellar odyssey in their attempt to return the Moon back to Earth.
Aiko Hilkinger is an award-winning, queer, German-Japanese screenwriter from Colombia. She primarily works in fantasy and animation, and her pilot “Kate and Ava” placed her in Network ISA’s “Top 25 Screenwriters to Watch in 2021”. Hilkinger creates magical worlds filled with diverse characters that children and teenagers can relate to and see themselves represented in. Not only does she strive for diversity and inclusion in her stories, but most importantly, she believes that through her animation work she can connect with kids and help teach healthy communication and to own up to their mistakes.
When she’s not writing, Hilkinger works as a script analyst for big screenwriting contests and has recently started her own script consulting business.
What was the last thing you read or watched you considered exceptionally well-written?
I feel like I’ve said this to the point where the people who know me have gotten tired of hearing it, but Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts on Netflix has to be my pick. I honestly think the show made my 2020 much more bearable while also blowing my mind with their imaginative storytelling. The show was planned as a three-season arc and you can tell when watching it that it was meticulously planned as the story is just so tight and has a clear message all the way throughout.
How’d you get your start in the industry?
I actually don’t feel like I’ve “made it” into the industry yet. I joke that I graduated from “baby writer” to “toddler writer” in 2020 since it was a learning year for me. After I graduated from film school, one of my teachers helped me get an internship with an agency where I perfected my coverage skills. After that I applied to work as a script analyst for a contest site while entering some contests here and there for the first time.
I won some pretty cool awards this year and was named one of the Top 25 Screenwriters to Watch in 2021 by Network ISA. I’m looking forward to new opportunities this year, like getting signed and hopefully selling my first script or getting staffed in a room.
Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?
I think you can teach someone what to look out for (structure, format, clear goals, etc.) in a script but after a while it becomes a feeling. It sounds strange, and it definitely is, but after reading as many scripts as I have, you start to very easily pick up on things that make a script good or bad. At times it has everything to do with those “rules” we’re taught in film school, and it’s easy to technically say why something isn’t working, but it’s only through practice of your own craft and opening yourself up to criticism that you really learn what works or doesn’t for you, and how to break those rules.
What do you consider the components of a good script?
A good script has something to say. I’m a sucker for a good theme, and I always suggest looking at it as a “thematic statement” or “the lesson the protagonist or antagonist will learn”. When a writer knows what they want to say with their piece, it gives the story direction, and it is much more enjoyable to see them get there.
Oftentimes when a script doesn’t know where it’s going, you can feel it, it’s like you’re wandering around aimlessly through a world, surrounded by characters who don’t know what they want and thus you don’t know what they need. Definitely start your writing journey by knowing your why (why do you want to tell this story and why does it need to be told now?).
What are some of the most common screenwriting mistakes you see?
One of the most common mistakes I see is characters not having a clear goal. A goal is the driving force behind the protagonist accomplishing something by the end of the script and without it, the story can drag on and become repetitive. We don’t want to see someone live their life day to day because it’s not dramatic; not every action pushes the story forward. That’s why it’s important that not only the protagonist has a clear goal, but the antagonist does as well, since they’re the ones who will get in the way of the protagonist.
I also recommend giving other characters goals of their own so that they can be more rounded and have something going on that gives them more depth other than doing whatever the protagonist needs them to do.
What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?
I’m exhausted of seeing every queer story be about “coming out” and dealing with homophobic families, friends, etc. It’s the same annoyance I have about POC films, especially Asian-American stories, only being about the struggle of immigration. There are so many other beautiful stories that can be told outside of the constant struggle to be accepted by a straight, white society that need to be told in order to showcase the beauty of our cultures and communities.
I want to watch a film about queer love that has nothing to do with strife or struggle, and I’m so happy that we’re slowly starting to get there with shows like Schitt’s Creek and She-Ra. And I would love to take my family to watch a film with characters that look like us where they’re just living their lives unapologetically, like Crazy Rich Asians and One Day at a Time.
What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?
Write with a purpose. Know your why. Why are you writing this story? And why is it important to tell it now?
Fill out a bullet point list of your main structure in order to know your main emotional turns before you start writing.
Always outline, even if you don’t like it. Look at your outline as your first draft.
Make sure your characters have clear goals (wants) and clear needs (areas for growth).
Sneak exposition through conflict.
Make sure your characters are emotionally motivated.
Antagonists should have a clear driving force behind them.
Read as much as you can and make it a variety (both produced and peer scripts) in order to figure out what works for you in terms of storytelling, and to practice pinpointing why they don’t work for you.
You don’t have to take every note you get. Take the ones that resonate and throw away the ones that don’t.
Have you ever read a script where you thought “This writer gets it”? If so, what were the reasons why?
The main reason is that it’s clear the writer has something they want to say. I know I’ve mentioned this a lot, but it truly is the most important thing you can do. The second I get your voice and understand your point of view, I’m in. It’s our job to make that as clear as possible because our voice is what will set us aside from other writers. It’s what we bring to the table, what we’ll get hired based on, so it’s the most important thing to develop. And through a lot of practice, giving and receiving notes, you’ll get there.
How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?
Contests can be worth it if you have money to splurge. I know a lot of people who haven’t had a lot of success from them and it can definitely be frustrating. I’ve had a very 50/50 experience. I didn’t make it into a few contests that I was excited about, but then I made it into one that really, really worked for me.
You have to be very clear with yourself about what you want out of these contests (exposure, management, etc.) and make sure you know they’re not your only chance to get into the industry. Also, be sure to ask fellow writers about their experiences in order to find out which contests are the best for you and your goals.
How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?
I am super active on Twitter – @aikohwrites. That’s where you can find me saying things I probably shouldn’t. And if you’re interested in my coverage services, you can go to aikohilkinger.com/script-coverage to find more information.
Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?
This is such a good question! My favorite is apple. My mom has always had her own recipe and her apples for some reason always taste amazing. But if we’re being more specific, I love a good, warm and buttery strudel (maybe with some ice cream and caramel).