The NEED Factor

Did you miss me?

Did you come here every single day hoping - no, praying to find a new post, only to find the same damn post you've already read a thousand times? Did you drag your ass through the rest of the day lost and directionless without your Single Screenwriter fix?

Don't deny it. I know you had moments of hatred. I know you cursed my name to the heavens and swore to never again read another word of my posts. I know about the nights of drinking yourself into a stupor wondering why I had abandoned you, only to find yourself crawling to the keyboard the next morning on the off chance that maybe - just maybe - I had uploaded a new post during your self-induced blackout.

I feel your pain. It's okay to admit that you stalk me. And hey, it's not stalking if I enjoy it, right?

I could tell you that I've been busy writing and critiquing scripts like crazy (some of which inspired the crap outta me, but mostly they just made my eyes bleed), but what would be the point? I could tell you that I spent all my time watching Little House on the Prairie reruns for fantasy material and you wouldn't care. All that matters to you is that I abandoned you.

I could say I'm sorry, but it would be a lie. I know you want me so bad it hurts, but I couldn't care less. That want you feel isn't want. It's need. Want can be replaced by the first set of bazoombas that stroll by. Need, on the other hand, has an obsessively pathological one-track mind.

It's hell to be needed. It's the cross I bear. But does your script have this NEED Factor? (Sorry, I couldn't resist using my reckless lack of blogging as a tool to get a point across. I'm shameless that way.)

In order to understand the NEED Factor, you've got to get into the brain of your reader. Be it your mother, a mid-level reader, or a studio head, they're all pretty much the same when it comes to need. Think of your reader as a chain smoker on the fifty-second floor of a non-smoking building rigged with very sensitive smoke alarms. Your goal is to make their need to read your script greater than their need to put it down and go have that glorious hit of inhalable gold nicotine.

Is your script that good? If not, why not?

It's not enough to have a strong story with amazing characters. No. Your script reader wants their smoke. Its siren's call is overwhelming. You need every scene to be so compelling that they put off getting that glorious fix and turn the damn page. Even one line of dialogue, or a tidbit of action that doesn't meet the NEED Factor is enough to remind the reader of that 200 pound monkey on their back promising paradise in a puff, and that reader is very likely going to put your script down and go shut that damn monkey up. And once he puts it down, it's unlikely he'll come back to it with the same hard on - if he even comes back to it at all.

Don't send material out that's 'almost' ready. Don't let one line that's not quite 100% turn your script from the love of their life into yesterday's soiled underwear.

Your script needs to be THAT good. Cause face it, that cigarette sure will be.

Your mission (if you choose to actually give yourself a serious shot at breaking in) is to make that chain smoking reader suck in every last word of your script because the need to read is THAT great. You want him outside sucking back five cigarettes in a row AFTER he finishes the read. If he's doing that, he's telling everyone about you. If he puts it down partway through, chances are, he's out there talking about the weather.

So ask your readers (you do get people to read your script before unleashing it on the industry, don't you?!?) exactly where they put your script down, and fix it.

Make your script the drug, not the distraction.

phenomenal picture by Matt Caplin