It was also great to hear [another writer's] words come to life and I leaned a lot from seeing a different writer's work evolve.

Karen Walton-Rolls

Writers constantly get stuck up in their heads, which is the weakest, most boring place to write from. Sceneplay gets you out of your head and into your guts and heart - back into that wonderfully messy place we call life.

Geof Miller,
Screenwriter, Script Coach

Helped me focus on specific objectives for the scene as well as other elements that could be introduced. It was great!

Sue Berg

  Four Offers

In this Issue
Four Offers
Rules can be powerful catalysts for creativity. They give you something to push against. Learn a great technique for generating inspired dialogue when you play by the rules.
A Note from Lisa
Every so often in my career, I rediscover the idea that rules can actually be inspiring. They force me to be more creative. One memorable episode involved shooting a commercial for a news story about a particular car that had a deadly high rollover rate. I was in the studio with the car, lights, and a crew when the client called.

I couldn't show the car.

"Excuse me?" That's a heck of a rule. Make a commercial about the car but don't show the car.

To make a long story short, we got creative in a hurry. We covered the car in a white parachute silk and turned a fan on it. I sent a grip to get video projector and loaded some interview clips into it. We projected the clips onto the rippling, ghost-like outline of the car. The final spot was far more threatening and powerful than anything I had planned. It won several awards.

I hope today's rules inspire you to write your own award-winning script.

Happy writing!

Warm Regards,

Lisa Phelps Dawes
President, Sceneplay
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Feature Article
Four Offers

Sometimes dialogue can feel predictable and you want to inject some energy and surprise into your scene. There's a fun improvisation technique we use to knock the dialogue off-the-nose and open up fresh possibilities. It's called Four Offers.

We start the scene by having an actor enter and make up a completely new opening line. The actor "offers" just the first line and then stops. We send the actor back to the top of the scene to do it again. The second time she enters she offers a different opening line. We repeat the process four times to get four unique opening lines. Then, after consulting with the writer, we choose the one we most want to explore. Usually, at this point, we have such a provocative line we can't wait to dig into the scene.

You can do the same thing at your computer. Since you don't have actors you just need a few simple rules to help shake up your thinking. Apply one rule to each of the four offers. Here are a few examples to get you started:

1. Begin with the End. Choose a starting line for your character that sounds like something you would expect to hear at the end of your scene instead. This is a great technique for stripping away excess. It allows you to cut deeper into the scene more quickly. My favorite example of this was for a scene we did in which a girl comes to her boyfriend's apartment to break up with him. We decided to give the first line to the boyfriend. The woman walks in nervous, but determined to end the relationship. He says, "There's a gun under the table. Sit down." Now, that's a scene an audience has to see.

2. Use a Non-verbal Offer. Have the character enter the scene and do something specific without saying anything. The character could smash her own wedding picture, pick up a lamp and walk out again, slap the other character's face, sneeze, fall down, throw the car keys, open a window, ransack the couch, point at the door, get the idea.

3. Bring up the past. Characters often have long and storied pasts together. A past you constructed. This means you know the details intimately but the audience doesn't. Anything a character says about the past will sound fresh. "You never did know how to tie a knot." "Remember the time you farted in church?" "I'd sure like another trip like that one to Barbados." Instantly, a scene gets richer, more intriguing. The audience becomes aware of the depth of connection between characters.

4. Break a convention. Look for the rules that are already at work in your story and break them. For example, if your hero is firmly established as a macho guy, have him say something surprisingly feminine. If the scene takes place in a boardroom with stodgy bankers open with a line that's oddly personal. Talk about taboo topics: politics, religion, sex, death or personal hygiene.

We worked a scene that involved a woman lying in a hospital bed in critical condition. A nurse stands by her bedside checking the chart. The husband of the critically ill woman walks in. He crosses to the nurse, grabs her hand, lowers his head and says "Pray with me." It was a wildly unconventional moment that led to some important discoveries.

Be bold. Don't worry that the dialogue will be "right". Give yourself permission to discover dialogue that will be fresh, revealing and fun.
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Lisa Phelps Dawes, President of Sceneplay, is an Emmy® award-winning writer/director helping screenwriters and producers rewrite their scripts using professional actors. If you're ready for your scenes to jump to life, work three times harder, and get noticed, get your FREE tips now at
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