Posted by: steveonfilm | April 5, 2009

Let Your Fingers Do The Walking

I’ve got 42 pages written for a screenplay that I haven’t even started yet. Some of it pure experimentation. Some of it a legit feeling out of how a scene might go down.

I’m getting a good feel for the characters, and I’m working out relationships.

For example, Ryan’s crew has four guys. Ryan, Drew, Kevan, and Big John. As I’ve tinkered with them in various scenes and exercises, they’ve started to evolve into real characters, with voices and opinions.

Big John is the closest thing to a “friend” Ryan has in the group. They’ve worked together the longest, and there is a familiarity between them that borders on friendship. Drew is somewhat thick headed, and dim. A body for the sake of a body. Not left to make decisions on his own. Kevan’s intelligence rivals Ryan’s, and Ryan knows that. He’s smart, and skeptical. Not about to put himself out on a lim. But he takes a backseat to Ryan. He’s got other work outside of this crew, so it’s no big deal if he walks.

When I first started writing I didn’t know who these characters are. I just wrote them. Felt them out. Let them start talking to me. As I put them in scenes and situations, they started to develop, evolve, become their own people.

This probably reads asinine to anyone who’s not a writer. But for those who are, you know what I’m talking about. This has been refreshing. I’m starting to learn how I need to write. How I need to do things. I’m developing my own method.

The following is another test scene. It’ll likely need to be trimmed down another half page, but you should start to get the drift of the kind of character Ryan is….



A small brown desk in the corner of the lobby. Ryan sits across from a LOAN OFFICER. The nameplate says LEONARD HOOPER.

In front of Hooper is the foreclosure notice.

How far behind is she?

I can’t disclose that kind of information.

I’m her son.

I understand that, but I can’t discuss private and personal information to anyone but the lien holder, and that is one Cindy Matthews. It’s bank policy.

What is it? Three? Four payments? Six, seven grand?

Sir, I’m sorry but there’s nothing–

Eight? It’s a twelve hundred dollar a month mortgage. How much is she past due?

Sir, I can’t. There’s nothing I can do for you.

Ryan cracks his knuckles and looks around the lobby briefly, then back at Hooper.

Thirteen ten Amherst avenue, Gross Point, four eight three two six.

Ryan’s demeanor is straight and to the point.


That’s your address.

I don’t know what you’re–

I think you do. I think you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’d be a real shame if a nice house like that were to burn.

Ryan moves his jacket just enough to show Hooper the gun tucked into his pants. Hooper swallows nervously.

You drive a two thousand and six Infiniti FX. Your wife works for GM corporate. I assume she didn’t tell her bosses about your car. You have two daughters, Natalie, eight and Stephanie, fourteen.

You can’t just–

You want their social security numbers too?

Ryan scoots his chair in and leans on Hooper’s desk. He reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out two envelopes.

He slowly sets them down on the desk, and slides them forward with his fingers.

So this is how it’s going to work, there’s ten grand in each of those. One envelope should bring the loan current.

Ryan looks at Hooper in the eye.

I don’t care what happens to the other one.

Hooper nods. His fingers touch the envelopes and pull them back underneath his hands.

Ryan grabs a pen and writes a phone number down on one of Hooper’s business cards. He flicks it at Hooper’s chest.

She falls behind again, or this isn’t enough, you don’t send a letter, you call me. You got that?

Hooper nods again.

You follow that and I forget everything about you. You screw up, things will happen.

Ryan gets up and walks away, leaving Hooper stunned and silent.




  1. First….memorable names. Ryan, Kevan, Big john are not memorable names. Unless you make them memorable. But I’d like to see some trendsetting names here.

    Also, I’m not feeling any drama within the group from your brief description of them. There should always be good drama amongst “frienemies”. It seems like they all work for the greater purpose of getting what they need, but that’s not exciting enough. Just an observation. I could be Wayyyyyyyyy off, as I just got it from your description of them as a group. Prove me wrong.

    Scene above – good, I like it, all except for the line “So this is how its going to work” because I’ve heard it too many times. Gimme something different. A slow burn. Something that makes me go, “oh man, he’s in charge”.

    Also, I obviously do not know the full story, but why is Ryan giving the guy the same amount that this female owes? I guess what I’m saying is, anyone can make payments on a lien, albeit the lien holder, or anyone else. So why would Ryan want to “buy” the bank guy into allowing him to make the payments. So, I’m not sure how your whole story unfolds, so I’d make sure there’s a good reason. If there isn’t, I think (and really like) the fact that Ryan threatens this guy with knowledge of who the bank guy is. That should be enough to scare the piss out of him without the bribe money. If Ryan is a badass, write him as a badass, not as someone who has to pay people off to convince them he’s a badass. And an example would be to take it a step further than you did. Instead of offering him money, he starts quoting their family’s daily rituals – a morning run at 6:30, shower at 7am, breakfast at 7:22, kids out the door at 7:45, yada, yada, yada – gives the guy a reason to be scared. Then ryan says, “Your daughter waits outside the school for 20 minutes everyday for the nanny or your wife to come get her, it would be a shame if one day she wasn’t there. OUCH. That’ll make him think.

    I like it. You just need to decide what defines Ryan, and exemplify it. Keep writing my friend. I do like your scene, and am hungry to see more!

    • I’m not attached to the names yet, and you’re right. For now they’re just placeholders as I get to know their “character” better.

      The robbery scene was the first thing I messed with to get an idea of how they work together. There’s a lot of cliche’d dialog in there that’ll get changed, if this scene even ends up in the script. But you’re right, I’m going to go back and watch the first sequence in HEAT again and try to visualize how the intro for those characters would have been written.

      I’ve spent most of my time getting to know the Ryan character. He’s paying off his mother’s mortgage, though you wouldn’t know that based on the info in that scene. His mother is a loser. And he could care less. But his younger brother lives with her, who is undergoing treatment for leukemia, and to him his younger brother is his whole world. So the reality is he’s paying off the loan, or bringing it current, for the benefit of his brother.

      Ryan’s “badassness” is still a feeling out process. The turn toward knowing the bank guys info was something I added to the scene as I’ve developed him further in other scenes. It fits him now, and you’re right, the money thing doesn’t really fit now.

      This is good though. Like I’ve mentioned, I’m not even really “writing” the first draft yet. Just playing with some major beats in the story, and writing for the sake of getting to know and develop the characters. Getting this sort of critique and constructive criticism before I begin down the path of the first draft is excellent.

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