The 10-Page Torture Test
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Author Topic: 01PTT: The Girl Who Grew Wings by Rakan Haddadin-Cameron  (Read 290 times)
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Rollercoaster on fire
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« on: May 20, 2017, 08:10 AM »

Rakan posted this 90-page dystopian SF screenplay to Reddit.  I quite like the writing, but right from the first page I was compelled to "fix" something I knew would bug me more and more with each page turn.

Read for yourself the opening page, then I'll tell you what bugged me.


The staccato pounding of footsteps and the frantic scratching of paws against metal.

The surroundings are desolate, steam-punk, corroding.

Rusting stairs spiral up, ending in just a touch of baby blue light emanating from a door.

A girl (19) runs past us, her long dark hair bobbing behind her. Her physique is lithe, on the taller side, brown eyes laden with desperation.

After her follow the dogs. Huge, deadly mastiffs.

One, two, three.

Then a woman (43). Face as tough as sandpaper, skin clinging to bone, a wide frame, let's call her the Warden.

Glancing down, the girl sees that the dogs are only a few flights below her. She looks up: only five more storeys to go.

Fights to control her breath.

The dogs are gaining, spittle dragging on the floor after them.

Light streams from the door, the girl rounds the corner and--

The first dog bites her ankle. She topples over, trying to fight it off. The second dog jumps-

-and lands on her chest, ripping at her clothes. She writhes away from the attack, but the third dog begins to attack, forcing her to stay down.

Even as she works to fight them off, the girl's body twitches as the dogs maul and savage her flesh.

A piercing whistle from the Warden. As fast as they had started, the dogs leap back.

Her face is mangled, her body irreparably torn.

The Warden looms above, crouches down to the girl.

Through the girl's one open eye, we see fear in its purest form.


You're a fast one.

The girl wheezes, trying to stop the blood spurting from her neck.

WARDEN (cont'd)

Got nice legs.

The Warden lifts the girl above her shoulder and flings her off of the catwalk.

The girl's body flies down, past the floors, finally hitting the ground with a resounding


FADE IN on action and conflict -- good stuff.  This hook will keep readers reading.


The pacing and focus are muddy as hell.  For me, the words do not create a fully coherent sequence of images and events.  I found myself halting several times to make sense of the narrative's handling of time and space.

The layout of the stairs, for example.  It takes a moment to realize we're in a stairwell.  The girl whips by, and we're told dogs are chasing her.  The way it's written, it feels like the dogs are nipping at her heels, but then we learn the dogs are still a couple floors down.  We learn the girl's destination is five floors up and, after that quick moment to catch her breath, she's off again.  We briefly cut to the dogs, then we're back with the girl and she's already at the blue door.  It feels like she covered those five floors in a crazy short amount of time.  Not only that but the dogs have caught up too.

I figured this page would read better by shot-slugging the action and adding some narrative glue.  Also, I sprinkled some figurative language here and there.  This page, as written, has none.  To add color, energy, and humanity to your writing, every screenplay page should include some figurative language.

Here's my revision.  I use about 40 words more, but I think it's worth it.


Staccato POUNDING of footsteps.
Frenetic SCRATCHING of claws against metal.


Narrow and rusting, it spirals way up to a door emanating baby-blue light.

Everything here is desolate, steam-punk, corroding.


tall and lithe STREAKS BY, her long black hair whipping behind her.

At the hand-rail she stops to glance down --


sighting one, two, THREE MUSCULAR MASTIFFS, jaws snapping, drool flapping, driven nearly mad by the close scent of prey. This anarchy of tooth and tail and claw under the casual-but-firm control of --


a heavy woman with sandpapery skin and unblinking eyes that tick left and right, lizard-like.  Now ticking upward to observe --


twists away from the rail, fights to get her breath back.  She peers up: only five floors to go.


bark, jostle, snort and lunge, responding to the Warden's every command and encouragement as they relentlessly ascend the stairwell, floor by floor, closing in on --


turns a corner and the blue door is there, the handle is right there!  She reaches for it --

HUGE TEETH seize her ankle and the lead mastiff claims her, drags her down like a crocodile snatching a gazelle from the river's edge.

The girl rolls onto her back, fists clenched but knowing the fight is over already because the second dog has her now, and the third.  Screaming defiance while the dogs RIP AND TEAR, until the lead mastiff nuzzles her throat and BITES --


The dogs retreat slowly, growling in protest.

With one good eye left in her mangled face, the girl gazes up in terror as the Warden crouches over her.


You're a fast one.

The Warden's smile tells the rest: But not fast enough.

The girl wheezes, feebly tries to staunch her spurting neck.

WARDEN (cont'd)

Got nice legs.

Until now.  Now they look like flayed slaughterhouse meat.

The Warden easily deadlifts the girl above her head. FLINGS her over the railing, and waits for the jarring, wet --



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