Tarrantino Exercise

Written/Contributed by Hal Ackerman

1.Open the phone book Yellow Pages to two random pages, and select two businesses. Move two characters from Point A to Point B by whatever means you invent. Invent a good reason for the journey. Reveal that intent skillfully. If it’s huge, understate it. If it’s trivial, exaggerate.

2. Pick one of the following topics and write a dialogue scene between those two characters, exploring and disputing the topic fully.
a. Standard shift vs. automatic transmission
b. Leaf blowers
c. Teeth
d. Class seating on airplanes
e. Vegetarianism
f. Paying for cable TV
g. Burning CDs
h. Any other mundane topic in the world.

As in every good scene, use the interchange not only to explore the issue, but in doing so, reveal who the characters are, individually and in their relationship to each other.

3. Orchestrate part 2 into part 1 and write a sequence of scenes.

An Example of Place

Examining how others view and use place will give us a better idea of how we can use it to strengthen our stories.

The Exercise

Watch a movie set in a country that was made by someone who’s not from there.
Watch two movies set in the same country made by people who are from there.


How is place perceived and setup differently?

Feedback: Out Loud

The first time I had my screenplay read out loud, I immediately knew many of the things that had to change. Try it! Your Task: Get hold of a finished screenplay. Get a group of people (at least 2 others). Assign parts to each person and read the screenplay out loud. Finished? Now, have each person do a 10-minute freewrite answering the following questions: What are my impressions of this work? What do I wish was in it? What am I glad that was included? Share.

A Series of…

Want to understand your character’s life? Create a timeline that details the major events in it.

The Exercise

Pick a character from something you’re writing.
How old are they now?

Make a timeline that spans from birth to their current age.
Notate major positive or negative impacting events in their life.
Write a sentence or short paragraph describing each event.


From your character’s perspective: My life is a series of…

What Does It Take?

What changes in your scenes when you reduce or expand them? Screenwriting books almost unanimously call for an economy of words — choosing your words wisely and using less to say more. Practice this. Your Task: Come up with a scene from a movie and write 3 versions of the same scene. Write the first one using a 1/2 page; the second one with 1 1/2 pages; and the third one using 3 pages.

Can't Stand It

I was talking to a grocery store clerk about writing the other day, when he asked, “How do you write about characters that you can’t stand?” I responded with saying, “finding compassion for our characters gives us the ability to understand them more which helps when we write their lives.” Your task: Pick a person you dislike. Write a 1-page synopsis for a plot based on their life as a hero’s journey.