Last week, I saw this tweet from a screenwriter I admire:
TROY by David “Game of Thrones money” Benioff is one of the scripts I give aspiring screenwriters to read. That’s how it’s done.Other writers chimed in and agreed that not a line is wasted.*
First, I too am impressed at the economy of writing.
The writer boils down a complex war story to brother vs. brother, and Troy brothers vs. Spartan brothers.
Second, I am impressed how deeply the script made me feel.
Perhaps the reason is that we always know:
1) What is at stake.
2) What are the motives.
Things to know about the scene below:
- Hector (older) and Paris (younger) are brothers and princes of Troy.
- They have just left Sparta after negotiating a peace treaty.
- Paris has smuggled Helen, the Spartan king's wife, aboard their ship.
- Paris' action will launch a war between Sparta and Troy.
ex. "INT. TROJAN SHIP
Paris pauses in front of his cabin door.
PARIS: Before you get angry with me -- [Younger brother tries to avoid anger.]
HECTOR: Open the door. [Older brother isn't messing around.]
Paris opens the door. Helen, wearing a hooded robe, sits on the edge of a hammock, swinging slightly. She stands. Hector stares at her in disbelief. He turns and glares at Paris. [The script guides our eye: Open door. See her. See Hector's reaction. See his action.]
HECTOR: If you weren't my brother I'd kill you where you stand. [He is mad b/c his brother has jeopardized their new treaty via this woman.]
PARIS: Hector -- [Paris needs Hector to help him out of this mess.]
Hector is already out the door. Helen looks at Paris.
HELEN: We'll never have peace. [This is what's at stake.]
PARIS: I don't want peace. I want you. [This is his motive.]
He kisses her -- a desperate, hungry kiss, the two of them against the world -- then turns and follows his brother. [Simple yet complicated emotions together, i.e., I love her + I need help to be with her.]
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: To make the reader feel, keep the characters' motives and stakes crystal clear at all times.
By David Benioff
Based on Homer's poems
*They also agreed the script was better than the film.