This is my 250-word contribution to Blake Snyder's the Worst 250 word contest. Winners are announced the 9th of July.
It is followed by my analysis why it is a horrible start for a script.
AT A CAFÉ IN A SMALL VILLAGE IN UTAH
Outside two elephants walk by as our main character Tonja Safari Svensson drinks her coffee with two lumps of sugar that she first tosses in the air before catching them in her cup. Opposite her sits her former boyfriend and also ex-coach Rick “Phone” Davis who desperately tries to figure out a way to leave this conversation.
I’m not interested in becoming maid for your girlfriend at your wedding.
ZOOM IN ON RICK’S HANDS (that moves very nervously on the table).
I understand if you have problem with that but I ask you to do it for me.
ZOOM OUT INCLUDING THEM BOTH
I don’t want to do it for you. You can’t force me. And if you do, I’ll come in jeans.
What do you want me to do then? She does not have any friends. She needs a maid of honor at least.
The waitress at the café comes up to the table. She is a tall woman in her twenties with glasses on her nose.
You seem to have love problems. How about some more coffee?
MOVE CAMERA QUICKLY TO TONJA’S FACE.
He is having problems. He is getting married to my cousin whom I known all my life and not to me as I thought he would a year ago.
Tonja suddenly realizes what a bastard Rick is and rises suddenly and leaves without a word.
So, why is this a bad start?
First the headline: “AT A CAFÉ IN A SMALL VILLAGE IN UTAH”.
Always start with INT or EXT telling the reader if this is inside (interior) or outside (external). If the scene is in e g a car where you are inside, but the outside is relevant, INT/EXT is proper.
It is the first scene and the only thing we see is that it is a café. We can’t tell that it is in a small village and even less that it is in Utah.
Then it is a good thing to add DAY or NIGHT at the end. If it is important and result in something visible, MORNING and EVENING could be relevant.
So INT. CAFÉ – DAY it is. Nothing more, nothing less.
“Outside two elephants walk by as…”
No, no, no. This is nothing but a desperate way to get attention.
“…our main character Tonja Safari Svensson…”
Our? Don’t address the reader directly.
You don’t tell who is the main character; that is something the reader has to figure out for him/herself. If you write well, it won’t be a problem.
Always capitalize the name of the character first time mentioned.
Also consider the name "Tonja". Why not the more common "Tonya"?
“…drinks her coffee with two lumps of sugar that she first tosses in the air before catching them in her cup.”
Is this something we see? Or has she already tossed the lumps? If we see her toss the lumps then it should be in a reversed order, like “tosses [..] catching [..] drinks…” If we don’t see it, remove it completely.
“Opposite her sits her former boyfriend and also ex-coach…”
We can’t see that he is her former boyfriend and ex-coach. He will only be any guy to the viewer at this point.
“…Rick 'Phone' Davis…”
Should be capitalized since it is first mentioning, and the nickname “Phone” is not a good idea. Don’t make it difficult for the reader who might confuse the guy with someone on the phone, or an actual phone.
“…who desperately tries to figure out a way to leave this conversation.”
We can’t see what people thinks or wants. And so far we don’t even know they are having a conversation.
If we correct all mistakes we got:
TONJA SAFARI SVENSSON and RICK DAVIS sit opposite each other. Tonja drinks coffee.
Not very thrilling. It is dull and no brilliant writing.
Adding a bit about their looks and appearance there is at least a result that will make the reader get passed the first page.
TONJA, a worn blond and blue-eyed twenty-year-old, sips her coffee, stone-faced. RICK DAVIS, a beaming charmer in her own age, leans across the table, touching her hand…
“I’m not interested in becoming maid for your girlfriend at your wedding.”
Spot on the nose. We dive right into their discussion; they know what they are talking about. It is much more likely that she just says “I’m not interested” or “I said no” or don’t say anything at all, just moving herself away from his touch.
“ZOOM IN ON…”
No camera directions at this stage of the draft.
Note that both Rick and Phone are used in the script. A character should have the same name throughout the whole script. There are exceptions, but this is not one of those.
“…(that moves very nervously on the table).”
If this is needed for the story, this should be written in the action lines. But likely that is something that should be omitted and up to the actor and director.
The dialog is overall overly informative and also lacks character.
“The waitress at the café comes up to the table. She is a tall woman in her twenties with glasses on her nose.”
Capitalize “waitress”. Unless she is an important character, don’t waste space describing her.
And if she appears only for Tonja to spill yet another on-the-nose line, skip her completely.
INT. CAFÉ – DAY
TONJA, a worn blond and blue-eyed twenty-year-old, sips her coffee, stone-faced. RICK DAVIS, a beaming charmer in her own age, leans across the table, touching her hand.
Tonja moves, avoiding him.
What do you want me to do then?
Why ask me?
She hasn’t got any friends.
And I certainly ain’t going to become one.
She rises and leaves the café.
What do you think?