Stretching Your Shorts

images-1Are you up to a challenge? Do you want to stretch yourself – and I mean really stretch yourself – as a writer?

Write short content for the web.

I find myself smiling when others make disparaging remarks about shorts; especially those that come in under, say, six minutes. Let me tell you this – I have written features. I have written adaptations; recently I assisted on the rewrite of one. I have written for television;  I have written adventure/reality. None of these projects challenge me as much as my shorts.

Case in point: G and I have been working on a new pilot project for a few weeks. By last week, we had gone through multiple drafts – and multiple worlds that we were testing for the project to live in. None of them were working… and the story was becoming so far from itself, it was almost recognizable. It was chili time.

Chili. It does a writer good.

Chili. It does a writer good.

We met, ate, and talked it out… and G pitched a new take. “Me likee,” I said, went home  and banged a new version out. We sent it back and forth, and got together for a final push. Done. I went home and slept on it… and, in the morning, knew that there was still more work to do. By 11 last night, we had made “final” changes and decisions… we slept on it again. Hammered out 2 lines of action. Two. Lines of action, and sent it into G. I think we’re at consensus, and ready to deliver it to our EP… but perhaps we are not. We’ll see in a few hours.

Did I mention that this script is 5 and 2/8 pages long?


Gumby’s brain hurts, too.

Why is the short such a challenge? Brevity. You have 1 page – or less – to establish world, character, theme, day-in-the-life… those things that you can take 10 pages to establish. Your catalyst is on page 2. That’s page two. Dialogue. No long-winded diatribes to be had. Dialogue, like the rest of your short, has to be succinct and pointed. There’s no room for fat anywhere in these scripts. And no, you cannot shirk on structure. All of your pipeline must be properly laid down. Just because it’s short does not mean it can be structurally unsound or flimsy. Writing a short can lead to serious brainplosion. I know this because today, my brain hurts.

So, next time you want to stretch your writing muscles, try stretching them with some shorts. You’ll be surprised by how much work they can be.

Now, go write.

HRH, Princess Scribe


About princessscribe

Screenwriter. Creator of things. I love tacos. "Midlife on Fire" Volumes 1 & 2 now available at
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6 Responses to Stretching Your Shorts

  1. Bryan Reeves says:

    Thanks. I’ve been working on shorts for almost a year. They are as you describe. Tight. Tight.


  2. paulrothbart says:

    I learned this first hand over the last year. I started on a short about a year ago with the intention of directing it myself. It was a great concept, but the execution was tricky. As you say, shorts require structure just like features and you don’t have the time to set everything up. I ended up bringing in a good friend, the best writer I know to help me get it ready for production. We shot it last fall and it’s in post and just about finished. I’m very proud of the accomplishment and it was certainly a challenge for myself and my partner.


  3. Angelo says:

    A short is certainly a different animal, and a welcome respite/diversion from feature screenwriting. My longest short film was 35 mins. My shortest was 3 mins. The shorter you go, the more unlike a feature script it becomes.


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