What’s difficult is figuring out what your characters want, why they want it, and what is preventing them from getting it.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

All stories are drama, all drama is conflict, all conflict emerges from desire, and all desire is determined by motivation. Thus, for any story to be compelling, its characters must be motivated; they must have goals, and they must be hindered — they must overcome obstacles — in their pursuit of such goals.

These principles are well known among storytellers; however, discussions involving them are always about plot. But these principles are equally relevant in dialogue. And applying them to dialogue may make writing dialogue much easier and the dialogue itself more compelling.

For example, a basic scene that incorporates…


A line-by-line edit of a scene from the script.

Screenshot by the author; © 2020 by Warner Bros.

Tenet tells the story of a secret agent recruited by a mysterious intelligence organization to investigate the source of time-inverted objects and stop a terminally ill madman from inverting the entropy of the universe. The script was written by Christopher Nolan.

In this scene, the protagonist learns about inversion.

💬 Original lines appear as code blocks, edited lines appear as “quote blocks,” changes appear as boldface, and commentary appears as regular text. Original lines that do not require editing are run into the same code blocks as original lines that follow them and do.

Original Text

INT. OFFICE, LABORATORY - CONTINUOUS
Barbara hands…

A line-by-line edit of a scene from the script.

Screenshot by the author; © 2013 by Warner Bros.

Gravity tells the story of NASA astronauts Matt Kowalski and Ryan Stone, who, after a debris field destroys their shuttle during a spacewalk, attempt to return to Earth. The script was written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón.

In this scene, debris caused by cascading collisions of satellites interrupts a spacewalk, destroying the astronauts’ shuttle and sending Ryan drifting into space.

💬 Original lines appear as code blocks, edited lines appear as “quote blocks,” changes appear as boldface, and commentary appears as regular text. …


A line-by-line edit of a scene from the script.

Screenshot by the author; © 2019 by Marvel Studios.

Avengers: Endgame tells the story of the Avengers as they reassemble to travel back in time and reverse Thanos’s destruction, thus restoring life to the universe. The script was written by Christopher Marcus & Stephen McFeely, based on the comics by Marvel.

In this scene, Steve, Natasha, and Scott are petitioning Tony for help with a plan to reverse Thanos’s snap by traveling to the past and collecting the Infinity Stones before Thanos.

💬 Original lines appear as code blocks, edited lines appear as “quote blocks,” changes appear as boldface, and commentary appears as regular text. …


A line-by-line edit of an excerpt from the script.

Screenshot by the author; © 2003 by Warner Bros.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King tells the story of Frodo Baggins and company as they complete their quest through Middle Earth to destroy the One Ring. The script was written by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson, based on the novel by J. R. R. Tolkien.

In this excerpt, a battle-worn Pippin and Gandalf discuss death while orcs and trolls attempt to breach the Sixth Gate of Minas Tirith.

💬 Original lines appear as code blocks, edited lines appear as “quote blocks,” changes appear as boldface, and commentary appears as regular text. …


A line-by-line edit of an excerpt from the script.

Screenshot by the author; © 2002 by Warner Bros.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers tells the story of Frodo Baggins and company as they continue their quest through Middle Earth to destroy the One Ring. The script was written by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Stephen Sinclair & Peter Jackson, based on the novel by J. R. R. Tolkien.

In this excerpt, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli enter the Golden Hall at Edoras to rescue King Théoden, whose mind has been poisoned by Saruman.

💬 Original lines appear as code blocks, edited lines appear as “quote blocks,” changes appear as boldface, and commentary appears as…


And anyone who tells you otherwise is sus.

Photo by British Library on Unsplash

I am confident that this article will receive no attention — that it will not be promoted or appear in recommendations — and that what ears befall it out of chance or misfortune will be deaf to its message. I am also confident that the people to whom such ears belong will, in the absence of confirming evidence, and based solely on their emotions and the color of my skin (if they look at my profile picture), regard me as racist. …


Principles for liberals, to get what you want.

Background photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Liberals and conservatives are fundamentally different from each other, and the discrepancies between their personalities make it difficult for the two to intercommunicate; indeed, whereas liberals tend to be more open and concerned with feelings (and as such tend to use more abstract, emotional language, which conservatives tend not to understand), conservatives tend to be more conscientious and concerned with facts (and as such tend to use more concrete, practical language, which liberals tend not to like). However, understanding how each type thinks and speaks, and respecting the differences between them, may enable both to communicate more effectively.

What follows…


Thoughts on manufactured bias and freedom of speech.

Photo by Judeus Samson on Unsplash

It’s crazy that Parler was removed from the internet; a billion-dollar company, gone, just like that. And although the reasons for its removal are understandable (and maybe even valid), its removal is nevertheless troubling: this event confirms the godly (but unholy) powers of tech companies to control information, businesses, and lives, and it sets a precedent for intervention that should disquiet all of us as participants in and contributors to the global digital enterprise; indeed, that Google, Apple, and Amazon maintain the beliefs and values that they do is arbitrary, and although they may have our backs now (if they…


Detailed, high-resolution images of the Red Planet.

On August 12, 2005, NASA launched the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter — a spacecraft designed to study the climate and geology of Mars, map the planet’s surface, and survey for potential rover landing sites. The spacecraft orbits Mars at an average distance of 287 kilometers (178 miles), scanning, probing, and photographing the planet in exquisite, unprecedented detail. What follows are images captured by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, one of the Orbiter’s six science instruments. …

Mitchell Ferrin

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