There’s a Steven Wright joke that goes like this:

I once tried to commit suicide by jumping off a building… I changed my mind at the last minute, so I just flipped over and landed on my feet. Two little kittens nearby saw what happened and one turned to the other and said, “See, that’s how it’s done.”

Many screenwriting guides are like that. They look at existing films and point: “See, that’s how it’s done.” They provide an after-the-fact analysis of what worked in a specific case. Examples are drawn from released films, or (often) from a special form of screenplay called a continuity—a record of what was done during the making of the film. Strangely, these models for making screenplays aren’t screenplays ...

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