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New entry Dec 07

Critter Notices

Critters is 23!

Yes, 23 years ago Critters was born. Wow! Thanks so much to all of you, who've made it such a resounding success!

Critters no longer accepting European Union members :(

It's with a heavy heart that I have to announce Critters can no longer accept people in the European Union as members. This is a result of the "GDPR" privacy laws going into effect. I'm a big fan of privacy, and applaud the general idea behind the GDPR, but the way it's implemented forces me to close the door to EU writers. [read more why...]

Books from Critters!

Check out Books by Critters for books by your fellow Critterfolk, as well as my list of recommended books for writers.

How to Write SF

The Craft of Writing Science Fiction that Sells by Ben Bova, best-selling author and six-time Hugo Award winner for Best Editor. (This is one of the books your ol' Critter Captain learned from himself, and I highly recommend it.) (Also via Amazon)

Space Travel for SF Writers

Hot off the presses from ReAnimus Press! Space Travel - A Science Fiction Writer's Guide— An indispensible tool for all SF writers that explains the science you need to help you make your fiction plausible. (Also via Amazon)

P&E Has a New Caretaker!

I'm very happy to announce that P&E has been handed off to a new caretaker! Check out the site for news and such. Hurrah!


I'm being interviewed live on public radio for Critters 20th birthday. For those who want to listen, it's on the 10am (Mountain time) show on Thursday, 11/19/16, on Colorado Public Radio - has streaming on the site or it's 90.1 FM in the Denver area. [Interview is done, you can listen on the site]

Free Web Sites

Free web sites for authors (and others) are available at

ReAnimus Acquires Advent!

ReAnimus Press is pleased to announce the acquisition of the legendary Advent Publishers! Advent is now a subsidiary of ReAnimus Press, and we will continue to publish Advent's titles under the Advent name. Advent was founded in 1956 by Earl Kemp and others, and has published the likes of James Blish, Hal Clement, Robert Heinlein, Damon Knight, E.E. "Doc" Smith, and many others. Advent's high quality titles have won and been finalists for several Hugo Awards, such as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy and Heinlein's Children. Watch this space for ebook and print editions of all of Advent's current titles!

Network speeding up

I'm switching the connection over to a new, shiny 10X faster network because of all the load. There might be bits of downtime as your boxes learn new addresses and things. Should be brief. Let me know of any prolonged outages you see.

Preditors & Editors Changeover

With the very sad passing of Dave Kuzminski, who ran P&E, I've taken over the P&E duties. Lots of what I hope are improvements; check it out at

Critters Server is Dying has been Replaced

See important details here in my blog. Let me know if you find anything that isn't working right. (Manuscripts are now available for this week, FYI.)

Book Recommendation

THE SIGIL TRILOGY: The universe is dying from within... "Great stuff... Really enjoyed it." — SFWA Grandmaster Michael Moorcock

Announcing ReAnimus Press

If you need help making ebooks from manuscripts or print copies—or finding great stuff to read—look no further! An ebook publisher started by your very own Critter Captain. (And with a 12% Affiliate program.) [More]








Critiquing a screenplay    Andrew,

    I’ve noticed that the responses I’ve received for my screenplay all state that they don’t know much about the format, so I wrote a short (820 word) article for the web site about it.  If you find it worthy, please feel free to publish it.  I can supply it in doc or pdf format, if you prefer.

    David A Maisel

Screenplays & Scripts

Screenplays and Scripts
by David A Maisel
© 2004, David A Maisel

     There are three general types of screenplays (movie, hour length TV and half hour length TV) and two associated formats (radio plays and stage scripts). Although each of these five formats have their specific needs, there are many similarities in the way each are presented. This article will present the differences and similarities and give a short selection of general terms used in screenplays.

     Movie and Television screenplays generally film one minute’s action for each page of script. Movies can film for the entire runtime, but Television has to allow for commercials and station breaks. Therefore, movie screenplays generally consist of 90-125 pages, and television screenplays have 44-50 pages for a one-hour show and 22-25 pages for a half hour show. Radio plays, which are rare but still exist, follow the same page length and production timing guidelines as television screenplays. Stage scripts follow the same guidelines as movie screenplays.

     Screenplays and scripts are visually based and present the pictures and sounds exactly as they should appear on screen or on stage. Radio plays as audio based and present only the sounds as they should be recorded and broadcast. As such, there is little character description other than generalities to establish as view and all character development is in the action and conversation. You will find no background or thoughts other than as spoken or shown visually.

     Due to the strictly limited amount of time and the tastes of the viewing or listening public, minor anachronisms are acceptable as long as they move the plot along and prevent slow spot in the production. Some example of these anachronisms are:

  • A street cop who can defuse a bomb under a moving vehicle
  • Finding a clue when you need it instead of having to search for it
  • Arriving at a destination within seconds of leaving home
  • The hero kills the villain with his/her first shot

     Of course, none of these are likely in real life but they’re accepted by the viewer and used to move the action along in the least amount of time.

     The format of a screenplay makes it as easy as possible to tell background from action and conversation. All background is left justified and runs the entire length of the page. All conversation is indented left and right and runs down the center of the page. The first time a character’s name or designation (COP #1, for instance) is given, it is capitalized. After that, the first letter is capitalized in the background and the name is entirely capitalized in conversation mode.

     Names are indented twice in the conversation sections, modifiers are indented one and conversation is not indented and is not placed in quotes. Italics and underlines are used for emphasis. For example (Bobby had been introduced earlier in the screenplay, but Ray has not):

O.S. the doorbell rings.
Bobby stands,
Crosses to the door,
Opens it


               RAY (O.S.)
     Hey, man, my car broke down. Can I use your phone?

     I guess. C’mon in.

Ray, a large, overly muscled man in a stained tank top and cut off jeans, enters.

          (pointing to phone)
     It’s over there on the stand.

     Had Ray entered before speaking, his description would have looked like this:

RAY, a large, overly muscled man in a stained tank top and cut off jeans, enters.

     Notice that Ray’s character is defined by how he looks (a large, overly muscled man in a stained tank top and cut off jeans) and how he speaks (Hey, man . . .). Little more than the minimum to establish the character is given as those decisions are made by the directors, the casting agents and the producers. Background is much the same - the bare minimum to show what is absolutely needed, for example:The stars wheel about in all directions.

PULL BACK and steady the shot to show a spaceship rotating in all three dimensions.

     No specific constellations or nearby planets or stars were mentioned. Had they been important, they would have been added.

     As you can see, there is nothing in the screenplay which is not see, done or heard by the viewer. As such, this tends to be a very visual format. When writing critiques, please keep this in mind.

Screenplay terms and abbreviations:



(V.O.) or V.O.

(O.S.) or O.S.












      Indoors / Outdoors

Designed credit sequence

Voice over

Off screen

Speech interrupted by description or page break

Use to change the scene, as appropriate

Time passage

Lots of time passage

Voice coming over a phone, radio, etc.

Repeat scene headings

Start and end the script or delineate major sections

Emphasize a detail or a clue

To reveal

Shift a point of view in a scene

On the giant bug, eating the agent


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