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  • It's 2:00 AM. A seedy motel on the outskirts of town. The con man knows the law/the Mob/an ex-wife is on to him, and is preparing to flee. He grabs all of his belongings and hurriedly crams them into his suitcase. For a thief on the lam, this is an acceptable practice; for a screenwriter, it's a potential disaster.

    Do you have control of your story or does it have control of you? By control I mean do you proceed from Point A to Point B logically? If there is a digression, is it there for a reason or just because you didn't know where else to put it? I'm not saying that devices such as flashbacks and flash forwards should not be used, only that they be used in the service of telling your story in the most compelling, non-confusing way possible. Book readers have the ability to go back and reread pages that may have been unclear or puzzling at the time. Real-time film and TV audiences don't have that luxury. Every second they spend wondering "What the hell was THAT about?" is a second in which they're no longer paying attention to your story. After a certain number of those seconds you've lost them for good.

    It's your story and it's up to you how you'll construct it. What's your choice: a word cathedral or the con man's suitcase?

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