The (beat) goes on: no, not now.

If you are reading scripts (and you should) you may see production scripts or older scripts that insert (beat) into the script to indicate a major pause.

DICK

Are you coming or not?

JANE

Not today.

(beat)

Not ever.

That is not how you write a speculative script.  The job of the speculative script is to tell the story.  Anything that intrudes to bring the reader out of the story, like a direction for the actor, works against you.

The way to indicate a brief pause is an ellipses.

JANE

Not today…not ever.

Or with a brief action that demonstrates emotion.

JANE

Not today.

She tries to come up with a convincing lie.

Not ever.

Turn off your (cont’d) if your scriptwriting software automatically inserts them.

Guidelines for the speculative script.

Tell the story.

Don’t tell the actor how to act.

Don’t tell the director how to direct.

Don’t dictate camera moves.

Don’t tell the production designer or wardrobe master their job unless it’s somehow relevant to the story and keep it brief and generic. e.g. Sagging clubhouse. Dressed for a-day hike.

If you are working on a speculative script and have been using (beat), go through and change each one so that the story reads smoothly.  That way the reader, producer, actor, agent will stay in the story and not come out until the end.

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