I didn't really get along with my writing teacher in college. I thought most of his ideas were stupid and his schedule of writing, every single day at an increasing rate, was ridiculous, especially when we had so much else going on in our lives. Who actually writes every day, anyway?
Of course it turns out 99% of what Peter Christopher (RIP) said was correct. Well, maybe not that much, but a lot of it, particularly his point about not being lazy and putting in work every day, was on the nose. If you're curious, I made a C in the class - Peter said my portfolio was one of the most disappointing and biggest wastes of talent he'd ever seen.
There are several lessons of his I could talk about, but one I definitely can see has had a big influence on my stories. His mantra was "Go for the jugular!" He hated stories that took forever to get going, tales that wandered around aimlessly until the good parts arrived to get them going. He wanted us to skip past any needless junk and get right to where the "action" is. In other words, the reader is there for a reason, so get to the point.
For example, let's say your story is about wooden furniture coming to life and attacking a ship full of scurvy-stricken pirates. Your first draft has a lengthy back story detailing how the pirates all arrived on the ship which all comes back around later as they fight off the killer chairs and tables. However, this takes up several pages in your story meaning the action doesn't really get going until page 7 of a 20 page short. Wouldn't it be better to reconfigure the story so you get to the point and reveal the rest during the action? Just jump right into it.
Of course this blog is about films - and honestly I think it applies even more than anywhere else. You have a finite time to tell your story in a movie. A feature is the "novel" version of a movie which is, if you think about it, still fairly short. Why waste any time beating around the bush?
This is especially pertinent when you consider that your first 10 pages of a film are arguably your most important. When a producer or the intern at Big Fancy Agency LLC first looks at your script they'll check out the first 10 pages. If you spend five of those pages yawning about pirates walking onto a ship rather than setting sail and having adventures, they're not going to give the rest of the script a second thought.
The "go for the jugular" mantra also does wonders for individual scenes. Go back and look at your last script - how many scenes start too early and end too late? For instance does your main character "walk into the room" to confront the evil sorcerer controlling the killer furniture? Why not jump right to the confrontation and skip the pointless walking? If you're looking for ways to make your stories as tight as possible this is a great place to start.
Ultimately I believe Peter knew the writers who take the job seriously would take what we wanted and leave the rest behind. And while it took me some time I look back and realize while he was bullheaded it was for a reason. Hopefully he knew before he died that some of us eventually admitted to ourselves he actually had solid points and wasn't interested in coddling us.
So in that spirit: stop beating around the bush and go for the jugular in your story. Stop being a disappointment to your story and your characters.