When Words Fail by David Pauwels | Script Revolution

When Words Fail



Page Count: 



Age Rating:

Two grown men argue over a crossword puzzle, using nothing but 11-letter words.

Sitting at a café, Frank is stumped at an 11-letter word in his crossword puzzle. Ben notices him and offers to help out, but is rebuffed. Ego and testosterone collide, leading to an invitation to settle their differences in a less intellectual fashion.

This Script Has Been Reviewed By Shootin' The Shorts

When Words Fail
Two grown men argue over a crossword puzzle, using nothing but 11-letter words.

In everyday conversation, it’s not a shame to be less than articulate. That’s even when no restrictions exist other than civility – aside from avoiding “f-bombs”, the sky’s the limit as to what you can say.

But what if there were not only word, but letter limitations?  Met with such a challenge, how would even the most eloquent of us fare?

Written by Richard McMahon and David Pauwels, When Words Fail explores that very scenario: a battle of wits between adversaries Frank and Ben - men with extraordinary vocabularies, locked over an unfinished crossword puzzle in a war of literal words.

Only the eleven letter kind. Each word fused with poignant subtext, tempers quickly (and succinctly) flare:


FRANK (50s), unshaven, dressed in a tweed blazer, sits at a table. He studies a 60% complete newspaper crossword, pencil in hand.

An eleven-letter space the focus of his attention. He scribbles down the start of a word, then erases it in frustration. Begins another word, stops, erases it again. He sighs. Takes a sip of his coffee, sets the cup down and stares at the crossword. 


BENJAMIN (30s), dressed in a suit, slicked back hair, approaches Frank. Notices the crossword. 


Frank senses Benjamin's presence and looks up. He looks around the cafe: plenty of empty tables. Why is this guy bugging him? 

He turns back to the crossword. 



Surprised, Frank looks him in the eye. He shows Ben the crossword briefly. 


(points at himself)

(waves him away)

Benjamin takes out a pen. Gestures between them hopefully. 



As push comes to shove – verbally – who will win?

Frank - the well spoken gentleman who genteelly resists being disturbed?

Or Ben – a silver-tongued young whippersnapper who may just have the linguistic insight Ben won't admit he needs?

If you’re looking for a two-character, one-location witty screenplay, check out When Words Fail

Complete this puzzle with just the proper balance of humor and conflict… and at the next festival, you’ll be the director with the Final Say!



Review by Linda Hullinger
Submitted: July 6, 2019
Last Updated: July 6, 2019

Want to read this script? You must join the revolution first. Don't worry, it's free, easy, everyone's welcome, and you can start reading right away.

This Script Is Loved By

Robert Cox's picture
David Pauwels's picture

The Writer: David Pauwels

Dave has written and optioned a number of shorts and features, as well as a novel, Who Iced The Snowman? , published by Cozy Cat Press in 2016. His main genre is comedy, but he also leans towards sci-fi and paranoid/conspiratorial thrillers. He performs standup, plays bass, and cycles 300 km per week. Go to bio

More Scripts From David

The Cure For Aging
An elderly prisoner tells a bothersome young cellmate about a secret means of escape and a mysterious cure for aging, showing how one leads to the other.
Short Drama For sale 8pp
6 readers love this script
One Eight Hundred
A desperate man comes across one too many misunderstandings when he phones a series of crisis hotlines in search of a fix for his problems.
Short Comedy For sale 6pp
4 readers love this script
Ounce of Prevention
A young couple chased by zombies plans to make an escape with an abandoned car, but first, a little maintenance is needed.
Short Comedy For sale 7pp
1 reader loves this script
The Lunch Date
Two mall employees on their first date at a fancy restaurant. Love is in the air, but the snob maître d' has other plans.
Short Comedy Produced 12pp
1 reader loves this script