When Words Fail - Or Do They? | Script Revolution

When Words Fail - Or Do They?

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!



The Script

When Words Fail

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

About The Reviewer

Linda Hullinger's picture
Real name: 

Linda Hullinger is an award-winning screenwriter and published author who has written thirteen short screenplays, three feature screenplays and two TV pilots. She’s had short stories, articles, and essays traditionally published in magazines such as Woman’s World, Over My Dead Body, Dogwood Tales, Emporium Gazette, and Night Visions. In 2012, she won two Hallmark writing contests in which her essays were published in their anthology. That same year, she published two middle-grade novels and...Read more

About The Writer

David Pauwels's picture
Real name: 

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.Read more