3 Forgotten Tips on Screenwriting

Posted: 1 year ago

Azamar, Armand J. (2018, September 13) 3 Forgotten Tips on Screenwriting, Copypress.

Writing a script is no easy task. So many guides have been created to help new screenwriters, some of which promise esoteric knowledge. In reality, there is  a need to simply go back to basics. Here are three tips that I believe are often forgotten in the screenwriting process.

Show, Don't Tell

The film is a visual medium. Although some storytelling rules still apply, you are not writing a novel. The director will visualize whatever is on the script.

A quote generally attributed to Russian playwright Anton Chekhov states, “Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Although most likely a misappropriation, the principle remains true.

“Telling” in scripts takes the form of excessive dialogue or exposition. The characters mouth off important plot points, which could be presented in a line of action. Take time to really think about how an plot point can be shown through action and not told through dialogue.

Outline Everything

What is the most difficult part of writing a script? Staring at the blank page! Writer's block can hinder simply starting to type. But, knowing where you are going will also help.

Dustin Lance Black, award-wining screenwriter of Milk and J. Edgar, extensively researches for whatever script he writes. He gathers information (interviews, drafts, pictures, periodicals, etc.), sometimes over an entire year. Then, Black places the most cinematic information on note cards.

“Each note card should be as pure and singular an idea as possible,” Black said. “Because I want to be able to move the pieces around and create a film."

Black writes scenes on each note card, along with colors and other markers. He then lays out the cards on a table, in weeks or even months. Black removes out unnecessary note cards and rearranges others as needed. He then writes a script based on the outline of the note cards.

If you don't care for note cards, no worries. You can use post-it notes or simply write material in a notebook. The goal is to  outline this material to provide clear direction.

Edit Everything

An objective look at your script always is needed.

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings,” said writer Stephen King in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. “Even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler's heart, kill your darlings.”

As screenwriters, we cling to certain plot points, characters, or other elements in a script. But, do these elements help the script as a whole? If not, the element must be edited or removed, no matter how “darling” that element is to us.

It is also important to learn to take criticism. Let friends and family read your script. Conversely, avoid hypercritical people, as their cynicism may taint their analysis and kill your drive.

Happy Writing!

In the quest for something new in writing, we forget the simple rules. Hopefully, you do not leave these tips on the wayside when you craft your script!