Screenwriting Part 2 – Novels next
- Don’t set up a problem in one scene and resolve it in the next scene. Reserve the resolution to the end, or at some point where it has to happen. The rhythm of set up then fix is not good for your audience.
- Don’t number the scenes. Forbidden.
- In scenes that are predominantly physical action, give highlights not blow-by-blow descriptions. The director or fight-chase choreographer or stunt coordinator will do the rest.
- Don’t write the way people actually speak. People meander, repeat, change subjects, get verbose and obtuse, but none of these help a script. Scripts need to be as direct as possible without losing the essence of the character or losing the drama.
- Screenplays aren’t like novels or plays. Don’t use quotation marks around dialogue or use “he said.” The characters name is above the dialogue.
- Don’t instruct the actor on how to say the line. They have to get it from the written dramatic action. Invariably they do it different anyway. If it’s unexpected and important, then note it like (suddenly angry). Put this in parenthesis beside the name, not after, so it doesn’t take up important space. Don’t capitalize or punctuate dialogue instruction.
- Slang gets outdated, and sounds that way, and is often regional. Foul language often turns a G rating to a PG or even R, restricting your audience size. Use caution. Look at the ratings and understand what will get you a more restrictive rating.
- Everything in the final movie is seen, not read. This is not a book. Don’t bother telling what the character is thinking or their history, or anything going on that isn’t obvious from the action and dramatic action. The story is seen, not told.
- Don’t use flashbacks, if possible. Flashbacks work poorly in film and usually slow the action. When a story is moving backward, it isn’t going forward.
- While it’s okay for the character to be religious, don’t be preachy.
- Dialogue length should be as short as possible. Three lines of three inch dialogue is long enough. Beyond that, break it up with some character reaction or activity. Once in a while a monologue is justified, or somewhat longer text, but use this rarely.
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