This week I will be moving on to a different aspect of creative writing; writing the screenplay or film script. A screenplay is a complex dramatic form that requires a particular structure and format, so I will be doing a series on how to write a dynamic screenplay over the next few weeks, which will include:
1. An overview of a screenplay.
2. How to create a dynamic Screenplay Design Plan.
3. How to format a screenplay.
There are many multimedia entertainment formats that utilise a screenplay or a script such as films, television, theatre, and video games, but I am going to use film as my frame of reference. The magical world of film-making has captivated our collective imagination since its inception in the late 19th century, and now in the 21st century, it continues to be one of the most popular mediums for global storytelling.
An overview of a screenplay?
A film, as opposed to a work of fiction, is primarily a visual medium, therefore a screenwriter needs to think in visual terms. Although the dialogue is important, a dynamic and memorable image can deliver information much more effectively.
A screenplay may draw upon many similarities that are attributed to a work of fiction such as a complex story-world, a strategic plot, and characterisation, but it predominately relies upon the art of visual storytelling.
In the world of film-making, a screenplay acts like “a plan” or a “blueprint” (Glenn 2008, p. 104) for everything that is seen and heard on the screen. So when it comes to crafting a screenplay, remember the all-important literary mantra, Show Don’t Tell. As a film contains moving pictures, the screenwriter needs to be able to craft words that come “alive with all the motion and emotion” (2008, p. 104) that is synonymous with the silver screen.
Before you set out to start writing each scene of your screenplay, ask yourself these four questions:
1. Does my opening scene create a dynamic image in the mind of the reader and will it work on screen? Visualising your scene on screen is a good technique.
2. Have I been economical when it comes to word choice (have I used dynamic nouns and strong verbs to communicate the setting, action, and characters)?
3. Have I utilised a good balance of dialogue and action?
4. Does my screenplay create interest and suspense? This is where re-writing and multiple drafts help.
Remember: perfection takes time.
A screenwriting tip. Download the screenplay for your favourite film and analyse its scene structure, tone, etc. Stage 32 provides copies of the latest screenplays, but registration is required.
More tips for writing an effective and dynamic screenplay.
Avoid using anything in your screenplay that cannot be communicated visually or aurally on screen.
Film-making is all about dramatisation, not exposition. Show don’t tell! Although the dialogue is necessary to reveal story and character information, a single engaging image can convey a thousand words. A close–up on a character’s face. The camera focusing on a single memorable image.
Choose action over dialogue. The saying “Actions speak louder than words” is just as true in the film world. And like real life – what a person does as opposed to what they say reveals their true nature.
Of course, dialogue is important, but when using dialogue use carefully crafted and strategically placed dialogue as opposed to a whole load of empty waffle.
I am in the process of re-writing a screenplay for a short film, and as I am a fan of dialogue, I have had to be ruthless and cut out unnecessary verbiage.
Keep in mind your audience when you are writing your screenplay and use strong images (especially in the opening scene), which will create a strong emotional response.
How to Write a Dynamic Screenplay Design Plan.
Glenn, John 2008, ‘The page: Words that move’, Writing Movies: The practical guide to creating stellar screenplays, (written by Gotham Writers’ Workshop Faculty; edited by Alexander Steele), A & C Black, London, Ch. 4, pp. 103-135.
Startup Stock Photos.