On Screenplay Writing

Writing is not for everyone. You are willing to do everything to write a screenplay or you are not to committed to your work. I have written this from my personal experiences about screenplay writing. When you first start out you feel as if it as complicated a chemistry set however once you persistently continue to write your screenplay. It becomes fluid

I write all of my screenplays in third person and in present sense in order for the audience to feel as if, they are the individual being described and written about. Consequently, experiencing everything as if they are the characters, and feel as if all the events within the book are happening to them. It achieves a certain level of personification on its own. Just writing in third person and in present tense as the reader goes through this journey with the character and also as the character.

I do believe that everything within the screenplay should be written as if the individual is sat there, watching all of the events happen to character, as an actor would take on a persona. I do not recommend that writers use a narrator within screenplay. I just believe that it is counter productive. It is important to have consistency within a screenplay and the narrator makes the voice, objective instead of subjective which makes the screenplay much harder for the reader to relate to. It also creates different voices within the screenplay instead of one consistent one. I have found that instead of using a narrator it is much better to describe the events and the thoughts within the screenplay. Through various different ways such as :

  • Habitual habits character has
  • Specific places where things always happen
  • Repetition of certain events as to say it will happen again
  • Using personal experiences to view and predict the characters actions (The Loud girl, the passive aggressive girl etc) No person is without flaw, it is the most annoying protagonist and no antagonist is born evil and to make those mistakes would be to neglect anything life has thought you.
  • Describe events/ scenes/ chapters with the least amount of words (less is more)

My biggest Mistake

I once included a narrator within my screenplay, thinking that it would work within the screenplay however eventually I took those parts of out, it must have been a book on its own as well so it physically hurt when I did. I just believed that it was making screenplay more less dramatic, instead of adding to the drama within the crime fiction screenplay. It took the drama out and made it a organised documentary. However originally I did intend to write it as a documentary, I quickly changed my mind about it. So it is really good to journal your ideas, so that you can keep up with your own ohhs (“oh what will work”) and Awh (“Awh, that will not work”).

Within a screenplay, as you would in any fiction book, you have to create memorable characters. Many screenplay writers create certain habits that they associate with these characters, for example with “Godfather”, its was the Italian hand movements, with the modern “Romeo and Juliet”, it has the writing handbook and the tooth pick. So it is important to describe these distinct habits and highlight them.

May I also add for the new “Bourne” movie, the lead actor Matt Damon just has a few lines though the enter film. It is a perfect example of less means more. Say everything that you need to say, in the least amount of words.

When you begin describing a character, you have ideas for there mannerism. One you write them into the screenplay, they become people and with thoughts they think s acceptable as well as others they dislike. So take your time trying to work out what works for your characters and can also visualise it. No one is perfect do not create some perfect protagonist who has never done anything wrong in their lives. It is the most boring protagonist because to indicate that, would be to suggest that your protagonist has not lived at all. Another mistake is to create the antagonist who is just ‘born evil’ as if they have never done a good thing is their entire life. This is also boring for a reader because it suggest that the writer has not thought carefully about what is considered to be ‘evil’ and has provided what I call a “skeleton character” where they have outlined ideas about the character but not really stated anything about them personally about the character for the audience to connect to.

It is important not to write your screenplay passively. You just need to say in what you want to say! Do not chase your tail when writing a screenplay because the more you chose to do so. The more your screenplay will use unnecessary words and yet also say less than you intended to say. Like you would if you were writing a book, do not use any words within your screenplay that do not really need to be there.

Laila screamed weary “Run!”

Laila screamed “Run!”

The term “weary” can be there to place emphasis on how she screams, however the majority of the time adverbs such as this just do not fit in the chapters within screenplays. For example, I could say that it would not work because it almost makes the serious scene funny, instead of adding to the seriousness of her screaming.

Writing a screenplay is very visually orientated therefore when a character does something. You would say a character did something. There are a few examples below about how that would be laid out.

The phone rings. Laila answers the phone.

Is much better than the narrator telling you she answers the phone and what she thinks so it is better to leave that suspense for the reader to work out themselves. Unless your screenplay is one of those that already tell you the ending like a Shakespearean screenplay.

To improve your screenplay it is really good to do what you believe is best for your screenplay. I do suggest to read other people’s work to improve your writing ability. However make no attempt mimic the way, they do things. Do you… No one can write like you can! So why place any attempt in writing like someone else. Here is another example of layout for a screenplay.

Intro. Laila at home doing work

Laila enters the living room with a glass of wine. Deeply sighting


” Another day, another job.”

That is a brief to layout a format for a screenplay. So It should be laid out in this manner. The scene or chapter being described should be at the top of the page. Then the way she does or says is stated in present tense. The person speaking is written to make it clear how the conversation goes and then what she says is stated. Everyone has a story to tell so be sure to tell yours the way which suits your tone and voice best.

There are also a few links to works and advice for screenwriters. This includes advice on colour, font and page layout. Subscribe to Idriss Publishing House. Feel free to ask any questions writing, marketing and publishing related.

Tidying up your first draft and turning it into your final draft

If you are panicking about your format look no further

If you are worried about what to call your screenplay, make sure your screenplay name is not taken

Additional resources

Formalising your manuscript to send to executives 

You can also read 17 tips for screenplay writing, however I am sure they will tell you the same thing

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