This brief post will make your script more readable

Let me help you write your script.

Before you begin

First, I love writing film scripts. I hope you’ll find that same love. I love screenplays because they are reductive. There is no excess in a good script.

Scripts tend to be 18-22,000 words split between dialogue and action. A great script transcends language.

Books and plays need to be in the language of the audience. Films can be silent, as they are action based.

Action transcends language.

I hope you consider writing a script.

If you do, I recommend Celtx, it’s what I use.

Celtx has a blog that breaks down famous scripts into individual elements.

A short style guide for your script

Your script should not be too well written. If the script reads like a piece of prose, you should consider turning it into one.

You as a writer would do well to remember that the more simple the script is, the better for the reader.

A screenplay is filmed not read.

You should edit out any pretty language and big words. An example would be “A blood red sun sinks towards the horizon” when “The sun sets” would be better.

Everything in your script needs to be filmable. I’m not talking about dragons riding unicorns. Computer graphics means anything you write is possible. I’m talking about unfilmable elements.

Unfilmmable elements find a way of creeping into the text.

For example, you are writing a film about a creature that feeds during darkness. You write “It’s dark enough to hunt – time to eat” there is an infinite number of ways to film that, which makes it unfilmable.

While reading it, you know what the intent is but when it comes to filming it how do you do that?

Vague phrases will lead to confusion on set. How about “The creature watches the sun disappear, nighttime. The creature licks it’s lips”?

You as a writer must keep the script simple, specific and filmable.

You’re the writer you shouldn’t try and direct from the script. Allow the director, actors and editor to have some creative input.

In your later drafts don’t worry about insert shots or camera angles. You have to let the director earn his pay somehow.

Get rid of all ellipses and adverbs.

Adverbs are cancer of writing that may be benign in other formats. In screenwriting adverbs are fatal.

Imply the adverbs in your script.

For example, you have a bomb disposal scene.

A lousy writer “The cop slowly removed the covering on the bomb” .

A better writer “The cop slides the cover off the bomb. The timer countdown speeds up. The cop stops moving. The cop begins moving this time at a fraction of the speed”.

The same action happened in both examples, which one could you see more clearly?

You as a writer must always ask yourself, how can I make this more visual?

Your hero gets into a fight. They recover at a nearby bar, “His face bruised from the beating” is good, but you can push it further. “The hero holds an ice pack to his face” or better “A woman at the other end of the bar smiles at the hero. The hero smiles, a loose tooth falls from his mouth. The woman leaves the bar”.

Don’t be afraid of visual cliche; there is a reason they are cliche, they’re effective.

You want to show time passing, simple, “The woman stubs out her cigarette in the ashtray. She removes another cigarette from a full packet. When she stubs it out the ashtray is now full of stubbed cigarettes. She reaches for another. The packet is empty.”

Avoid the word “we” in a script. “We hear a noise” is vague, who is “we” and what kind of noise? A car engine, a baby crying and an explosion are all noises, which one do you want? Events either happen, or they do not “A pot falls over and smashes” instead of “we hear a noise”.

There are individual elements that I see recurring again and again in some of the scripts I’ve read. I read a lot of “cont’d/continued” in the dialogue, this looks professional but is redundant. If the character is speaking, of course, they are continuing to talk.

“Jim starts to run”, “Frank begins to pack his suitcase”. Starts and begin shouldn’t find their way into your script, “Jim runs” “Frank packs.”

Avoid parenthesis, like the director the actor must earn some of the money they’re given.

Don’t listen to anything I say

You’re thinking, what right do I have to tell you how to write a script. I don’t. I’ve only ever had one script produced, and that was self-financed.

You can watch my film here. The movie is good, but the writing isn’t.

Before you read any further understand; I’m completely wrong in everything.

In fact, most people who give screenwriting advice have no idea what they are talking about.

If it were a science, then no film would suck. Think of the last time that you went to the cinema or sat down to watch a film and weren’t disappointed.

Listen to advice but think twice taking it to heart. No one knows what they are doing, find what works for yourself.

You can stop reading now, what follows below is a sales pitch. Thank you for reading.

You have a story to tell

There’s a story in you. You haven’t told anyone, but you do. You may never get round to telling the story. There is a chance you could take it with you to your grave.

You love a good story well told.

You’ve evolved from a people who hunted during the day and told others about it around the campfire.

You evolved from people who used stories to explain why the sun goes down.

There’s a reason why you have a story inside you. It’s part of being human.

You are living at a time where there is nothing to stop you from getting your story out there.

The most significant decision that you will have to make is what form will your story take? A book, play, song or film?

In a novel, you could spend the entire book focusing on what one person thinks. In a play, you can have one person ramble on for hours.

The movie script is the purest form of writing because films deal with action. Everyone wants something in a good movie, and they reveal that in how they act.

Film audiences are unforgiving. As Billy Wilder said, “Individually they’re idiots, collectively they’re genius” If you can win them over you can conqueror the world.

Tell your story write your script.
Did you find that helpful?

If you did would you mind letting me know in the comments because I have much more to share with you about screenwriting and storytelling.

If you would like me to read your script you can visit my fiverr page here.

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