There are so many different things that you need to think about when writing a script, whether that be a short, a feature or even a TV series. It can be especially hard to follow every piece of advice out there in books, online or blogs. So forget formulas, rules and characters arcs (okay don’t forget them completely but do so for now!) What are the three fundamental questions you need to ask yourself as a writer before you write?
What is the point?
No this isn’t a hopeless quote intended to make you give up on your dreams of screenwriting. I want you to seriously have a think about the point of your story. Having read many first drafts of scripts, you realise that writers go off on a million tangents.
A script should be succinct and allow room for manoeuvre from your director; you can bet that almost all you write will at some point be completely re-written. A feature-length script should be the right amount of main story and side story to create a balance of character development and story progression. A great example of this is the classic film; Forrest Gump.. Even with the many side stories going on around the main character, you are still always following the main story, and you can see each character arc follow through and complete itself.
Do you really need that?
Another point that I would love to highlight is that there can be such a thing as too much detail. As I said in my previous point, you need to be as concise as possible. As soon as you have finished the first draft of your script, CUT IT DOWN! At least 50% of your script should probably be cut out. I do not need to know that someone is wearing a pair of black jeans and white socks, what their favourite song is or if they have a mullet. Unless, that information is impediment to the story just cut it out. If you get your script professionally edited, the first thing to go will be all those details that just aren’t necessary. So, save your money, and do it yourself.
Be hard on yourself
My final and probably most important piece of advice is to get as much criticism as possible. If this is your first script or one that you have been writing for a long time, you can fall in love with your own writing. It’s natural, and all writers do it. However, just because you love it, doesn’t mean a producer will, and you have to get as much criticism as possible.
It’s hard to hear and sometimes hard to ask for, but if you get honest and open feedback on your work, it will only become stronger. I often send my writing to others out there that I know in the same creative industry as me, and will get my script back full of red lines and x’s on the pages. But all of that, coming from people that I know are only trying to help me, allows me to edit my mistakes, fix my words and not allow myself to waste a producer’s time.
If you can’t manage to send it to someone, I would tell you to read it aloud and record it. Honestly, if there’s one thing to get right, its dialogue, and you can really tell if it works by doing this method. If it’s a long script or you require multiple voices to talk over each other, put up an invite for local actors to do a read through.
Guest Author: Selisha Alice Griffiths