Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Screenplays Are Not Written In English*

"Hi, my name is Jenna and I have a hard time elaborating."

                                       (via Matt-Richards / flickr)

I read through the first three (very short) chapters of my WIP yesterday, and while I like how it's flowing, I think that readers will have a hard time connecting with my main character. My screenwriting background is to blame.

To be a good screenwriter, you need to be brief. With comedy you can get loose. Play around with it a bit (thought not much.) With action / thriller / horror? Even less wiggle room. A scene might look something like this:


A cold wind sends autumn leaves skittering across the pavement.
STAN (20, All-American) exits, holding a steaming to-go cup. He holds the door for JULIE (20, bookish, adorable) who juggles her own cup and a backpack.
Thanks again for the coffee. I can’t believe I forgot my wallet.
I’ve always been a sucker for a damsel in distress.
She blushes. Doesn’t see the man racing toward her.
ARNOLD (20’s, bulky jock) slams into her. She falls to the ground. Hot coffee scalding her neck and chest.
Stan snags Arnold’s arm. Spins him around.
What the hell, man?
Arnold looks behind him. Panicked. He’s running from someone. Or something.
He shoves Stan. Wrenches free.
Julie picks herself up. Dusts herself off with scraped palms, leaving small spots of blood on her tee shirt.
She gingerly touches the burns on her neck.
Apologize to the lady.
Arnold stares at her. Fear in his eyes.
You’ve been marked.
He unconsciously scratches his neck. He’s got the same angry red mark as Julie.
His eyes flick behind her. Terrified. He runs.
Stan turns to Julie.
What the hell was that?
Julie’s lip trembles.
Let’s go. Now.

See how the eye kinda skims down? That's what you're looking for. The more white space on the page, the better.

Writing that way is so ingrained that I tend to race through the scenes in my novel. I don't let them breathe, or really let my character describe what's going on. This is going to lead to my WIP ending up at 45,000 words, and my breathing into a paper bag.

Elaborate. I'm gonna print that word out and staple it to my bedroom wall.

*I read that somewhere, and it stuck with me. It's absolutely true.


Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...