The DO-NOTs to consider while writing a screenplay

The DO-NOTs to consider while writing a screenplay

While trying to write the perfect screenplay, it is often seen that writers get swayed by the dramatic effect of the story. Of course, if a story is to turn into a screen adaptation, it is important that it is packed with incredible visual setups, a transformational conflict for the protagonist, the separation of lovers, and whatnot. Come to think of it, this is a commonly found mindset that may actually turn into a major dealbreaker.

While several blogs highlight the right way to create a screenplay, this post tells you everything you should NOT be doing. Here’s a list of 6 major slip-ups to steer clear of while crafting your screenplay.

Grammar & spelling — gone wrong

While this may seem to be too “obvious” of a factor, screenwriters tend to forget that. A well-thought-out idea can become a complete disaster if the story writing has been done poorly. You don’t want to come across as a rookie while pitching your script to producers. And it’s not the articles like ‘the’, ‘a’, or ‘an’. Your grammar tools can come in handy while considering these things. Yet, every single time you revisit your script, you are bound to find easy to ignore, hidden errors that a machine cannot rectify for you. When you revise your script carefully, you will find more than what you were looking for, like significant parts of the script.
What other significant aspects? These include the font style, font size, spacing, indents and other such technical deets. You know, the basics. 

Going on and on..and on!

It’s no secret that writing dialogues are an extremely daunting task. Going on and on about specific characters, their moods, or really long dialogues that don’t take the story forward hold the potential to ruin your manuscript. These are a few specifics you should be careful about while expressing yourself-

  • Longer sentences: Keep them infused with the essentials. Don’t spend more than 4-5 lines talking about a detail- no matter how important it is. Ironically, yes. But you need to master the art of conveying what you wish in a crisp & concise manner. An endless dialogue drives the attention of the reader away from your script.
  • In-depth focus on thoughts, and feelings: While your characters are on camera, it is not plausible to think out loud every time. Unless it is worth the attention, you need to use solid dialogues to enact the sentiment.
  • Playing the director– Your script should reflect just 3 things. The story, the setting, the dialogues. Don’t write ANYTHING about the angular camera movements or the style of narrating a dialogue. The sentimental, visual details are for the director, not the screenplay writer.

Making motifs stronger than characters

While you pay attention to your themes, symbols, and motifs, it often happens that the script starts revolving around them. When such a situation arises, the script becomes irrelevant & elaborative. As movie viewers, we often tend to remember our favorite character or a dialogue delivered by someone influential in the story. Of course, we notice the various transformations, but a symbolic motif or a theme is better suited for a novel. When you read a story from your favorite novel, you visualize it through words. But on screen, it’s what you see moving, speaking, and acting that you remember. So write your script from a character-building perspective to gain them brownie points.

A character with no end goal

The first few pages about your character are always an important factor in story development. When you bring a character to the forefront, it will be meaningless to not define what they desire. As this desire will push the story ahead. It could be a shortfall, a repressed psychological turmoil that needs to be resolved or dealt with. An underlying emotional need that resists their reality. You need to find resolutions to their issues in a gradual manner- leading to a transformation in them. The characters help us walk through the story so without aspiration or a goal, there won’t be any movement. Motivated by the desire to achieve what they want, taking action after action, your character takes the lead. Note this down while writing every.single.scene.

Sticking to the archetypes

Speaking of characters, we tend to associate movies with alpha males and alpha females. The distinctiveness of each role on screen is established since the beginning of time. These archetypes- damsels in distress, heartless antagonists, flawless heroes, naive brains – have been the face of every story and with the advent of digitization, we stumble upon these in every other short film, documentary, movie etc. Instead, try to create organic & honest characters who act like real people. Understand the quirks before you write down their dialogues and then add the complexities, conflicts, etc.

Bottom line- Do a lot of character work before you start writing your script.

Ensure the first 10 pages are worth it!

Your first 10-20 pages should define the sub-genre & what your story is about. Highlight the important characters & the essence of your story. If the first 10 pages of your script are more so about rambling on and on without the purpose of saying it all, re-do. There is a lot at stake at this point. You won’t just lose the interest of your readers but also get the audience snoozing in no time. If you find a way to pick a specific scene that enunciates the crux of your story, nothing better. Find how can you add value right from the beginning and once you find the sweet spot, don’t miss it.

You get several chances to take your script to its highest potential as long as it’s with you. Don’t underestimate the importance of revising your script. Remember the DO-NOTs, as they are the real deal-breakers.

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