Books are a wonderful thing. A writer can put us right inside a character’s head, simply by telling us flat-out what he’s thinking. Book authors have the luxury of being able to spell out in crystal-clear terms what a character is plotting, what she’s doing, why she’s doing it and what was on her mind at the moment.
Movies don’t speak the same language. Film is just as vivid, but in a much different way. As a book author, you know exactly how to tell your story – just spell it all right out. However, if you’re telling a tale for a movie audience, you have to get the feel for conveying many of your most important ideas visually.
So keep this mantra in your head as you rewrite for the silver screen: Show, don’t tell. Keep these rules in mind as you develop your screenplay.
- Slow the chatter. Too much dialogue is a scene killer; it bogs down or interrupts the action. It’s usually dull, so please, don’t overdo it. In fact, don’t do it at all where you don’t absolutely have to.
- Describe your action. Emphasis on action. Describe what your characters do as the story plays out. Omit descriptions of what motivates them to carry out these actions; unless your movie has a narrator, there’s no way to convey these to a viewing audience. Show motivation with solid, tangible actions or through the arrangement of scenes.
- Allow for interpretation. This is a difficult concept for many to grasp, but it’s important to leave wiggle room for a set designer, producer, director and, ultimately, actors to interpret your script and bring it to life. It needs to be specific enough to convey a clear story, yet vague enough to allow these players to envision all the possibilities. After all, picturing the potential is what sells scripts in the first place. To that end, resist the urge to write instructions to your actors and director into your script. Instead of writing “Bill looks sad and places the manila envelope in the mailbox,” go with a looser “Bill places the envelope in the mailbox.” Let the ultimate owners of the script decide the character’s demeanor and other visuals that convey the action.
Frame of mind is half the battle. If you can keep these goals in view, your screenplay will quickly take shape.
|ABOUT ELISE L. CONNORS:
Elise works as the Manager of Author Support of Outskirts Press. She also contributes to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com.Elise and a group of talented book marketing experts assist self-publishing authors and professionals who are interested in getting the best possible exposure for their book.