Screenplay Writing – Stop Overwriting

If you have spent the last few months burrowed away in your room writing your next screenplay, with the hopes that ‘this is it’. The last thing you want to hear from a reader is that it feels like the screenplay is dense to get through. This is especially disheartening if the reader feels like this just ten pages in—which is typically the most important section of the screenplay.

So how do you write a screenplay that moves like a freshwater river and also has the taste of one too? It comes down to the fluidity of information. If the scene laid out before us, informs, entertains, and keeps the plot moving forward with a smooth pace, you can write until your fingers bleed. However, if you have overwritten, the reader is more than likely going to get bored very quickly.

Overwriting can look something like this.

Why is this overwriting? Well, for one, you are not writing a  novel, you are writing a screenplay. The screenplay is a blueprint for the skilled workers of the production. We know what a castle hall looks like, and sure some of us may be visualizing a different type of castle hall, but for the most part, it is safe to say we know what a castle looks like. The production designer will add whatever necessities they feel should be added, the location manager will find the most suitable castle to film in, and the VFX supervisor can request frost particles. Therefore, outside of the necessary basics of establishing the location, don’t worry about your scene’s intrinsic details within the writing.

Although conversely, there may be certain situations where you are required to write about small details of the scene, for example, if you are writing about the Welsh ruler, Owain Glyndŵr, and his revolt against the English with the Battle of Mynydd Hyddgen, which took place on the slopes of Pumlumon, you may want to add details about the mountains of Pumlumon as the majority of readers aren’t going to be too sure what the hills of 15th century Wales and 15th century Welsh Knights would look like.

Going back to our first scene, we would just write:

 


Allow for the readers imagination. And this is why: because when the reader has to read all that description, page after page, new scene after new scene, action by action, it will slow the story down tremendously. Of all the items a story must have to successfully enrapture a reader, pacing is one of the most important. – Denny Martin Flinn

Even though your film’s pacing will be determined in the editing room, the actual pace of your screenplay is going to be determined by the way you write.

Denny Martin Flinn, the author of How Not To Write Your Screenplay has this rule:

Here is an excellent rule to follow (like all rules, it’s meant to be broken but like all rules, follow it before you decide that you have a good reason to stray): Go through your screenplay. Take every piece of static description, and reduce it to one sentence. Work on that sentence until it gives the facts and the images you want. Limit your description

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