Over the past 5 years or so I have dedicated some serious time into trying to write more interesting stories. So I thought I’d share with YOU my top 5 tips for a better screenplay.
Torture your characters
One way you can push your script to the next level to “torture your characters”. We tend to write likeable characters in our films, which is great. But because of this, we might end up lacking commitment when giving them obstacles and struggles to overcome.
So don’t hold back! If you think you can push the action or drama even further, go for it. It’s all about going big or going home! You want to give them a situation they simply can’t avoid.
What would you rather watch:
Someone misplaces their car keys and has to walk home
Someone drops their car keys down the side of a cliff which they have to attempt to climb down using their pants belt because they are 200 miles from civilisation
Exposition, or the mass delivery of plot information, is usually unavoidable when writing a complex film. The trick to better exposition is having a character deliver information to an uninformed character rather than telling them something they already know.
It’s all about informing and educating instead of forcefully recapping on things they already have knowledge on.
CSI is a prime example of bad exposition. They’ll all be crowding around a crime scene and one dude will explain the situation to a team of professional detectives who will clearly know what’s going on.
A better example is Back to the Future. Doc Brown explains how time travel in the delorean works to Marty who, as a layman, currently has zero knowledge on this.
Show, don’t tell
When you can, show - don’t tell. Dialogue should always be the icing on the cake! A scene should demonstrate what is happening, rather than a character’s dialogue telling us. Next time you are editing your script, try turning that line of dialogue into action instead.
For example: You could have the line “Jimmy’s got a big crush on Ashleigh but he’s too shy to ask her out”
Or instead, Jimmy could bump into Ashleigh at a party and simply can’t get a word out.
The output of information to the audience is the same, but one is a lot more visually entertaining.
Dream Fulfillment. The characters in your film should be doing things you wish you could do. We all daydream about situations we know will never happen, but if you put pen to paper, your characters CAN act them out.
An audience will engage with a story if they are witnessing their dream being fulfilled on screen, so think about some of the quirky things you wish you could do, and write it into your film!
You have things like beating up the bully, spinning webs through new york city, and winning the race of a lifetime. But they don’t have to be good - you can write more sinister situations like graffiti the boss’s car, robbing a casino, or overthrowing the leader of a criminal organisation.
You can’t edit a blank page
You can’t edit a blank page. Stop worrying if your first draft is total garbage! Stop hitting the delete key. Your first crack at a story is bound to be not so great. This is where the second draft comes in.
Get your words on the page and don’t look back until you’ve reached the end, then you can go back and clean it up. That’s why they call it a vomit draft.
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