If your script just isn't hitting the mark, here are a handful of things you can try in order to get it there.
Writing a screenplay is kind of like trying to carry too many things at once. At first, you think you've got a pretty good grip, but pretty soon you feel that grip start to loosen. So, you adjust your arms to accommodate the shifting weight only to realize that some items on the other side are now starting to slip. Then it happens: something falls. So you pick it up, but as you do, something else falls. So, you pick that up, but then another thing falls and so on and so forth until you're just the jackass out in a grocery store parking lot dropping shit and picking shit up ad infinitum.
Yeah, so screenwriting's like that. It can get frustrating at times trying to keep everything together (and off the ground), but the more you know about what works and what doesn't work may help you put your narrative elements in places where they have a better chance of staying put.
In this video, the team over at The Film Look shares five tips that will not only help you lock down your story but will also make it a hell of a lot more interesting.
Typically if you've got some loosey-goosey elements in your screenplay it's due to the fact that they break some of the unspoken "rules" of good storytelling.
You're not torturing your characters enough
The best characters ever written into existence are some of the most dreadful, unlucky, tortured individuals you'll ever come across in literature. Clarice Starling, Randall McMurphy, and even The Dude had to go through incredible adversity in order to overcome their obstacles, whether it was having to get chummy with a charismatic cannibal, being controlled and eventually lobotomized in a mental institution, or getting their car destroyed all because of a rug and several cases of mistaken identity.
If your character is too comfortable, then there's no real reason for them to overcome their major narrative conflict. Turn up the heat and put them through hell. It's your decision whether or not they make it out alive.
You're writing too much exposition
If you look at your screenplay and you see big blocks of dialogue, do me a favor and just cut out 90% of it. Scenes with long dialogue are more often than not scenes with tons of heavy-handed exposition where characters labor through long tedious explanations of why something is happening or who someone is or whatever. Nine times out of ten you don't need these scenes; you can come up with more creative and engaging ways to deliver information to your audience that won't feel like being hit over the head with a copy of Randolph Churchill's biography.
You're not showing, you're telling
Show don't tell, right? Similar to overly expositional scenes, "telling" the audience too much feels clunky and usually will cause your audience to lose interest quickly. They'll be able to engage more with your story if you show them the information they need. I mean, it's one thing to hear someone on screen say, "My father and I just don't get along. He's very withdrawn and it makes me so angry," but it's another thing to watch a scene in which the father and son eat dinner in separate rooms. So, let your images speak for themselves and use dialogue only when you have to.
You're not fulfilling your audience's wishes
Though the video brought up an interesting point about wish fulfillment, I don't necessarily think that it's one of the major elements that you find yourself constantly having to juggle. Of course, watching movies in which the guy gets the girl, the girl gets the job, and the jobs come back to the town are inspiring and entertaining, but you might want to think of some untraditional wishes that fly under the radar.
You're not writing
Yeah, this is the big one. If you're not writing then you're not the jackass out in the grocery store dropping shit and picking shit up, you're the jokester who's at home sorting out expired coupons and waiting for the stuff on your grocery list to go on sale. Guess wait...ain't gon' happen. Sit down and write. That's all you have to do. Don't wait for inspiration to hit you. Don't wait until the weather is perfect and inspirational. Just start writing, even if it's shitty...and it's going to be shitty, believe that. Write that shitty ass first draft and laugh at how horrible it is and tell yourself, "I am writing the worst screenplay ever written," until the thing is done. Then, go back and refine and turn it into the beautiful princess you know it truly is inside...just like in Cinderella...or She's All That.
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Honestly after I finish a first draft, there ends up being a lot of scenes that are just leading up to favorite scenes or getting the characters from one thing to another. When I'm re-writing, I like to look at each of these scenes and just think of creative ways to make every scene the scene that people will enjoy.
September 23, 2017 at 9:23AM, Edited September 23, 9:23AM
well, that is pretty great article) what can I say - author is best)
September 25, 2017 at 6:10AM
The article is awesome!
The last one is especially close to home for me. Sometimes I'm so crippled with fear of failing that I can't even start.
September 28, 2017 at 1:59AM
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September 3, 2018 at 3:58AM
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January 14, 2019 at 10:09PM
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March 8, 2019 at 11:43PM
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September 13, 2019 at 11:52PM
Everybody needs my free ebook - THE SIGN OF 4. For 99% of you just believe you ramble through your favourite scenes and make characters argue. This is because we are not taught what a story, nor what a plot is.
We write to DEEP LITERARY THEME THEORY - using 64 helping concepts.
We decide what a problem is - and solve it through a great cast of 8 archetypes.
These connect to 4 conflicts - that demonstrate 4 ideas that connect and describe your problem more accurately.
Do you use HEROS JOURNEY ? Do you need THROUGH LINES ? In the case of Harper Lee her masterpiece used both organisations. You should be able to think like a professional first and learn how her work was structured. You will be able to learn with my ebook.
READ READ READ for your literary themes - and SHOW DO NOT TELL your literary themes !
CINDERELLA is the best example of a HUMAN V TIME conflict tale.
January 17, 2020 at 11:55AM, Edited January 17, 12:42PM
How would we turn CINDERELLA into a full length feature film ?
Cinderella and the dreary life with the ugly sisters - HUMAN V SELF.
Cinderella has fun with the fairy godmother - HUMAN V HUMAN.
Cinderella finally gets to the ball - HUMAN V ENVIRONMENT.
Prince Charming battles to find the owner of the glass slipper - HUMAN V TIME.
Hope you see this simple structure is an HEROS JOURNEY.
Now, I cannot wait to see that made. Because with new songs and acting talent it would be made tomorrow.
January 17, 2020 at 12:50PM, Edited January 17, 12:57PM
There is nothing wrong with writing your favourite scenes. That is great because your characters have come alive . . . But only for you. Yet, we must not change a thing. Why is this a favourite ? Because it fits somehow with the unconscious literary themes in your mind. This is why we all know a great story when we get one - but have no idea on how to write one that is any good.
Knowledge of our 64 helping themes are VITAL TO SUCCESS.
January 17, 2020 at 1:04PM
good luck my bro
March 11, 2020 at 12:34AM