5 Essential Screenwriting Lessons You Can Learn From 'Fleabag' Season 2
The Fleabag scripts are full of lessons and inspiration, especially the script for the Season 2 premiere.
Writing a historically amazing first season was pressure enough, but Phoebe Waller-Bridge delivered when Fleabag came back for more.
Fleabag came into our lives and nothing was the same after. Certainly not priests. Now, we get the chance to look back, talk about the first episode of that Emmy-winning second season, and reflect on the lessons we can apply to our own writing.
5 Lessons from the Fleabag S2E1 Script
1. Start late
One of the many things to admire about this script -- and the series in general -- is how late we get into scenes. People are already sitting at the table, already having conversations, and already in the bathroom. This approach infuses every scene with kinetic energy.
The audience has to play a bit of catch up, and that keeps us emotionally and mentally involved in the task at hand. When you sit to write your own scenes, don't worry about how people get into the scene. Worry about what happens in them.
Try starting in the middle of the story and see what that gives you.
2. Don't over-describe
Another crucial thing to keep in mind is that the script is a blueprint for the screen. you want to get the story across, but you don't need 10,000 words to do it. Check out this page and let's talk after.
What happens in this scene?
Well, Dad exits. Sure, in a set-piece you may need to describe more. But in a lot of writers' scripts, I see people describing so much on the page that I forget what that scene is actually about.
While we know the exceptions to the rule, I really want to focus on the white space here. It gives elbow room for the actors and director to insert reactions on the set. And it lets you imagine more on the page, thus building your investment in the story. It also lets the pages turn faster because each scene isn't bogged down by anything extra.
3. Be organized
When writing a script, there are a lot of details you need to keep track of -- like time of day, scene locations, themes, and who's in each part of the story. In this episode -- which cuts back and forth between past, present, and future -- we get clear sluglines that mark everything.
Days are given titles A-Z, past and present have their own designations, and each cut for the story is clearly marked. In your own writing, organization is key. Most of us are going out with spec scripts and we don't want to lose the reader in the first pages because they can't figure out what's happening when.
So clearly designate what happens when. Especially if you plan on cutting back and forth.
Or breaking the fourth wall.
4. Give memorable character introductions
Since Fleabag always works on starting late, it makes its character introductions memorable and valuable. That doesn't just mean walking into a scene. With this scene, the (hot) Priest gets his own hero shot and reveal while already at the table.
When you think about your own writing, think about how you can let people enter a scene with memorable consequences. For Fleabag, it's in the middle of her father admitting he's thinking about his own mortality.
And who represents the afterlife? The priest who will become Fleabag's obsession (and ours, too).
5. Leave em' wanting more.
Obviously, Season One of Fleabag left us wanting more. but consider the ending of your pilot in the binge-able age. The second (and last) season leaves us knowing where the story is going. Fleabag lusting after a priest!
It makes the show so binge-able because we want to keep watching what happens.
Can you end your episode on a hook? A cliffhanger? Is there a way you can make people ready to consume what comes next?
What's next? Writing Lessons from Phoebe Waller-Bridge!
Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a force of nature. She can write, act, and produce better than most people on this planet. So what lessons can we learn from her?