A few quick tips you can use today to immediately improve your screenwriting:
1. Always write in present tense: “the dog barks, the car crashes, the boy screams.”
2. Write in the active voice, never passive. Active: “Bob runs.” Passive: “Bob is running.”
3. Don’t summarize. “Joe looks all over the house for his sister.” That’s bad. What does that look like? Does the audience just sit there and watch this kid actually look all over the house? Write the specifics. “Joe yanks the bedspread up, peaks under the bed. The light flicks on in the laundry room. Joe looks around, then flicks the light off.” Write the actions the way we’d see them unfold on the screen.
4. Write visually (related to the last tip). Make the readers picture it in their heads. Never write something that can’t be filmed. You can’t write “Greg grew up in a bad neighborhood, but studied hard and went to a good college.” How the heck do you film that?
5. Try writing in shots. Each time you imagine the camera changing to a new shot, start a new paragraph. And always keep your paragraphs short. For example:
Mark works frantically to open the lock on the door.
Sarah keeps watch at the corner. She nervously glances from the hallway back to Mark.
Mark’s sweaty hands slip from the rusty lock.
And so on…
6. Fight scenes: You’ve got to strike a balance. Writing a punch-by-punch description for a long fight scene gets old really quick. The alternative is to summarize the nature of the fight, and only give details for the important moments. (I know I said don’t summarize, but fight coreography is going to be handled by the director anyway. This is an exception to the rule). Here’s an example:
“Chase and Ogre engage in a scrappy fistfight, with Ogre’s size and strength giving him a greater advantage than Chase’s speed. Chase wheezes and gasps as he struggles for the upper hand. Finally, bruised and choking, Chase wriggles free and grabs a rock by the side of the road. Ogre closes in to finish the job, and Chase spins around, slams the rock into the side of Ogre’s face.”
A punch-by-punch description, while staying true to the rule of describing the action as we’d see it, can get lengthy and annoying. Here’s an example:
“Chase throws a punch, which Ogre easily grabs. Ogre retaliates with a quick jab and a heavy right punch that knocks Chase into the wall. Chase shakes out the cobwebs, charges at the Ogre again, this time swinging at his massive jaw. Ogre takes the hits like a statue, hardly moving as Chase swings away…”
As exciting as this type of writing may be, it really gets annoying for longer fight scenes. That’s a third of a page to describe 10 seconds of punching.
More tips to come. Stay tuned to movieclassroom.com