It’s always good to have a reference; a listicle of things to remember when you dive in to your writing. Here’s my Ten Top Tips on how to write better scripts.
WRITE FROM THE HEART
To create a ‘page turner’ a script people want to read more of, emotional investment is key. A piece of creative writing, if it doesn’t have a heart, if you don’t invest in it emotionally as a writer, will not resonate or connect with the reader. Don’t be afraid to put your feelings into your writing – we are in the business of exploring the human condition – so don’t be afraid to show you are human.
BELIEVE IN YOUR CHARACTERS
There is nothing worse than a script populated by characters that are mere cyphers for the storyline. Keep your characters real, rooted and relevant. Believe in them as you do in the people that move in and out of your daily life and this will come across on the page. The characters are the life-blood of your story and if you find them true and engaging, so will your public.
VISUALISE THE WORLD YOU CREATE AND THE PEOPLE IN IT
Be visual in your work. Use your imagination like an artist does and paint the world for those who will share in it. As you create your characters, develop your scenes and push your story along, ‘see’ each moment and use imagery and description where appropriate. Never leave a character without a purpose – visualise their world and move them around within it and you will take your audience with you.
READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD – LISTEN TO YOUR DIALOGUE
Learn to love the sound of your own voice! In an exchange between characters, always read your dialogue aloud – you will hear immediately the natural rhythm of the scene – free yourself from the page and give your words some air – you will hear immediately whether they ring true to your ear or not. And remember – less is most definitely more when it comes to natural speech.
SHARE THE WORLD YOU CREATE WITH YOUR AUDIENCE
Writing at its simplest is about communication with the world around you. Don’t forget when you are writing, that your work is meant to be seen, heard, experienced and shared. Keep your characters and themes accessible – do not sacrifice clarity of image, or language or characterisation in the name of artistry – you will lose your audience. Be clear about what you want to say in your script and pay attention to your writer voice at all times – remember you are talking to another person via your script and you want to bring them with you from the beginning to the end.
KEEP IN YOUR MIND THE WHOLE STORY AS YOU WRITE IT
A story can come to you in bits and pieces or in a whole, unstructured chunk, but when you are writing the script, try to keep the whole thing alive in your head at the same time as you write each scene, each fragment. If you have a general feel for the whole piece, it makes for more inventive storytelling. You know what to miss out and what to highlight in order to keep your audience hooked. Having the world in its entirety in your head whilst writing, you can make necessary edits as you go along, keeping the script steady on the main meat of your story; not being distracted off into tangents and avoiding flabby writing.
KEEP YOUR WRITING ENTERTAINING
No matter what the themes are in your work, dark or otherwise, it is very important to remember that your script should always engage your readers and the resulting drama then, will hopefully entertain and enthral your viewers. To create a balance between light and dark in your work and to fluctuate the dramatic rhythms within it is vital to keep the whole thing lively and immediate. Don’t forget the power of humour, keep the story moving, keep the plot twisting and don’t allow any scene to stagnate.
PACE YOUR STORY – KEEP THE RHYTHM MOVING
Every script has its own natural pace. As you are writing, it is important to keep re-reading your connecting scenes and pay attention to the flow of your storytelling. Each scene was informed by the preceding one and influences the next. Reading your script, or watching the resulting drama, the pace and rhythm of the story is set by the balance between lighter scenes and those with more dramatic weight. If this process feels natural, you have the correct balance of rhythm and energy running through your script.
Explore different ways of expressing yourself within the narrative of your script. Test your use of language and description – the more you stretch yourself as a visual, imaginative writer, the stronger your confidence will grow. The way you describe a character, the colour of their language, the shapes and colours in a scene all serve to engage your audience and embellish your work. Have fun – this will come across in your writing and the script will benefit.
WHAT’S THE STORY? SUMMARISE YOUR THEMES
This is a rule of thumb useful when developing an idea into a fully fledged script. If you can summarise your themes, describe and précis your story in a few short paragraphs, then you won’t lose your way when expanding what may be a simple idea, into a finished piece of drama. If you have trouble describing what your script will be about to yourself or others, you probably need to focus more carefully on the central thrust of what you what to explore. Dig the story out by airing it aloud, identify the themes and get writing!