* We are in the business of visual story telling. We are not writing prose. We are not writing descriptive passages.
* We do not need to write blocky chunks of dialogue.
* We are slick, lean, script writers and we only put on the page exactly what we want our audience to see and hear. No more. No less.
*Imagery is powerful. A well chosen image or action on screen speaks volumes; so make sure you use imagery to maximum effect in your script.
* Proper use of subtext will eradicate any need to over-explain or repeat.
* Subtext melts script fat.
Bring depth and layering to your scenes by referring back to this question as you write; ‘What/who is motivating my character here. And here. And now, here.’
Each drama beat along the storyline of a character will be another motivational pivot point.
Audiences understand subtext. It is an inherent ability we all have so don’t feel you have to repeat plot points, snippets of information, have a character tell us how they are feeling, allow anyone in your drama to speak the plot.
Avoid Exposition. It is a curse.
Trust in your ability to balance what we see happening on screen, with what we inherently understand is happening because of the subtext that lays beneath every scene you write.
Now; Back To The Five:
1. OVER-EXPLANATORY SCENE SETTINGS.
Television; it’s a Scene Setting. In Film; a Slug line.
Only the most essential information is necessary. A reader does not need full blown detail. Who is in the scene, what they are doing and where is sufficient.
Now, having written the scene. Go back and take out what they are doing. Unless it is absolutely vital to the plot. Eg: Rigs up a Saline Drip. Or unless it shows a character point. Eg: snaps a pencil whilst talking.
2. TOO MUCH USE OF PARENTHISIS.
Well constructed dialogue has a natural flow to it. It is therefore not necessary to write; (beat) after a line of dialogue from one character to another. It may be necessary to write in a pause like this if you want to orchestrate a stumble in the conversation flow, but these should only be used sparingly.
A Director worth their salt will understand how a character will be reacting at any one time in a scene. So it is not necessary to write (snaps) or (bitterly) or (wry).
Trust in your ability to control the tone and mood of your dialogue by the rhythm you convey at the out set.
3. OVER USE (OR ANY USE) OF THE EXCLAMATION MARK.
That !!!!! shiny bright punctuation mark. The fewer of these I read in scripts the better.
Scenes, one liners, observations, caustic remarks, are not made more funny, caustic or one-linerish by the use of this grammatical stab at the end of a line of dialogue.
A case of less is more most definitely.
4. NO CLEAR BEGINNING OR END OF SCENES.
There should be a definite ‘in’ and a similarly determined ‘out’ to every scene you write.
Hit the ground running every time.
Make sure you are in control of what or who it is we see or hear at the open of your scene.
A scene is a distilled moment in the time line of your story. The opening image, or line, gets the narrative ball rolling in second 1 of a scene that can be 10 seconds, to many minutes long. Each minute counts.
The final second of the final minute is as important as the first second of the first.
Make each second count.
5. POOR SCENE CONNECTION.
If your story structure is sound, your scenes will have a natural flow to them.
Each scene has a relationship to the one before and after it.
Even if there is a non-linear pattern to your scene structure (eg: your narrative jumps between entirely different places, or cuts back and forth between different time lines) the scene pattern; that which goes before and aft, will still hold the narrative intact.
Each scene should have an impact on the one it shoulders. Either by means of contrast, or direct continuity of storyline.
Making a definite and informed decision about the structure of your scenes; (which scene goes where and why) is an essential skill to master if you want your storyline to be clear and engaging.
Plan your scene structure in an Outline before you commit to the Script.
Make your scene structure water-tight by mastering the art of juxtaposition. It helps to visualise your scenes in your head; imagine how they will look cut together.
If you need help – contact me