Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Screenwriting:Revision Tips

After working so hard on your masterpiece script, if you read it right away, you will least likely see anything wrong with it. I advise a writer to set his or her script aside for four weeks and not look at it. Let it clear out of your mind. After the last day of the fourth week, start reading the script to make revisions. By then your mind will be clean and fresh, ready view the story more critically. As you read, ask yourself the following questions about the story and answer them.

1. Does the book start with an inciting incident that will force your MC to act, and challenge your MC to grow? 

2. Is there is enough emotion, tension, suspense, etc.? Or too much? 

3. Is something too obvious? Does something come too easy because you need it to advance the plot?

4. What can you do to make each scene stronger? 

5. How can you weed out your cliched sentences and/or ideas? 

6. Is there a motivation for each event? What about a purpose? 

7. Are you keeping your MC from attaining a goal? This is a must until the ending. 

8. Will your reader wonder about or hope for something pertaining to your MC as they progress through the story? 

These questions can help a writer look at his or her story in a more critical way and make improvements that will strengthen the plot.

If your paragraphs are over three sentences, consider breaking them up into smaller, more digestible chunks. White spaces do not only keep the pages looking clean, they just make the whole thing easier on the eyes. 

Huge slabs of words look unappetizing and ultimately turn us off. You want to establish a free and loose rhythm with short paragraphs so the reader's eyes will move quickly down the page, devouring words. There's a psychology at work here. Screenplays are works of action; they must move nimbly. 

If your script resembles a 19th century Russian novel, then the reader will feel like he has to slog his way through it, no matter what the content. Making your script appealing to read is not merely cosmetic, it is crucial. 

Consider this:


JADE, a conservative, no-nonsense gal who graduated Yale third in her class, stands on the street corner and hails a cab. 

Did we witness her being conservative and no-nonsense in any way? Did anyone mention where she went to school and how well she did? If not, then how can we possibly know this?

These attributes can easily be revealed by some illuminating actions or dialogue. But unless we can actually see it on screen, we can't know it. Remember the limitations of the camera lens.

There is nothing more distracting and frustrating than trying to become absorbed in the flow of narration and having it constantly interrupted by speed bumps like CLOSE ON, PULL BACK, DOLLY UP, PAN DOWN and a truckload of other needless directions. Reading camera shot after camera shot in the narration is not just supremely annoying, it wrecks the rhythm.

Remember, your script is a reading script, not a shooting script. It should flow like a story with dialogue and narration. Never mind the technical angles and calling every single shot, as those will be determined by the director anyway. Just captivate us with a good story and let us visualize it in our heads.

Writers will sometimes use the first person in their narrative, and I find this truly unnecessary. After all, what do you really gain by writing 'We see a rat rustling in the alley' instead of 'A rat rustles in the alley?' Either way, 'we' see it, right?

Beginning sentences with needless instructions like we see, we hear, we follow, we notice, we move, etc will eventually wear on the reader's nerves. Just let it all unfold.

If there is a more profound monument to redundancy, I don't want to know what it is. If you think whoever's reading your script doesn't have the intelligence, savvy and the general kindergarten smarts to keep turning the pages, then by all means, put CONTINUED prompts at the top and bottom of your pages. 

But most of us manage to read an entire script without the instructions, thanks. It's like labeling your coffee mug with an arrow and THIS END UP.

This also goes for CUT TO: after every scene. When we see the next scene slug, then we know the next scene begins. Remember, what you're after is a clean look, so why clutter up the pages with needless directions like this?

Go forward and win!

If you need help with formatting your script, try my editing service for screenplays.

Editing: $45.00 Flat Fee

  •  Evaluating formatting to industry standards
  •  Spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, etc.

Critique: $50.00 Flat Fee
 Includes evaluating the basis elements of a script

  •  Introduction
  •  Development
  •  Climax
  •  Conclusion
  • Character development 
  •  Mid point development

Critiques also provide suggestions for improvements and enhancement. 

Payments are made by Paypal or cashier check by mail.

Feel free to contact me at ahicks4298@q.com or call at (360) 696-4298. address or ask for Frances.

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