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General Tips for Screenwriting


The idea of making the script as easy to read as possible is at the heart of nearly every script writing rule. Because if you get that far, agents, managers, assistants, and executives—people who despise reading and are bad at it—will read your script. Having said that, a few things to keep in mind are as follows:

• Because film and television are primarily visual mediums, action will be more effective than dialogue at conveying your message to the audience. And in a tiny amount of time. The sayings “show, don’t tell” and “an image merits a
thousand words” are the two things to remember.

• In a comedy, every action and line of dialogue should either advance the plot or reveal something about the character. Ideally, one or more of the three. The priority is always to advance the story.

• Multicamera scenes tend to be longer and longer, so this does not apply to them. However, you should limit the number of scenes to no more than three pages. You should aim for a scene that is roughly two pages long. You shouldn’t be too strict with this rule because you might need to go five pages or more at times, especially in a big, important scene. It could be even longer.
To keep your script moving, just use this as a general rule.

• Write in pictures. Write only what the audience can see in the scene, not what the character is thinking. There are slight exemptions. For instance, if you wrote in the scene directions that “Helen has a secret she’s not telling Ted,” that would be fine because the actor could play that moment.

• Write one beat at a time and one moment at a time. A single sentence cannot convey the action of a minute. Although it would be great if you could write every blow in an action scene, the purpose of a screenplay is to serve as a blueprint for everything that takes place on screen. Don’t sum up.

• You shouldn’t also talk too much about the set or the actor’s physical characteristics unless they are absolutely necessary to the plot. The actor will inevitably not look like you describe them, and it is the job of the set designer to decorate a set. It will be just as effective to write, “the apartment looks like a bomb went off in it,” as it will be to meticulously describe each aspect. Describe a character’s red hair if it is essential to the plot. Otherwise, just give us an idea of what we need to know in general.

• Additionally, dialogue ought to be fairly brief in general. Five lines should be the maximum length of a monologue. If a character needs to talk for a long time, break it up with action to keep the story moving forward.

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