Tips on Writing a Good Script

Whether you are writing a script for movies, stage, or television, there are things that can improve your writing.

Writing a Script for a Movie

Have you ever gone to a movie that had famous actors and a great director, but the movie was not good? Many believe the magic is in the script. If the characters aren’t developed well, if the story lags or doesn’t keep your interest, then million dollar stars can’t make it work.

Following are some points to ponder when preparing to write a script.

  • You need to watch movies, especially the classics. They are called classics for a reason, and they will thrill and inspire.
  • Keep the main plot simple. If there is too much going on, the general population won’t get it. Think accessibility, not complexity.
  • Have a strong start; to capture and hold the audience’s attention.
  • The structure is usually beginning, middle, and end, but that doesn’t mean they have to be revealed in that order. Flash backs and flash forwards can help to keep the audience engaged.
  • Make sure you have an overall goal or point to your story. There needs to be a reason for telling the story.
  • A movie should last at least 90 minutes. As a rule of thumb, a page of script equals one minute on the screen. It has to be very good to be longer. The reason for this is that if it is over 100 minutes, the theatres lose one showing of it every day.
  • Use must have a protagonist, a main character. It can be one or more people, a thing, or a place. He does not always have to be extremely likeable, but he does have to be interesting. In fact, character flaws can add a touch more reality and make audiences empathize.
  • A workable premise is important. Even if the whole idea is unbelievable, there are parts of the movie that will be logical and believable. With all the talking cars and toys of late, you can see this point. Toys don’t talk or move by themselves, but in these movies they behaved in a human way, which made the audience accept them and the premise.
  • Be true to yourself and don’t just mimic others. If you do something that has never been done, then that could really make your screenplay stand out.

Like so many other things, you need a talent for screenwriting and also lots of practice. Any aptitude will need refining and skills need to be strengthened. Keep at it and you may surprise yourself.

Writing a Script for a Play

Many of the same premises of writing a movie also exist when writing a play. The three big differences are:

  • A play is about desire, and we see the characters sometimes fail and sometimes succeed.
  • In a play, the story has to be visual as well as auditory. A lot can be said from the action on stage.
  • The relationships between characters are critical to a play’s success. There are no car chases and special effects, so the people are what it is all about. If you, as the writer, care about the characters, then the audience will also care. Only have as many characters as you really need.

Remember that you are writing for a small stage, not a big screen. That is another reason why the development of the characters is so important. Also, do not have a lot of scene changes or jump around in time too much. Many great plays had only a few rooms on stage. If there are too many scenes and gaps in time, you may lose the attention of the audience.

Writing a Script for Television

In addition to the tips on writing a good script mentioned earlier, here are some tips on writing a television show.

  • Watch a lot of different shows, especially award winning shows. Pay attention to your reactions, what you liked and didn’t like, and what happened right before a commercial. Get a script online and follow along, noticing how the script translates to the screen.
  • When you decide what kind of show you want to write, research it. If you want to write shows about the police, then study police procedures. Watch shows in the same genre and figure out a way for yours to be different.
  • Outline the plot. Then outline the story and write down the basic action. Next, figure out where the commercial breaks will be and make sure you leave the audience wanting to keep watching.
  • Develop your characters as this is crucial to a good show. You will need main characters that are there most of the time and supporting characters that show up occasionally. Develop backgrounds for each character and keep track of mannerisms and catch phrases for each.
  • Write on a schedule. Most writers will write most days. If you get writer’s block, then go to another scene and come back to it later.

You need to revise, revise, and revise. This is key to improving your show. Rewrite and proofread, making sure every word counts. You may want to join a writer’s group that proofreads and critiques each others’ work.

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