Tighten Your Screenplay

Posted on December 19, 2012


Tom Lazarus, screenwriter, director and playwright wants writers to rid themselves of the traditional restraints of three act structures, turning points etc. These are merely guidelines which can suck the soul out of your screenplay if you slavishly adhere to them.

The main rule that Tom preaches is RISING ACTION in each subsequent scene. This is achieved through more action, more danger, higher stakes.

If the reader isn’t engaged in the first few pages of your script, you’ve lost them. Write efficiently and effectively. Fully realize every script moment. Each scene should add momentum to the screenplay and propel it forward.

Organize your thoughts and outline before you start writing. Abandoning the traditional structural constraints does not give you the green light for screenwriting anarchy.

Write your first draft in a single pass. Aim for around 85 pages. You can edit and build during subsequent passes.

Is it an OPEN STORY? – told the point of view of multiple characters

Is it a CLOSED STORY? – told from the point of view of the main character

Is your story accessible to a defined audience? Or is it too artsy?

Not all scenes are created equally. The level of written action in each scene should reflect its importance.

Minimize capitalization. Years ago it was a way to draw attention to IMPORTANT PARTS of a scene. Today it’s a distraction. Use it for the first appearance of a character and important sounds.

Keep setups short and exposition minimal. Let the audience discover backstory when the characters do. Introduce and reinforce key information when it’s required.

Allow some freefalling magic in your screenplay or it may become too formulaic. We don’t always need to know where we in the story. Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy the ride.

Don’t add stylistic devices for the sake of it. They must add something to the screenplay rather than distract the reader. These include voiceovers, non-linear storytelling, book ending and flashbacks.