Over the last few weeks at uni I’ve been studying script writing, with particular focus on screenplays. It’s a lot of fun, and very different from novel writing. Yet at the same time, there’s a lot of skills that can be applied and strengthen your novel writing ability. I’ve discussed before how writing short stories and poetry can help too, if you’re interested!
Show, don’t tell
We all now how vital it is to show not tell. Your readers don’t want to be spoon fed dull info. They want to see it in their mind, to imagine it. In screen writing, you don’t have the luxury of portraying a character’s inner thoughts (unless you’re using voice overs, and these need to be appropriate for the nature of your show), you can’t describe what people feel or how they behave. It all has to be done visually. Being forced to think this way can transfer into novel writing, to ensure you focus on body language, the way people talk, their choice of words, and the way they move to show the reader what’s going on.
Setting the scene
When writing screenplays you have to note the camera shots needed to set the scene and transition. This forces you to imagine the scene clearly, and choose what needs to be focused on and what’s relevant. You can use this in novel writing to describe your settings, without going overboard on irrelevant details and while ensuring you focus on things that really matter.
Whether writing for television or cinema, characters are what make a story. And it is all about balance. You don’t want too many, leaving people confused and struggling to keep up with multiple storylines. But you don’t want too few either, leaving it sparse of interactions and people to root for. You have to consider the way characters interact and the tensions between them, the conflict. This is all directly appropriate when novel writing too.
On the screen, it’s vital each scene provides enough intrigue and tension to drive the story forward and keep the viewers watching. This means using mystery, the reveal of secrets, drama and actions to add to the experience. It means ending each scene in a way that leaves viewers wanting more. The same goes for writing. If you write a scene just for ‘filler’, leaving no progression of the story and no lasting impact, your readers may give up and not read on.
Have you written scripts before? What are your thoughts on the process? Drop thoughts in the comments below.