After speaking on the importance and difference in settings and scenes in crafting a screenplay, I’ll speak on the importance of creating your characters through actions. A character’s actions are essential in setting the tone and pace of a script.
A plot or story cannot move forward without the use of action. Each and every action a character makes helps in obtaining the end goal – a resolution. In some cases, a series of actions can leave the resolution open-ended for the audience to draw their own conclusions. In writing my pilot script, I found myself creating a serialized resolution where a strategic move on social media by my main character carried over to the next episode in the series. This allowed me to give my series a serialized focus not many animated series tend to explore.
A friendly tip from me to you is to create a loose outline of actions will happen in a scene. And I do mean loose outline as sometimes an action might seem okay in the initial stage, but doesn’t work when it comes to plotting out your screenplay.
Actions are all about being visual and timely. With most screenplays taking place in real time, you have to remember that the present tense is your best friend. It will help you keep straight what is going on in your character’s world. Throughout writing my screenplay, I had to keep in mind I was not writing a novel but a project that is meant for the small or big screen. Along with timeliness, action carries the plot visually as your characters exist on a realistic plane (real or fictional). In writing my screenplay, I found myself using various words to illustrate an action like walking – trotting, speeding, creeping. In one scene, I had to write about two characters walking down the hallway in their own ways to show more personality.
Remember actions have their own levels within the script. Some are big and dynamic while others are nuance and subtle. This keeps the screenplay from feeling monotone and uninspiring when someone reads the final product. Throughout my screenplays, I use a character’s actions to play in the relationship and dynamic with others. My main character tends to be affectionate and warm with her best friend while she tends to become timid and nonconfrontational when noticing or interacting with her nemesis.
When creating a character’s actions, you need to think about how they speak to the character’s personality and relationships.
In reading this post, I hope you will be able to craft actions that not only influence your characters but your story as well. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.
Come back next week to read about coping and understanding the creativity stopper – writer’s block.
In continuing with the dialogue theme, I’ll be focusing this post on vernacular and purpose when it comes to creating a unique character within your real or fictional world.
While voice and personality set the foundation for a character, it’s the use of vernacular and purpose that can set one character apart from another. Using these two techniques set the blueprint for their dialogue. Like voice and personality, these two work in tangent to a build a character of their language and outlook, especially when there are multiple characters involved.
Using vernacular can influence the dialogue of character(s). Whether a Southern American, German transplant or U.K. diplomat, vernacular is something as a writer you might want to think of when trying to create a multi-cultural cast. But vernacular can be a tricky beast as you don’t want the dialogue to be stiff, forced or even worse stereotypical. Take my pilot for a spec script as an example. I took a Southern American girl and dropped her in our neighbor of the North, Canada. It features a cast of teenagers from various ethnic backgrounds so my duty as a writer is to mix some Southern terms from my main character while injecting some Canadian phrases in a natural manner. For me, I use vernacular sparingly as not to create caricatures rather than characters. That’s a little tip from me to you.
Another tip on vernacular is to make sure to examine some terminology through books and websites specializing in certain cultures and nationalities along with consulting people of those backgrounds for more authenticity.
Vernacular is important, but finding purpose in a character’s words is pivotal in displaying a character’s personality. There has to be meaning and intent when creating lines of dialogue or the words will fall flat. Every line in every scene needs to move the plot in some way, but if it doesn’t, a pen or the backspace button is your best friend. Always think about what the character’s mission is in that moment when writing dialogue.
Another trick is keeping your character’s personality and background in mind when using these techniques.
In reading this post, hopefully, you will be able to present your character(s) in a whole new light. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.
Come back next week to read about building a world for your characters through scenes and actions.
As mentioned last week, creating good dialogue is an essential element in setting the tone for your character(s). I’ll go more in-depth on the subject by focusing on the personality and voice.
Voice and personality are key in molding a character into the vision you have in your head. They inform you of what a character will or won’t say in conversation (character-to-character or inner dialogue). These two work in tangent to create an individual of distinction, especially when there are multiple characters involved.
Personality is the first concept that should come to mind when creating dialogue for the character(s). Whether a sadistic control freak, a depressed creative or a paranoid introvert, the dialogue must fit the personality. As a writer, it is your job to know your character(s) inside and outside when crafting dialogue. You don’t want a character with a sunny disposition speaking on some issue like a death in a negative manner. That language wouldn’t fit who the character is.
Along with personality, a character’s voice helps in shaping the dialogue in your script. Tone, language and phrasing can inform a character’s dialogue and their interaction with other characters (major and minor). Voice can be a tricky area if you don’t have a handle on a character’s personality. You don’t want someone whose language is peppered with clever, dry humor to have a line where bathroom humor shows up. It could come off as either not understanding your character or a jarring moment that takes the reader out of the script.
Like in last week’s post, a trick you can use in developing personalities and voices by creating character bios to help keep yourself straight when writing for multiple characters. These pieces of the puzzle can inform what the dialogue on the page.
Hopefully, this post helps you in formulating dialogue through characters’ personalities and voices. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.
Come back later this week for more on creating the dialogue for your character(s) through phrasing and vernacular.
After speaking on the benefits of table reads earlier this week, this blog will focus on peer and professional feedback when it comes to your screenplay.
Having family and friends read your work is one thing, but letting your writing peers and screenwriting professionals comb through your words is a different level of anxiety. But you shouldn’t be nervous as getting feedback from other writers can be very rewarding when it comes to tweaking your screenplay.
Writers reading other writers’ work is like iron sharpening iron as they give you a keen insight make your script better. They can tell you what works, what needs work or what doesn’t work at all. It is very helpful in terms of hearing what your words may or may not be implying from another writer’s perspective. This only leads to more fine-tuning of the best characters or scenes and trimming the word fat for a better, more polished screenplay.
As you think about pursuing peer and professional feedback, I’ll give you some places that have helped me on my screenwriting journey. Here are a few Facebook and LinkedIn pages:
Organization of Black Screenwriters
Screenwriting Blogs, Interviews, and Advice
Secrets of Screenwriting Group
Writers’ Guild of America Discussion Group
Along with group pages, there are quite a few websites that can aid you in perfecting your screenplay. Here are a few:
The Black List
Writer So Fluid
These are just a few of the resources you can use on your screenwriting journey.
By reading this post, I hope you feel a little bit better about your peers and industry professionals looking over your work. Now, you just need to find a safe place to let your words be free. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.
Come back next week as I talk about character development in a screenplay.
For any screenwriter, getting feedback on your screenplay is pivotal to creating your best work. There are many sources of feedback for screenwriters. With this post, I’ll be focusing on table reads, or read-throughs, and their importance to the editing and revising process.
After completing your first screenplay and sitting with it for a minute or two, you’ll want to get instant feedback. This is where traditional read-throughs come into play. Read-throughs are an excellent source of feedback when it comes to fine-tuning any aspect of your script. Seeing and typing words on the screen is very different from hearing your words read aloud.
The vibe of a read-through is best summed up in its definition:
an initial rehearsal of a play at which actors read their parts from scripts.
You don’t necessarily need professional actors to make your words come to life. But you will need willing participants to read your script. Family members. Friends. Classmates. Co-workers. Anybody will do when it comes to bringing your dialogue to life. You might want to let your readers look over the script to give them a chance to pick which characters they want to voice. Outside of the speaking parts, there is the issue of narration. You need someone to give your characters’ actions pizzazz as the screenplay takes shape.
With characters and narration set, there is the issue of the venue. Big or small. Well-lit or dim. Living room, kitchen table or bedroom. The place for the script reading doesn’t matter as long as everyone is comfortable and understand what the goal of the read-through is. All you really need is the right creative atmosphere to produce a fruitful reading.
Once everything is set, the hard part begins – hearing your words read aloud for others to hear. It can be scary but don’t worry because it’s all a part of the process. Having others read your words allows you to hear what dialogue doesn’t sound correct or feels off for a certain character. What directions or actions are more tell than show in the script? Is too much dialogue and not enough action, or vice versa? Is the plot moving forward or stagnant? Is the climax strong enough? These are some of the questions that might arise as you hear your words outside your mind and computer screen. That’s okay because this is another step in perfecting your screenplay. You might be in your feelings as you hear feedback from others. That just means you have a real passion for what you’re writing, but don’t let keep you from hearing good constructive criticism.
Hopefully, this post has introduced you to your new best friend – the table read. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.
Come back later this week as I speak on another source of feedback – critiques.
While this week’s first entry focused on proofreading, this second part will look at getting a clean copy when editing and revising. Make sure to have your computer screen up and a red marker ready for an exciting ride.
With proofreading out of the way, let’s get to business shall we – actually reading through your script. For any writer, proofreading is a tedious process as you scan over every phrase and word in your writing. Screenwriting can be even more intense as one word or phrase correction can change the direction of a scene or act. Proofreading a screenplay usually goes through three phases to create a decent clean copy.
Phase 1 – the computer screen
All you have to do scroll through the pages at a snail’s pace to spot what misspellings and homophones you might catch. You can agree with your spellchecker or overrule it like a dictator. The choice is yours.
Phase 2 – the printout
Reading a hard copy of my script can an eye-opening moment as you comb through every character. Action. Word. Punctation. You’ll need a red pen and time as you can every page for a minute or two so no mistake is left behind. Make sure to keep tabs on your corrections by leaving a checkmark or X on each page.
Phase 3 – from the hard copy to the screen
At this point, you’ll be looking over the script page by page as you make corrections to your file. Just remember to look over the pages carefully so not to create more errors.
Bonus Phase – streamlining
As a writer, cutting away the excess can be very helpful in fine-tuning your screenplay. Eliminating unnecessary words and phrases can create a balance between dialogue and action and reduce repetition.
By reading this post, you’ll be able to work out the bugs out and fine-tune your script just in case your big moment arrives. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.
Come back next week for more insight from The Screenwriting Forum.
Last week, the focus was on preparing for the daunting yet rewarding task of editing and revising. Getting into this somewhat scary process by proofreading is this week’s focus. So get your cursor or pens ready to begin!
Proofreading is a writer’s best weapon when it comes to creating a nice clean copy for potential prospects or running into your favorite producer or filmmaker (just kidding about that part – remember to go through the proper channels).
What pesky obstacles or offenders are you trying to spot when proofreading. Here are some common ones:
- Misspelling – these common mistakes will scream at you from the screen with their antagonizing red lines. Here’s where you search and correct them.
- Homophones – these pesky annoyances will hide amongst a descriptive action or well-written dialogue until you read through the script. They sound right but look awkward.
- Punctuations – Sometimes being in the mood as a screenwriter can lead to a question mark being placed where a period is needed. This is an easy fix with a good read through.
- Capitalization – As you write and format your screenplay, it can tricky trying to keep up with all the proper names. sounds, and directions that need proper capitalization.
Besides the typical mistakes, two majors that can cause any screenwriter to almost have a mental breakdown: omissions and improper formatting.
Omissions are any writer’s worst nightmare (especially for a screenwriter). Missing dialogue. A vanished monologue. A pivotal scene going missing. Snafus like these can be a setback, but with some patience and proper planning, you’ll be able to find your way out of this mind-numbing episode.
Formatting can be another nightmare as scene directions turn into a piece of dialogue or vice versa. Scene headings becoming transitions. Floating dialogue without its proper character to say it. All you have to do is look through, see what needs some attention and correct it in the screenwriting software of your choice.
Before we move on, here are some common homophones you may run across:
- its vs. it’s
- they’re vs. there vs. their
- to vs. too vs. two
- you’re vs. your
- affect vs. effect
- then vs. than
- led vs. lead
Hopefully, Reading this post has helped you on your journey to working the bugs out in your script. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.
Look out for part 3 of Editing and Revising later on today.