Switch It Up: Transitioning from prose to screenwriting

Brevity

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but screenwriters do not need to fully and elaborately describe clothing, hairstyles, furniture, jewelry, cars, houses, cuckoo clocks, the way the sunset glimmers on the surface of an infinity pool, architecture, handbags, or any other physical element of the story.

Photo by Julia Joppien on Unsplash

Active voice

It actually surprises me that this comes up as much as it does for this group of writers. Almost universally advised against, the passive voice (which includes all use of the verb “to be” and its many variants) doesn’t add significant value to most types of writing, especially when used liberally. Whereas the active voice lends dynamism and movement to your writing, the passive voice paints a static picture — like artwork hanging in a gallery, or a thing to be studied rather than lived.

“Show, don’t tell”

When I don’t have to include these three words in a script’s feedback, it usually means I’ve had the pleasure of reading something impressive and, most importantly, persuasive. Believe it or not, persuasion isn’t just for argumentative essays and debate speeches. If your story isn’t convincing, readers will question everything about it. Once believability (note: this is not the same as realism!) goes out the window, you can pretty much count on your script receiving a ‘pass’ and a trip to the trash can.

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