Because of Mama


Drafting the Short Screenplay...

Writing the Short Film

Conceiving Our Story

Determining the Structure

Discovering/Crafting Images

Writing Scenes

Tips for Writing Scenes



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Drafting the Short Screenplay: Tips for Writing Engaging Scenes

    The last of the basic principles listed above is in some ways the most challenging. And yet, there are some tips for writing that will help you to write engaging scenes. Among them:

Avoid exposition. We said it before, but it bears saying again. There is nothing more dull, or more strained, than exposition. Accordingly, you should avoid it when you can. Of course, there will be times when you will need to explain things to your audience, in order for your film to make sense. But you should do your best to find other ways of conveying the information. Try to convey it visually, or through action.

Avoid long chunks of dialogue. Many first-time screenwriters make the mistake of thinking that drama is conveyed through dialogue. Accordingly, they write long, fussy speeches for their characters. But long speeches in screenplays tend not to work. Interaction and action are inherently more dramatic than monologue - no matter how artful that monologue might be. Moreover, as you gain experience as a screenwriter you'll find that most long speeches can be cut - and often to more dramatic effect. When crafting dialogue, remember: less is more.

Avoid "calling the shots." Some very good writers have failed in Hollywood because they have been under the mistaken impression that writing screenplays means being able to call camera shots. Nothing is further from the truth. Unless it's absolutely necessary, you don't need to say, CLOSE UP or TWO SHOT. Instead:

Write in shots. Attempt to make each "chunk" of screenplay represent a different shot. No need to write "wide shot" "medium shot" - just use white space where you think a new shot would begin. If you describe the action vividly, you can anticipate the kind of coverage you'll need without shot-calling. (For illustration, see the Because of Mama screenplay. Each white space indicates subtly that we are seeing something new - in other words, a new shot.)

Avoid adverbs and adjectives. Good writing is active writing. Accordingly the best writers avoid adjectives and adverbs and rely instead on nouns and verbs. Because screenwriting is about action, an extensive "verb vocabulary" is essential when writing film.

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