July 5, 2012
When you’re trying to get better at anything in life, it’s important to be able to identify your faults… And then overcome them.
Earlier, I wrote about the language of my screenplay. I wanted to improve my choice of words and better describe the story I’m trying to tell.
That’s a crucial component to get right. It goes without saying that everyone who sets out to write a screenplay knows that but you still have to challenge yourself to be better.
While I was pondering grammatical precision, I was also thinking about the little details. These are the elements that really bring a screenplay to life. There are tons of ways to instill the elusive sense of uniqueness that aspiring screenwriters strive to achieve.
Characters benefit the most from the little details. What makes your characters unique? What about their personality makes them different? What do they like? Can you tie any of these in with their story?
I tend to over-describe locations with details that don’t really matter. I always go back and scale things back but I like to start by really getting to know my surroundings. You never know when these details will come in handy. But it’s also important to get rid of the information that production designers will most likely disregard. Who cares if there is a table in the far right corner of the room. That’s not interesting if it isn’t part of the story. But if it happens to be the only antique item in the room it might tell us something about the owner.
There is a great Dane in my latest screenplay that obviously needs space. There is a big difference between a great Dane and a little shih tzu and it could affect the furniture in the home. Are the chair legs chewed up? What kind of toys are laying around?
I’m getting better at determining which details need to be included and which ones aren’t. I’m also getting better at knowing which details are implied.
INT. ITALIAN RESTAURANT doesn’t need to be followed up with a full description of the place unless it matters. You can accomplish a lot in a SLUG. It’s actually a pretty fun exercise and makes things a lot more interesting than simply INT. RESTAURANT and then describe the Italian theme.
I went back and read my first feature length script and instantly caught a number of errors describing the little details. It slowed the pace way down with useless facts the reader simply didn’t need to know. On the flip side, I’m proud of the pace I’ve set in my new screenplay. It’s a quick read thus far but I’m still not satisfied.
How can I bring this world to life? Where am I missing golden opportunities to include the all important little details?
Every word counts.
Creating the little details is probably my favorite aspect of screenwriting. I love going through my work and asking key questions. What makes this scene entertaining? Will people care about this character? Do I?
That last question is a big one. The screenplay I wrote over the summer was truly important because I cared about each and every character I created. Right down to the little details that made them all unique. It’s important because if I don’t care, how can I expect readers to care?
I feel like these last few posts are just pointing out obvious stuff that amateur screenwriters should know. But it’s different when you actually apply these lessons. I think July 5th represented a huge leap forward for me. I became a better writer that day.