You might think that writing a screenplay is easier than writing straight-up fiction or nonfiction. After all, you only have to worry about the dialogue, right?
Writing a screenplay has its own set of challenges: pacing, length constraints, using dialogue and silence to bring a character to life, thinking extremely visually, and so on. Here are a few tips for screenplay writing:
- Each page equals roughly one minute of screen time.
- A feature-length movie should have three acts: roughly 20 minutes, 60 minutes, 20 minutes. (There is debate as to whether this structure should always be applied, but if you are new at screenplays, definitely go this route.)
- Important plot points should happen at the end of the first and second acts.
- Formatting is critical, from font to margins to indents. Each formatting decision affects how the script is read and how long each page takes on screen, which is why there is a standard. Read books on formatting, and use screenplay software or styles in Word to keep it consistent. For instance, most people assume all character names are centered. Not so! They should be indented 2 inches with 1.5 inch margins.
- Rather than relying solely on dialogue, also include gestures, facial expressions, and silence. Pay attention to the conversations of strangers when you’re out having coffee so that you can use the mannerisms.
- Be sure to describe each character and each setting. Details like this are what bring the world you’re creating to life.
Writing screenplays is tough but fun. Give it a try, and tell us how it goes!