Writing for the Screen: Screenwriting Part 1

Writing a screenplay is completely different than writing a short story or a novel. Novel or story length is usually based on the number of words. Script or screenplay length, on the other hand, is based on the number of pages. One page of script is roughly one minute of film. A screenplay for a feature film should be between 90 and 130 pages long. The average is between 110 and 120 pages.

Another big difference between the two writing categories is description. Novels use pages upon pages to describe people, places, and locations. Books rely on detailed descriptions to paint a picture or scene for the reader. Action description is also very detailed in a novel. However, a screenplay uses visual effects for descriptions.

Novel or Short Story:

Joey, knowing his fate, hesitantly digs the grave one shovel at a time, while James points a pistol at him.

Script:

Joey
	digs slowly
James
	points a pistol at Joey

The camera will show Joey digging slowly and James with a gun, so the viewer will get about the same image as the reader of the novel. This is typically where you can trim a lot of fat, so to speak.

There are hundreds of books that explain in detail all of the Do’s and Don’ts regarding script writing. You may find that some of them will vary on certain technics, so a lot of the rules are more like guidelines. The best screenwriting book I have found is The Screenwriter’s Bible by Dave Trottier.

As with the books on the subject, there are also tons of script writing software to choose from. Celtx is a very good script writing software that you can download and use for free. However, there are two applications in particular that Hollywood had adapted to: Movie Magic Screenwriter and Final Draft. I have used them both and they are both excellent software packages. I happen to have more experience using Final Draft, so I would have to recommend Final Draft for ease of use.

There are two magazines that dominate the screenwriting world: Creative Screenwriting and Script. Personally, I read both. They are both filled with news, tips and articles that pertain to the screenwriting craft.

You can view my other articles at sharkness

Writing | Non-Fiction | How To


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