An excerpt from my script review for Antebellum which will be available 10/05/20:
4.) Dialogue and Description
We’ve said it before on here that screenwriting “rules” are more like “guidelines”.
Sometimes you can break these rules, sometimes it’s a good idea not to.
For instance, initially my reviews dissuaded writers from using “unfilmables” (writing what a character is thinking/feeling in the description since you can’t show that).
However sometimes using an unfilmable can encapsulate an entire block of description in a single line of description when done properly.
Eli screams, using his full lung capacity, veins protruding from
under his neck collar ––– he begins punching and kicking the two
corporals who are barely able to contain him, as he tries
desperately to free himself, extending his shackled arms toward
the murdered runaway.
Using an “unfilmable”:
Eli’s body revolts as the weight of the world crash in around him, pleading to give his life for hers.
We don’t need all those other details because the shots that appear onscreen (veins protruding and such) will be the preference of the director.
(Sidenote, the writers of this were also the directors.)
And ultimately that would have been the demise of this script had it been submitted by a novice screenwriter.
Look at the entirety of page 3, it’s a wall of description with zero dialogue.
We’re not writing novels, folks. Our job as a screenwriter is to incorporate some whitespace.
And so many of these details in the description are pointless!
Only include details in your description that directly relate to advancing your plot and moving things forward!
Veronica smiles and shifts her weight toward the edge of the
bed, before getting on her feet –– she is wearing a maroon
Spelman sweatshirt and royal blue Columbia University boxers.
Do we need a play by play on how Veronica gets out of bed? What her PJs are exactly?
(Now I’d argue here that the PJs signify that Veronica is a pretty smart lady, but unfortunately for her that is completely undone when we see her and her friends interact at the convention.)
A healthy, full-bodied black woman (of
butterscotch complexion) with an impossibly infectious smile
moves through the door,
Butterscotch complexion? Are you telling us black people come in different shades?
Oh my gosh, no way?!
Eye rolling aside, this shit is hard to include because what if you can’t find an actor of that particular complexion? Is it absolutely essential to the character? Probably not.
Well…there was just a shit ton of description in the ending that I skimmed to be done.
Please…please…please DO NOT emulate the description found in this script.
Keep your images tight and concise to make your script mentally digestible for readers.
They’ll thank you in the end.
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