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5 reasons to learn the basics of screenwriting

A old movie projector

While I have no ambition to become a screenwriter, I’m fascinated with movie and TV scripts. Screenwriting is, to me anyway, an interesting form of writing. I’ve read a number of scripts over the years and have marveled at the skill and craft involved in writing a script.

Scripts aren’t (contrary to what some people have said) difficult to read. But they can be difficult to write. But whether you’re an aspiring screenwriter or not, it’s definitely a good idea to learn at the least the basics of that form.

Why? Here are five reasons.

It’s something new

It doesn’t hurt for a writer to try something new. If done properly, trying something new can expand your horizons and change the way you look at writing and think about your writing.

Not only that, screenwriting makes you think in a slightly different way. More on this in a few moments.

Pacing

No matter what you’re writing, whether it’s fiction or non fiction, pacing is very important. You don’t want a piece to move too quickly or too slowly. Your writing shouldn’t feel rushed, and it shouldn’t feel drawn out either.

A key aspect of a good script is its pacing. Events and action need to flow, but the writer needs to regulate that flow so it seems natural. Or, at least, as natural as possible.

Structure

A script that wanders all over the place isn’t worth filming. No one wants to watch a rambling movie or episode of a television series. The same thing applies to fiction and non fiction.

A script needs to be tight. It needs to follow a structure. Certain things need to happen at certain times, and scenes need to change at logical points.

That structure also applies to the format of the script. You need to not only format dialogue and action properly, but also properly place and format things like dramatic elements, sound effects, transitions, and the like.

Dialogue

In a good screenplay, dialogue flows and sounds natural. It seems real. What two or more people would say to each other. It’s that kind of flow and cadence that can make dialogue in a short story or novel work, too.

The same applies to non fiction. You might be interviewing someone, and the way in which you place and structure quotes can really help increase the drama or tension (or lighten it) in what you’re writing.

Thinking visually

Scripts are generally translated into a visual medium. When writing a script, you try to see the scene — where physical elements in a shot are, how players are positioned, even things like lighting.

Imagine carrying that sort of visual detail over to a short story or an article. That kind of detail makes your writing more vibrant, and gives it a certain air of reality. When you think and write visually, people should see the scene. Maybe not quite as you do, but they should get a feel for what you’re trying to get across.

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