As a young writer, my screenwriting mentor provided me with numerous tidbits of knowledge. While many of these are lost in the fog of adulthood, one remains clear: do not overwrite what can be simply said. Many young writers feel that they must prove their worth by writing long, drawn-out monologues. Although monologues have a place in films and TV scripts, more often than not, there is an easier way to say what you wish to say.
Overwriting is often caused by a need to further explain the emotional landscape of a character; however, doing so often dilutes the intention and purpose of a scene. Keep your story lean and interesting by only saying as much as necessary to get your point across.
One Word Is Better Than One-Hundred
Sometimes the most powerful scenes are those where a character answers not with a giant monologue, but rather with a one word answer. The beauty in screenwriting is your ability to provide information and answers through more elements than words. Perhaps a character simply answers “yes,” but what he is saying with those three letters could fill an entire film. You must learn to work with subtext and other storytelling methods to truly engage audience members.
While writing a screenplay, keep your responses between characters as short as possible. These quick answers are essential to highlight other elements of your story. If you were to bog down a scene with lengthy dialogue interactions, the true intentions of characters and their true struggle would also be bogged down.
Words are your friends; however, you must learn that more does not always equal a greater story. Moreover, don’t use more words than necessary. Oftentimes you’ll find that keeping dialogue length to a minimum enhances the true emotional landscape of a character and a scene.
Tell Your Story Through Feelings, Not Words
This is one of the strangest topics in the realm of screenwriting as it suggests using character feelings and non-spoken interactions as the main way of telling your story. While this may seem strange to some, moving a script forward through actions and movements is far more powerful than any monologue. Even when dealing with multiple characters in a single scene, you’ll accomplish more in terms of revealing true intentions and feelings if you choose silent exchanges over wordy conversations.