As an aspiring screenwriter, you’ll likely encounter an overwhelming sensation. This feeling of being enclosed in a room full of your thoughts but without a clear understanding of how to convey them is only relieved by effectively telling your story. As a professional screenwriter, I’ve seen countless writers become so lost in their own creativity that nothing tangible is produced. Perhaps one of the most effective ways to overcome this scenario is to review your screenplay as nothing more than a log cabin. What makes a log cabin so sturdy? The wood used and how it’s put together. As a screenwriter, you must remember the most important building block for every scene: there must be a defined emotion or mood that all characters adhere to. While this may seem small, it works wonders to streamline and clarify your creative process.
Writing according to a defined emotion or mood allows you to form dialogue and your narrative descriptions accurately according to where the story is going.
Define the Mood
Obviously, before moving forward with this screenwriting technique you must first learn how to define the overall mood or emotion of the scene. Of course, there are exclusions for every screenwriting rule; however, to define an emotion you must understand three things about the forthcoming scene:
Character Relationships – Who is involved in the scene and what is their relationship? What is the history between these characters? How do they feel about each other?
Purpose of the Scene – What is the overall purpose or objective of the scene? How does the primary character achieve this objective? Do the objectives affect the relationship between characters?
Desired Mode of Storytelling – Is your story light and airy or dark and brooding? While each scene will have its own atmosphere, it’s important to write according to the primary emotion of the film. Imagine a slapstick comedy interaction within the dark film “Donny Darko.” It wouldn’t work.
Once you’ve answered these questions you can then define the mood/emotion within your scene. Take time during this initial phase to truly identify an appropriate mood. Once clarified, you’ll find the writing process to be somewhat easier. Customize Writing for Baseline Emotions
Customize Writing According to Baseline Emotions
Now that you’ve identified the overall mood or emotion within a particular scene, you must now customize dialogue and narrative descriptions to match this mood. While this is a highly individualized practice, keep in mind three very important rules:
Honor Character Boundaries – You’ve already established your character’s primary personality. While personality quirks can and will vary according to current emotional states, the baseline personality of a character should never waver.
Don’t Exaggerate Desired Emotions – Use your ability to write lean, clever dialogue and descriptive narratives to highlight the defined emotion. Never use easy methods of simply saying the character is sad or happy or morose. Allow the audience to do some guesswork while highlighting emotions in non-stereotypical manners.