When it’s boiled down to it, screenwriting is about revealing information. You’re revealing a person or persons and their intimate life. You’re revealing the nature of relationships and human emotions. You’re revealing yourself within the words of others. With all this revelation and de-mystification it’s imperative screenwriters remain mindful about how much information is given away through dialogue and narrative descriptions. Although you must reveal enough information throughout the course of the story for the entire production to make sense, it’s the quantity and frequency vital information is revealed that truly determines the success and marketability of a screenplay.
Monitoring the release of information is a requirement throughout the entire writing process. Strive to release enough to progress the story while maintaining mystery and intrigue.
Trickling Water Leads to Raging Rivers
I’ve spent many years roaming and living in the mountains of Middle Tennessee and Northern Georgia. Throughout this time communing with nature and observing the natural world, I’ve noticed that many times a small trickle of water at the top of the mountain collects and merges into a raging river. It’s baffling how something so quiet, so small can join forces and become something so violent, unpredictable and mystical.
Now, in the scope of this screenwriting technique imagine the small trickle of water is the information released through dialogue and narrative descriptions (or action sequences). As the story progresses, we follow the stream down the side of the mountain; winding and weaving through trees, stones and other obstacles. Finally, at the end of the story all small streams of information delivered at the top of the mountain have joined together to reveal a raging river, storming its way through the valley below.
Deliver Enough To Move the Story Forward
The most important rule I can give to any aspiring or working screenwriter is strive to provide as little information necessary to keep the emotional peaks and pace that’s needed. Obviously, the amount of information delivered is going to vary from script-to-script as well as from writing style to writing style. Nonetheless, the foundational truth behind this screenwriting technique remains valid for all genres and writing styles.