NYC Midnight : Creative Writing & Screenwriting Homepage
Forum Home Forum Home > GENERAL DISCUSSION > Screenwriting Bar & Lounge
  New Posts New Posts RSS Feed - Screenwriting Advice
  FAQ FAQ  Forum Search   Events   Register Register  Login Login

Screenwriting Advice

 Post Reply Post Reply
Author
Message
AJR View Drop Down
Newbie
Newbie
Avatar

Joined: 16 Oct 2019
Location: FL, USA
Status: Offline
Points: 10
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AJR Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Screenwriting Advice
    Posted: 16 Oct 2019 at 9:54pm
Hello everyone!

A bit embarrassing but I accidentally posted my submission for the Short Screenwriting Contest here instead of the proper place. Since I can't figure out how to delete, I thought I'd start a discussion. 

I seem to have trouble with my describing my action in screenplays. For example, I'll find myself saying "He walks over to the fridge and opens the door. Inside he finds only one jar of pickles and some ketchup. He cringes with disgust and slams the door." There's a lot of "He does this, he does that" and it tends to be a bit boring to read imo. Does anyone have any advice for this? Or am I worrying about nothing?

Thanks!

AJR



Edited by AJR - 16 Oct 2019 at 10:05pm
Back to Top
betweenlakes View Drop Down
NYC Midnight Newbie
NYC Midnight Newbie
Avatar

Joined: 17 May 2014
Status: Offline
Points: 91
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote betweenlakes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Oct 2019 at 10:43pm
No, that kind of simplicity is perfect. What you don't want is long elaborate "literary" prose in your action lines. But by the same token, you don't want it to be repetitive and monotonous. Simplicity is good, but it needs to flow.

One suggestion is: Don't start every sentence with "He ___". Vary your sentence structure a little bit. In your example, the first two sentences work fine, but for the third -- instead of "He cringes with disgust and slams the door" -- try "Cringing with disgust, he slams the door".

Or if you've got a series of short actions, merge them into one sentence (instead of giving each one its own short sentence): "He walks to the fridge and opens it, then cringes with disgust and slams it shut."
Back to Top
dcontarato View Drop Down
NYC Midnight Groupie
NYC Midnight Groupie
Avatar

Joined: 08 Oct 2019
Status: Offline
Points: 142
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote dcontarato Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Oct 2019 at 1:11am
Originally posted by betweenlakes betweenlakes wrote:

No, that kind of simplicity is perfect. What you don't want is long elaborate "literary" prose in your action lines. But by the same token, you don't want it to be repetitive and monotonous. Simplicity is good, but it needs to flow.

One suggestion is: Don't start every sentence with "He ___". Vary your sentence structure a little bit. In your example, the first two sentences work fine, but for the third -- instead of "He cringes with disgust and slams the door" -- try "Cringing with disgust, he slams the door".

Or if you've got a series of short actions, merge them into one sentence (instead of giving each one its own short sentence): "He walks to the fridge and opens it, then cringes with disgust and slams it shut."

I agree, although I'm a newbie with screenwriting so take that with a grain of salt Smile

I'm still figuring it all out, but in general I try to remind myself that I'm not writing for a large audience, but for a relatively small group of specialized people (producers, director, actors, etc.) that is supposed to use the script to make a movie or a play out of it. So the important thing for me is to tell a compelling story, and help who's reading it visualize it, organize the scenes and stage the action and dialogue in an effective way to retell the story to a wide audience. I find that simple prose is very effective for that, with just enough nuance and visual cues mixed in.

But maybe I'm getting it all wrong! It would be great to hear the opinion on this of experienced screenwriters. 
ShSC19,R1,GR30 Deer Mount
MF19,R1,GR22 The Bridge
Back to Top
manifestlynot View Drop Down
NYC Midnight Black Belt
NYC Midnight Black Belt
Avatar

Joined: 02 Jan 2018
Status: Offline
Points: 3026
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote manifestlynot Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Oct 2019 at 1:34am
The example you gave is fine! This contest is interesting because you do want your script to be enjoyably readable, perhaps more readable than a shooting script, so the temptation to spice up the description is tempting. I try to keep the following tips in mind when I’m writing a screenplay:

- Keep it down to four lines or less (five if you must). 

- Start a new line when the audience is looking at something new, or a character performs an action.

- Avoid character descriptions unless integral to the plot. I added (30s, handsome) to one of my character this time because his youthful appearance contrasted with an older character (70s, haggard). Typically I just add (30s). It’s not up to you if the character is short or tall or whatever unless it really matters to the plot.

- Avoid parentheticals when possible. At best they diminish the power of your dialogue and your trust in your actors; at worst they cheat and sneak action in without adding an action line. (I am working on this one!!) 

- Don’t use ten words when you can use three. If you want to set your piece apart, use vivid language, not more words.

I’m sure I will think of more but those are very helpful for me!

Short Screenplay R1: The Farmer's Fortune
FFCH3: Sacred Silence
Back to Top
dcontarato View Drop Down
NYC Midnight Groupie
NYC Midnight Groupie
Avatar

Joined: 08 Oct 2019
Status: Offline
Points: 142
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote dcontarato Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Oct 2019 at 1:40am
Originally posted by manifestlynot manifestlynot wrote:

The example you gave is fine! This contest is interesting because you do want your script to be enjoyably readable, perhaps more readable than a shooting script, so the temptation to spice up the description is tempting. I try to keep the following tips in mind when I’m writing a screenplay:

- Keep it down to four lines or less (five if you must). 

- Start a new line when the audience is looking at something new, or a character performs an action.

- Avoid character descriptions unless integral to the plot. I added (30s, handsome) to one of my character this time because his youthful appearance contrasted with an older character (70s, haggard). Typically I just add (30s). It’s not up to you if the character is short or tall or whatever unless it really matters to the plot.

- Avoid parentheticals when possible. At best they diminish the power of your dialogue and your trust in your actors; at worst they cheat and sneak action in without adding an action line. (I am working on this one!!) 

- Don’t use ten words when you can use three. If you want to set your piece apart, use vivid language, not more words.

I’m sure I will think of more but those are very helpful for me!


This is all great advice, thanks! Not sure I did well on the new lines this time around, though, as I was trying to fit in the 5 pages... Smile
ShSC19,R1,GR30 Deer Mount
MF19,R1,GR22 The Bridge
Back to Top
riquigley View Drop Down
NYC Midnight Groupie
NYC Midnight Groupie
Avatar

Joined: 08 Jul 2019
Location: Greensboro, NC
Status: Offline
Points: 237
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote riquigley Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Oct 2019 at 11:07am
Quote He walks over to the fridge and opens the door. Inside he finds only one jar of pickles and some ketchup. He cringes with disgust and slams the door.


That's perfectly fine but if you want it to flow smoother. Try something like...

Quote
He walks to the fridge and opens the door only to find a jar of pickles and ketchup.

     CHARACTER NAME
       (slamming door)
f**k.

Don't tell us what he's thinking. Have him show the audience what he's thinking.

SS Ch#1:One More Time

FF Ch#1:https://tinyurl.com/y2et9qf6
FF Ch#2:TicketGurl87
Back to Top
Damiang View Drop Down
NYC Midnight Newbie
NYC Midnight Newbie
Avatar

Joined: 16 Oct 2019
Location: Los Angeles
Status: Offline
Points: 31
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Damiang Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Oct 2019 at 12:33pm
All the advice on this thread is great, I would add: read more screenplays... As everyone is slightly different. The more you read, the more you'll come to feel your way through your own style.

Here are some links below that are good examples: 

Walter Hill's The Driver  Super sparse; written very much like a stage play. 
PTA's There Will Be Blood Much more traditional. If you read this after reading Chinatown you'd see how similar the prose is laid out. And they were written almost 30 yrs apart. 

For Fun, check out (even if just for the teaser open) JJ's Alias Pilot. It's snappy and his Action lines are crazy easy to read. 





Edited by Damiang - 18 Oct 2019 at 12:34pm
SSC19 CH1 GR4 A Pathology for Passion
Feedback welcomed. Thanks.
DG
Back to Top
Joni View Drop Down
NYC Midnight Black Belt
NYC Midnight Black Belt
Avatar

Joined: 17 Jul 2017
Status: Offline
Points: 1542
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Joni Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Oct 2019 at 11:16pm
Originally posted by Damiang Damiang wrote:

All the advice on this thread is great, I would add: read more screenplays... As everyone is slightly different. The more you read, the more you'll come to feel your way through your own style.

Here are some links below that are good examples: 

Walter Hill's The Driver  Super sparse; written very much like a stage play. 
PTA's There Will Be Blood Much more traditional. If you read this after reading Chinatown you'd see how similar the prose is laid out. And they were written almost 30 yrs apart. 

For Fun, check out (even if just for the teaser open) JJ's Alias Pilot. It's snappy and his Action lines are crazy easy to read. 




Great links, so glad you shared them!
SSC R3 - Double Dog Dare
Back to Top
Snarkmaiden View Drop Down
NYC Midnight Addict
NYC Midnight Addict
Avatar

Joined: 07 May 2017
Location: Kent, UK
Status: Offline
Points: 1159
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Snarkmaiden Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Oct 2019 at 5:13am
One thing to keep in mind is that the majority of the scripts available online are shooting scripts, not spec scripts - they've been through a layer of directorial input that a spec script hasn't. They'll contain details of shots, cuts etc that shouldn't be in a spec script.

NYC Midnight specifically asks for spec scripts: http://www.nycmidnight.com/howtowriteascreenplay.htm#SpecvsShooting

A "spec" script is a speculative screenplay which is written for the purpose of being optioned and produced.  A "shooting" script is a screenplay that is used during the production of a film and is most commonly written by the director and/or cinematographer.  Features such as scene numbering and camera direction (PAN UP, ZOOM  IN, CRANE UP, etc..) are only used in shooting scripts and should not be used in spec scripts since the director and/or cinematographer will be making these decisions, not the writer.  Though occasionally a writer may include some direction in a spec script, it is typically not recommended.  All NYC Midnight screenwriting competitions are for "spec" scripts, not "shooting scripts".

I find it really frustrating that there aren't more examples of the original spec scripts for great movies around!
FFC R3: Angelic Assignments (comedy)
ShS R1: The Buggers Mean It (historical)
MFC R1: Sesame (comedy)
Back to Top
 Post Reply Post Reply
  Share Topic   

Forum Jump Forum Permissions View Drop Down

Forum Software by Web Wiz Forums® version 12.03
Copyright ©2001-2019 Web Wiz Ltd.

This page was generated in 0.077 seconds.