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How to Write a Screenplay

February 21st, 2010 · No Comments · Screenplay Tips, Screenwriter Chat

Making movies is a collaborative process, which means the blueprint (screenplay) must be produced in a particular format so that everyone involved can work from it. The good news is writing in proper screenplay format is easier than ever due to advances in screenwriting software. Instead of spending hours learning how to write a professional Hollywood formatted screenplay, writers can invest in software that will allow them to focus their time and creative energy on developing their story.

The average feature length screenplay is between 95 and 125 pages long. In today’s market, scripts generally don’t run longer than 114 pages. Comedy screenplays are typically on the shorter end, while dramas are longer.

When competing for a producer’s attention, your story needs to jump off the page. Which really means, your screenplay needs to be a “quick read.” No matter how intriguing your story is, if it doesn’t have a nice clip to its pace it may never get read past the first few pages. The trick is to include as much visual information as possible in as few words as possible. This is the ultimate secret of a good screenplay, and any other literary achievement for that matter.

Choose cool adjectives and replace typical, ordinary verbs with something that adds color and action. Your thesaurus is king. When you’re done with your story, go back and polish it by replacing mundane adjectives and verbs with some juicy ones, but make sure they still serve the scene and don’t sound silly. For example, instead of “Jack runs down the street”, you could write “Jack races down the street”. If Jack were fleeing something, it would be better to say “Jack escapes down the street.” By changing the word “run” to “escape” it packs more information into the scene without adding any additional words – hence, the quick read.

Screenplays should be written in present tense, which is the opposite of past tense. For example, instead of “Jack ran down the street”, you could write “Jack runs down the street.”

So what makes a good story? You do. Make your characters interesting, throw some goals and conflicts in the mix, add a little twist at the end, and you’re off to developing your craft as a screenwriter.

FYI – there are lots of great screenplays available on this site, so start reading!

Is there a current list of Producers to submit query letters to?

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