How Writing Screenplays Differ from Writing Novels

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Happy Sunday! Some of you who have read my novels may not know this about me but I also enjoy writing screenplays as well. In fact, that was the first type of writing I ever did before I became a novelist. I was motivated by all the great films that my parents used to take me to as a kid. Not animated stuff that’s really for kids but the grownup stuff. Some of it I was probably too young to be watching but sometimes they didn’t have a babysitter so they took me along. Thank God, they didn’t take me with them the night they went to see The Exorcist. I would have really had a hard time getting that out of my head. Writing for film is definitely different than writing books and I will explain some of those differences for all of those who would like to dabble in both.

Screenplays are interesting and in my opinion less work than writing a full -length novel. For instance, whereas a novel can be about four to five hundred pages, a screenplay for a two-hour movie would be about 120 pages long although some would argue that since movies are rarely just two hours long, the page count may be slightly different. The format of a screenplay will consist of Camera directions, Fade ins and Fade Outs, Exterior and Interior to let you know whether the scene is indoors or outdoors, cut to and Continued which are some of the common terms of a screenplay format. There’s shorter action descriptions and lots of short dialogs to accommodate the short attention spans of this generation. When writing a screenplay, you only write what can be seen or heard on the screen which makes perfect sense if you think about all the movies you’ve seen over the years. How many times have you heard or seen any character do anything that wasn’t relevant to the scene? Usually never. It would be a waste of time to write that someone sneezed unless the sneeze caused a man’s toupee to blow off his bald head in public. That would be a lot more interesting.

The Novel is a bit lengthier with its action, giving you more detail in everything that happens every minute of the story. Nothing is left out and everything feeds your imagination. You get to know each character from the inside out and even get to know what they are thinking of every second and in every situation. You find out the character’s past if the story calls for it. You find out their strengths and weaknesses and what drives them to do and feel things the way they do. Each scene is so detailed in its descriptions that you feel as if you are in the room with your character and seeing everything from their eyes. You can feel their emotions and sometimes it can pull you in to the point of being able to cause you to remember things about your own life that you either forgot about or wish you could forget. The novel gets deep and can bring you into whatever world it presents. Good or bad, you can’t escape and you don’t want to.

I guess after reading what I just said about novel writing you can understand why I made the transition. But I still love screenwriting because I love films and always will. There are things I can do in a screenplay that I can’t get away with in a novel and vice versa. I pretty much taught myself how to do both and this is not something you have to spend mega bucks going to College to learn. There is so much information out there in your local library, book stores, and the internet that can teach you how to become a pro at either writing style. Just do the work, dedicate yourself and start writing…