Screenwriting Tips

The best screenwriting tips we ever heard were: continue researching about the industry and learn structure. Sure there are screenplay elements that make up a great story: dialogue, prose, concept, character – want and need, plot, structure, message/theme, and conflict and resolution – story. But for this article we are looking at screenwriting as a business.

Proper screenplay format dictates that they always be written in the present tense and as visually descriptive as possible. If something is important, say it/show it at least three times in a screenplay so the audience has can properly absorb and process it.

writing notes on a document. Screenwriting Tips


Create something that does what it says on the tin: this is why understanding the industry is important.

Your audience needs to know how to find what they like so they need you to label it correctly. So if you’re writing a cozy romance make sure it is following genre beats and elements such as the ‘meet cute’ and a happy ending being the defining attribute of the genre.

Structure of a screenplay

The three act structure is a narrative model that divides stories into three parts — Act One, Act Two, and Act Three, or rather, a beginning, middle, and end.

Act One: setting up expectations.

Foreshadowing: If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.

Remember everyone has a reason to live, their speech patterns should also be unique. There shouldn’t be any redundant characters, everyone should offer something either to the plot or by helping shape other characters. If they can do both, that’s even better.

This is important because to develop characters you will need real estate in your story. Word count is a real part of structure make sure you’re staying within industry parameters. The average feature screenplay contains about 100-110 pages (roughly 25/30,000 words). By contrast, a thriller novel book contains 80/100,000words. Feature film scripts usually run between 80-120 pages for an approximately 1.5 or 2-hour movie; each script page corresponds to approximately one minute of screen time.

The second act is there to trigger the third, and the third is just there to provide an increasingly tense action climax. This means that anything that may occur in the third must be set-up in the first.

The event that occurs at the end of the second act must trigger the end of the movie. As for the third act, it must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then—that’s it.

Don’t hang around, the denouement, the final outcome of the story, generally occurs after the climax of the plot. Often it’s where all the secrets (if there are any) are revealed and loose ends are tied up. For example, the denouement of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet comes just after Romeo and Juliet take their own lives.

What is the golden rule of screenwriting?

Do. Not. Be. Boring.

Nothing is wasted. Only write what we will see on the screen, large or small. If it isn’t on the screen, we can’t know it. Therefore, if a character feels something, we need to see how it affects her within the scene you’ve written.

If your script talks down to the audience, they’ll get pretty bored pretty quickly and that is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. An audience will forgive you for trying to be clever as they’ll understand that you respect them. They won’t, however, enjoy you spoon-feeding them the obvious because audiences are very much capable of figuring things out for themselves.

Movies are heightened reflections of reality. No-one goes to the cinema expecting to see your character perform every action of their day.

Too little foreshadowing is not satisfying. If you’re struggling with a scene in act three, you need to revisit act one and find the linked scene. Otherwise you risk a ‘deus ex machina’ ending that will leave your audience unsatisfied. Deus ex machina is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem in a story is suddenly or abruptly resolved by an unexpected and unlikely occurrence.

Chekhov’s gun is a dramatic principle that suggests that details within a story or play will contribute to the overall narrative. This encourages writers to not make false promises in their narrative by including extemporaneous details that will not ultimately pay off by the last act, chapter, or conclusion. “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.”

What is the difference between Chekhov’s gun and red herring?

Red herring: The literal sense of the term is old, dating back to the late 1300s. The figurative red herring—referring to a distraction from a matter at hand or a misleading clue—comes from historic uses of the fish to make hounds lose their scent while hunting.

Chekhov’s gun refers to a seemingly inconsequential element that becomes important later, a red herring is an element that seems important but turns out to be insignificant. Red herring is often used in detective stories to ‘throw the readers off the scent’ and distract or mislead the reader.

Screenwriters and movies in general rely on imagination and creativity to capture their audiences’ attentions. However, to get audiences to buy into your wildest fantasies there is one think that you cannot skimp on. Be as creative as you want but keep human behavior and emotions real.

Pixar are masters of both capturing and transplanting human behavior into non-human situations. It’s a big reason why their films are so enjoyable. Take Finding Nemo for example, it’s about talking fish. But the relationship between father and son is so real on-screen that we, as humans, can really relate to it and as such the story really resonates with us.

Drama is real life with the boring parts cut out.

Alfred Hitchcock

Cut out everything that doesn’t actually matter to the story. Whether it’s an object you described that adds nothing to the story, a scene or even a whole character.


In short, it is your story, and nobody knows how to tell it better than you do. Thus if you feel the story needs a car chase through Washington that ends up blowing up the White House, then write it. With that being said, mind your budget.

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