… Show Don’t Tell…Show Don’t Tell…Show Don’t Tell. It’s the screenwriting mantra.
Novelists write in words. Screenwriters have no such luxury. Screenwriters must write in terms of sights and sounds – writing only what can be filmed. The two things that make it to film are what one can see and what one can hear. So scenes should be written with actions, emotions, images and visuals that show the story, with minimal dialog accompanying those visuals.
But writing visually doesn’t only mean writing visual scenes. It also means writing visual action blocks and visual slug lines so the reader that is going to be assigned to read your screenplay by the studio exec., agent, producer, money man that could give your story the green light, has a fun, entertaining, exciting reading experience.
Hence try to make the reader see the place, sense the atmosphere, feel the emotions, get behind the actions, smell the aromas, see the film play out on the screen in his/her mind’s eye while that reader reads. In other words, get the reader engaged and immersed in your story via your visual writing.
Instead of writing boring slug lines:
INT. ITALIAN RESTAURANT – DAY or
INT. A NEW YORK BAR – NIGHT or
EXT. LARGE OFFICE BUILDING – DAY
Try something more alive:
INT. FAT LUIGI’S CAFÉ ITALIANO – DAY or
INT. THE BLUE NEON BAR – NIGHT or
EXT. SIMMS & HEMLEY TOWERS – DAY.
Instead of writing rather bland action blocks:
The monster chases Frank through the house and follows him to the door. Frank runs through the door to the outside. The monster breaks through the door.
Add some pizzazz to your visuals and some zip to your actions:
The Beast stomps after a hell-bent for leather Frank. Headed for the door, Frank plows through it, slamming it behind him. The Beast roars! A split second ticks…and the nightmare’s ten-inch talons make confetti out of the door.
If you were a reader, which style of writing would more likely put you smack dab into the story?