What NOT to do When Writing a Script

by Ken Levine

NoMistakesHere are some handy tips on what NOT to do when writing a script:

Don’t put extra pressure on yourself unnecessarily. I once had a writing teacher who said, “Think of each page of your sitcom as being worth a thousand dollars. Then say to yourself, ‘is this page worth one thousand dollars?’” This teacher should be shot. First of all, his math is off. And secondly, there will be some pages worth five grand and others worth sixteen bucks because you’re just describing a character driving away to end the scene. Don’t put monetary values on pages or jokes or anything. It’s arbitrary and destructive.

Don’t feel every line has to be perfect before you can go on to the next. The end result will be a rather stilted very calculated script. Get a flow going. You can always go back and revise. Don’t let one difficult line completely stall the process. And here’s the dirty little secret: The lines won’t be perfect anyway.

Don’t clog up your pages with lots of stage direction. A reader sees a giant block of direction and best case scenario – just skips it, and worse case scenario – tosses the script away. Do the bare minimum and then cut that down.

Likewise, any big speech can be trimmed. Don’t fall in love with your rhetoric.

Characters rarely articulate just how they feel and exactly what they want. In fact, most people go out of their way to NOT express what they’re really thinking. They convey their feelings in behavior, innuendo, denial, misdirection, a smokescreen of humor – pretty much anything other than stating the obvious. It’s your job to find ways to get their feelings across in an artful not bald way.

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