The Concept of Screenwriting

Screenwriting in the Car

Screenwriting in the Car (Photo credit: JenGallardo)


Screenwriting is one of the many different styles of writing that is visually unique. A screenwriter has an opportunity to capture scenes through the use of language. “Language is the sole tool available for transporting a screen story from the writer’s head into the heads of other’s” (Walter 3). There are usually basic principles that others must follow in order to understand the art of screenwriting. The screenplay is certainly one of the most difficult and misunderstood forms of writing in all literature (Howard and Mabley 22).


“A principle of writing is to play God. As God created the universe, writers create the universe of our screenplays. Like all creative expression, writing depends not upon talent alone but discipline” (Walter xvii-xviii). The screenwriter has one of the most creative jobs in the whole process of filmmaking. Many screenwriters can agree that a film is a visual process called “talking pictures (Hamlet 9)” because it is a series of images that engage in conversations. Various professionals have offered opinions on what a screenplay is: such as Syd Field who says, “a story is told with pictures,” even Linda Aronsen mentioned in an article for “Screenwriters Biz Magazine” that “A screenplay is – a technical instruction manual for everyone involved in the process of creating the film.”


One basic concept of screenwriting is that a writer’s job is to place himself in the minds and bodies of other people whom think and act as they do (Walter 228). The screenplay must be a story that a writer can care about, or eventually the writer will lose interest and have trouble finishing it. The easiest aspect that can be taught is probably the format, but another is to keep in mind to “write what you know.” A screenplay will be better if the writer’s own experiences can be drawn on and used in a creative way. “Unlike a novel, a screenplay is not a finished work of literature, but the blue-print onto which other creative people can graft their creativity” (Griffith 8). A common fact would be that feature films are generally ninety minutes to two hours in length. This length allows enough time for a problem or plot to come into view and possibly be intensified and finally resolved.


There are goals of screenwriters and the primary goal of any filmmaker is to display emotions to the audience and reader of the screenplay: love, hate, fear, passion, excitement, and humor. To accomplish this objective, a write needs to have a sympathetic character to overcome a series of increasingly difficult obstacles and achieve a compelling desire (Cole 13). There are even advantages and disadvantages of living the life of a screenwriter. The advantages are that writers get to tell stories for the movies and can make a lot of money depending on the success of the film. Though, some disadvantages also follow if deciding to get into the business in Hollywood. Writers don’t have any control over what is done to their screenplay after it is sold. Also, screenwriters don’t rank very high in the film industry.


Whenever writers sit down before a blank paper or a computer, they should write their own personal story “if an idea is good, all that remains is the toil, the sweat, the invention, the characters, the settings, the dialogue, and everything else – in short, the writing” (Walter 213). A great idea for a movie is merely that – an idea: “Writing is like almost anything else except sleeping: the easier it gets. And sometimes it gets better. And nearly always, it will generate new ideas” (www.vcu.edu/art/playwriting/inspiration/par2).


Writers can deal more easily with rewriting – indeed, with all aspects of creative expression – if they view a screenplay for what it truly is: an elaborate experiment. As a scriptwriter, one of the first things needed to master is the ability to capture dialogue on the page. In dialogue, people rarely pre-organize their thoughts. Since people do not talk in prose, scriptwriters do not write dialogue in prose (Penniston 4). In traditional views, screenwriters must create vocabulary, change grammar styles, and not try to stay stuck in the ways of composition.ma quote from screenwriter and filmmaker, Bill Wittliff says, “The writer’s responsibility, the filmmaker’s responsibility, is to deliver as best he can, the intention he has.”


Screenplays never burst out of the writer’s head fully completed. Writer’s must be careful to craft their work to achieve a desired result, because a “screenwriter’s one I breakable rule is ‘don’t be boring.’ Audiences are not stupid, they are smart” (Walker 10-11). An audience enjoys a film because they are continually asking questions about what the pictures they are seeing mean (Griffith 11). The great pitfall of screenwriting is writer’s block, which is rooted in fear of failure and desire for perfection. It is usually best recommended after finishing any type of work to copyright it. The playwrights’ work is protected the moment the words leave their fingers and hit the paper. That’s the gist of the U.S. Copyright law now. Technically, writers don’t have to do anything but write the screenplay to have protection (www.vcu.edu/arts/playwriting/copyright/par5).


The overall struggles of writing a screenplay is an art of creativity. Screenwriting may not rank very high in the film industry but without it, there would not be that special enjoyment people often seek. It takes dedication to stay on task and write what you know from your personal life to accomplish that certain goal. Screenwriting may easily be accepted as one of the toughest forms of literature but certainly one of the best in creativity and enjoyment.



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