dear screenwriter

Dear Screenwriter,

To say that “writing a screenplay is hard work” is an understatement. This task is for those who love to lose themselves in the detail, imagination and never-ending puzzle that is a script. This is a long game, which takes ongoing dedication, creativity and perseverance. Thankfully, while you may take years to get it right – it’s also incredibly rewarding and there’s something so incredibly beautiful about seeing your creation, your words brought to life on the big silver screen.

Whether you’re looking for some advice on how to get your script right or not, here are a few tips:

Write what you’re passionate about. It may sound obvious, but the best scripts are written from the heart. If you’re not passionate about your characters and story, how can you expect your audience to be? So take a step back… give yourself the luxury of time and think about what you really want to say and write about.

Develop strong characters. Your characters are critical to driving your story and should be believable, relatable and interesting. If you want viewers to connect with your story, you need guides to help them resonate through emotion. So take the necessary time to find the inspiration to develop your characters’ backstories, motivations and goals.

Have a clear and coherent story structure. Your script should have a clear beginning, middle and end. Eliminate clutter and aim for maximum efficiency in crafting your story. As they say kill your darlings and self-check at regular intervals. While it’s good to write a film you’d want to see, be mindful of self-indulgence. Each scene should be necessary and move the story forward in some way.

Write natural-sounding dialogue. Film is a funny business. While characters may not stammer as much or wind their way through conversations, your dialogue should sound like real people talking. Avoid using clichés and awkward exposition dumps. Be clever in communicating information about your characters and try to think about subtext in what’s not being said. Focus on writing dialogue that reveals your characters’ personalities and compels the story.

I’d also encourage you to get feedback from other trusted screenwriters, film-makers and colleagues. While their advice may be invaluable, remember that it’s ultimately your screenplay and often taking the advice verbatim may not necessarily be right for your film. Also try to get your hands on as many screenplays as you can to get a handle on what works for other writers. Then, try to have a more active role in your watching of movies and TV shows to get a grip on what works and what doesn’t. See the entertainment’s inner workings at play and what the screenwriter had in mind.

Finally, you’re your own ship… so allow yourself to go off course, dream and enjoy the creative process. There’s no harm in trying and failing, which often is a step to creating the screenplay you were destined to write.

Best wishes,

A Fellow Screenwriter

P.S. These websites provide valuable resources and tools to make your journey that much easier. Good luck!

The Script Lab:
No Film School:
Final Draft:

Dear Screenwriter, A Letter of Encouragement
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