If you’re like me… your brain rejects most of the information that filters through it daily. I mean think about it our brains have to process an enormous amount of information daily to the point where system overload is inevitable. As a screenwriter I keep this fact in mind when I’m writing. Meaning, that I can appreciate the fact that people are unlikely to absorb all the information I am throwing at them in my screenplays regardless of how amazing I may think that information is. For this reason, I’ve trained myself to show my readers what’s happening rather than tell them. Understanding the importance of this concept is one of the very first things the screenwriter must grasp.
People are much more likely to watch something unfold even if they don’t fully understand what’s happening than they are to stay engaged as characters recite drawn out dialogue. Don’t get me wrong as a screenwriter there are going to be times where you must use dialogue to drive a point home or explain what’s happening. All I’m saying is do this sparingly. I would reserve using heavy dialogue for those moments when you are seeking to introduce something about your character that action alone can’t reveal.
I know all of you aspiring screenwriters are sitting there scratching your head and saying to yourself: how am I supposed to show my audience that my lead character is the Mayor of a small town by day and a cross dresser by night? The simple answer is… by just showing them. Start thinking about the ways you can convey to your readers and viewers through action rather than dialogue that your lead character moonlights as a cross dresser. Let me give you some words of encouragement… it’s totally doable and you got this!
As you delve further into the craft of screenwriting you will better understand why mastering this technique early on is so important if you are looking to sell your scripts. You must understand that writing is not just about the creative aspect of writing it’s also about understanding the business of writing. Networks, streaming services and agents alike will be looking for the key parts that every screenplay should have and if your script doesn’t contain those integral parts it will likely be passed over.
If you would like to learn more about this topic and you’re in New York come join me at one of my screenwriting workshops where I teach current and aspiring screenwriters about the importance of using action rather than words to propel their story forward while keeping their viewers and readers engaged and entertained at the same time.
About the Author:
Isis Djata is the owner of Write Like the Pros which offers a series of instructional workshops on screenwriting. Isis, is also a filmmaker and she uses her independent film production company Locked & Loaded Films to produce and market her Pilot and Feature Film scripts. Isis, is a seasoned screenwriter with over seven years of experience crafting memorable stories. Isis has a B.S. in Journalism from Mercy College and a J.D. from Southern University Law Center. Isis has written numerous screenplays spanning various genres with eight projects currently in pre-production. Through her unique ability to create complex characters set amidst the backdrop of the ever changing worlds she creates for them Isis has mastered the art of compelling storytelling.