Five Common Mistakes in Script Writing
There are five errors I encounter frequently in film and television scripts that I read and can be avoided with some care. Fixing them is not absolute guarantee that you will have a good script; if your characters are not interesting and your story is not original and engaging, nothing done.
But, if you are aware of these five mistakes, certainly your best scripts will attract the interest of a producer.
Protagonist slack – In many scripts the protagonist seems to be always behind events without clear objectives or without taking concrete steps to achieve them. Your protagonist must know what he wants and must set a course to get what he wants. Find out what your protagonist wants and really put him to work in that direction.
Little conflict – If your character already knows what he wants, then it is up to you to complicate his life. Place a good number of obstacles in his way; preferably with increasing intensity. The nature of the obstacles depends on the story: they can be external (the highest mountain, the cruelest enemy…) but also internal (a deep fear, a distressing doubt…). Now, without hindrance, there would be no conflict and there is no drama without conflict.
Bad structure – There are scripts that are slow to take off, filling us with absolutely unnecessary information before the story begins. Others creep painfully, after climax, making us yearn for the arrival of the end credits. Apply here one of the few true rules for writing the script: “come late and leave early.” Viewers are a lot smarter than we think and have increasingly less patience for chaff. Start your script as closely as possible with the events that make the story start and stop once it is completed.
Tons of words and very less action – If your characters are limited to talking, you’re not writing a movie script; you’re writing a radio play. Some say that “true” film ended with the arrival of sound films. That’s debatable, but serves to remind us of the essence of visual art. Whenever possible, show instead of tell; arrange interesting visual solutions to advance the narrative; put your characters in action, and consider ways to link the visual scenes.
Flat Dialogues – Film is essentially a visual art, but our characters also have to talk. And talk is not only about transmitting information that the viewer needs to know; you have to build a web, a game, in which tension and conflict must always be present. Give your characters interesting things to say; prefer subtlety to the simple enumeration of facts and information and give each character a distinct voice that goes with their personality and condition.
Many screenwriters are just happy when they can get to the end of the first version of the script. Do not be fooled by that; there is still much more to do. You need to correct the five errors mentioned above.