The difference between a novel and a screenplay


I read a throwaway comment yesterday on the difference between writing a fiction novel, and writing a screenplay.

Novels are internal – screenplays external.

Yeah. Good description. I can go for a couple paragraphs on how someone FEELS, on their thoughts, their emotions, their fears. i’ve got one scene where I dwelled on the fear a character experiences when armed troops raid their hideout and capture everyone, while one man hides in another building, wishing he had a weapon, wishing he knew how to use it, and hating himself because he just wasn’t a movie character who could dive into the fray, shoot everyone, and not break a sweat.

In a movie, it’s reduced to action, character name, and VERY truncated dialogue! Example…

CHARACTER crouches beneath the window, peering out. Fear is evident in his face.

CHARACTER

No, no, Nooooo!

Like that.

Books have lots of dark sections on white paper. Screenplays should look like lots of white paper and isolated small dark sections. I’ve read that the people who review movie scripts simply flip through it at first wtihout reading it. If there’s not enough white paper evident… in the rejection pile it goes.

I bolded the above so you could see the difference between a screenplay sample, and my book style of writing above that. And some directors even get annoyed if I put the “Fear” part in the book. The director wants as little direction from the screenplay writer as possible. It’s called Wrylies in the industry.

And apparenlty, they all want VERY strong action verbs in every sentence. “ran” is better than “Went to.” “slid the book across the desk” is better than “Handed”.

Ta-da.

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