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Changing from Narrative to Screenplay OF

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Hey all! So I was recently inspired to try my hand at writing a different kind of original fiction than I've done in the past, and that is by writing a screenplay! 

It's a medium I am very interested in trying out, but I've also never attempted a screenplay before either, so I'm not sure what it's like to transition from typical narrative fiction pieces to screenplay fiction. I've got a loose idea for a sci-fi piece (short) but am anxious about writing it because of the minimalism of description/scene setting there tends to be in screenplays/plays versus novels. 

Does anyone have any tips to help me get started? 

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Well, Madi, if you're looking to write a sci-fi screenplay I think I might be the guy for you. I'll give you a few basic tips here that I've learned while working on mine, but feel free to get in touch for anything specific you come across! 

The first thing you need to know about writing screenplays is that, because you won't be writing huge paragraphs of description, you need to make sure that the few scene setting lines you do include have the maximum utility possible. You want to say the most with the least, basically. 

In scene two of my screenplay 'end of the world, after all' I have a sequence of description that I'll put in spoilers for those who haven't read it - 


Maze and Ros sit in silence, having returned from the funeral of their two year old daughter. Maze opens his mouth to speak for the umpteenth time, but little more than faint gasps fill the air. They each clutch a funeral program in their hands, the printed smile of baby Elena frozen in time. 

I knew that I had around three sentences to establish the scene. And I knew that I had to find a way to set up the conversation to come without forcing the characters' dialogue to sound needlessly expository. So, I have to establish what has happened to their daughter, the mood of the room, and for good measure - an extra detail about neither of them being able to set down the funeral program - as way of indicating that they hadn't let go of the pain just yet. 

I always go back to a piece of advice from the director Ernst Lubitsch - "Let the audience add up two plus two. They'll love you forever."  I think it applies so well to this format in particular. You want to leave those spaces for the reader to figure things out through the dialogue. Sometimes I worry about not spelling things out fully for people, but it can be really fun to figure things out and there's a perfect balance to find! 

And the last piece of advice feels obvious, but it deserves mention. Visualize! The screenplay format is all about painting a picture, even more than most other writing. If you can't picture in your head what a scene looks like, then the reader won't be able to either. Give us a place to exist inside of for a while. 

I hope some of this helps in some way! I really just dumped my brain out. Good luck! :D 

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