Writing: Overwriting

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If you have spent the last 6 months hidden away in your room creating your masterpiece screenplay, the last thing you are going to want to hear is that the reader feels like the screenplay is never ending, especially if the reader feels like this just 10 pages in.

Sidenote: If your reader is one hundred and twenty pages in and he hasn’t even noticed the time, you’re onto a winner.

So how do you write a screenplay that moves like a fresh water river, and also has the taste of one too? It comes down to sustaining our interest. If you —as a writer— sustain our interest then you can write as many pages as you want. If the scene is laid out before us, informs, entertains and keeps the plot moving forward with a smooth pace, you can write until your fingers bleed (although your agent or producer may have something to say about the 1,000 page script sitting on his desk). However, if you have overwritten, the reader is more than likely going to get bored very quickly. Overwriting can look something like this.


Why is this overwriting? Well for one you are not writing a  novel, you are writing a screenplay and your audience are not going to be reading the screenplay to digest the information; they will be visually entertained. The screenplay is a blueprint for the skilled workers of the production. We know what a castle hall looks like, sure some of us may be visualizing a different type of castle hall, but for the most part it is safe to say we know what a castle looks like. The production designer is going to add what ever necessities he feels should be added, such as a armor or eastern drapes. The location manager is going to find the easiest castle to film in, so don’t worry about intrinsic details about your scene.

Although, there may be certain situations where you are required to write about small details of the scene. For example, if you are writing about the Welsh ruler, Owain Glyndŵr, and his revolt against the English with the Battle of Mynydd Hyddgen, which took place on the slopes of Pumlumon. You may want to add details about the mountains of Pumlumon as the majority of readers aren’t going to be too sure what the slopes of 15th century Wales and 15th century Welsh Knights would look like.

Going back to our first scene, we would just write:


Allow for the readers imagination. And this is why: because when the reader has to read all that description, page after page, new scene after new scene, action by action, it will slow the story down tremendously. Of all the items a story must have to successfully enrapture a reader, pacing is one of the most important. – Denny Martin Flinn

Even though the pacing of your film will be determined in the editing room, the actual pace of your screenplay is going to be determined by the way you write.

Denny Martin Flinn, author of How Not To Write Your Screenplay (Book of The Week) has this rule.

Here is a good rule to follow (like all rules it’s meant to be broken but like all rules, follow it before you decide that you have a good reason to stray): Go through your screenplay. Take every piece of static description, and reduce it to one sentence. Work on that sentence until it gives the facts and the images you want. Limit your description

About The Author

Lewis McGregor is an aspiring filmmaker, photographer and online content creator from Wales.