How to Write a Great Screenplay: Don’t Write a Screenplay
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Quentin Tarantino once said: “Scripts should be read. Films should be shot. “He talked about how he tends to put a lot of extra material in his scripts – for example, internal monologues and prose that should never be included in the final product. He's also called this writing style the “blueprint” for a movie, which is why the Kill Bill script was less of a traditional script than a beautifully written novel with elements of scriptwriting.

"It was like (…) going on a set with a novel and adjusting it every single day," he said of his process, which offered a more flexible, collaborative, and interpretive film style – as well as a rare and very tangible treasure trove of character resources that actors can loot.

Could this be the secret why Tarantino films are so masterfully executed? Of course, that's not the only reason his films are taught in film classes – his directing skills and the talent of the actors who bring his scripts to life are equally important – but it's a fascinating and potentially educational approach to our writing nonetheless. Perhaps the best way to write a script is to not write a script at all.

At least not first, I mean. Of course, if you write for the screen, at some point you have to write a script. But perhaps it is untapped not to understand your script as such in the strictest sense, especially in the early stages when you set your story aside. But in a generative way – when it comes to giving your story and characters the space to grow into something really substantial and / or transformative (that's what we all strive for at the end of the day, isn't it?) – experiment Writing in other forms can open up new possibilities, discoveries, character traits, scenes, stylistic possibilities, and thematic passageways that may not be discovered within the confines of a single form.

In other words, let's say I'm writing what I think should be a short story. I know roughly what it's supposed to be about, or maybe at least I have a really solid protagonist and a world to live in. However, once I've established my mindset and established my character's relationship with it, I hit a wall. Instead of banging my head against it for hours hoping to break through, I might be better lucky if I say something like, okay, what would that story look like as a poem?

Or if I think the block could have come from my character that hasn't been fleshed out enough, I might think, Hmm … I wonder what it would be like if my character actually wrote a poem himself. Maybe the poem will somehow find its way into the short story. Maybe just a line or a picture is enough. Perhaps you are really lucky and discover that the story in question should be a poem all along. Maybe you toss the poem in the trash and never talk about it again.

However, it is irrelevant whether this additional font is actually used in the end product. Most importantly, you have successfully convinced yourself to write more and that you are likely to have a new perspective on your story and / or character. After all, everything that we write feeds and informs everything else that we will write in the future.

What people often forget about the script is that, just like the short story or the poem, it is a literary form. Pompous English professors may self-righteously discuss this point, but if we want to define "L" literature as a script of artistic value, then there is no doubt that scripts are literature.

I'm not saying this to put congratulations on all of us (good job, old sport, now you're a real writer!). I say this to illustrate that there are fewer differences between writing a screenplay and writing in a different genre than we may have been taught.

A script tells a story. A novel tells a story. A piece tells a story. A poem tells a story. A film tells a story. A writer tells a story. Not every story wants to be told the way you want to tell it. So at least listen to your story as you draft it. Adjust it to the best of your ability. Shape it into different shapes like a ceramist and see which one most closely resembles your vision. Then you can glaze it to resemble a script before putting it in the oven.

Oscar Wilde didn't live long enough to write for the canvas, but the central thesis of his 1889 essay “The Decay of Lying” is true today: “… the self-confident goal of life is to find expression, and (…) the Art offers her certain beautiful forms through which she can realize this energy. “To do this effectively, we as artists (as writers) need to find the right form of expression for the particular aspect of life that we wish to explore, criticize, or extol.

If the script doesn't get you there on its own, if you're ever stuck and about to give up, look where the life of the story naturally wants to grow and follow it. Let your script transform, breathe, and evolve until it becomes a kind of adaptation of itself – richer, more structured, and as deeply realized as possible.

About Dustin DiPaulo

Dustin DiPaulo writes and lives in Rochester, New York. He has been a full-time freelance writer and editor since graduating from Florida Atlantic University with an MFA in creative writing in 2018. His essays and reflections can be found in a number of publications on the Internet. You can send any hate mail, love letters, and / or job vacancies to


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