Q&A: MOVIES AREN’T NOVELS FOLLOW UP
Q: I came across your website and read your interesting article “Movies Aren’t Novels”. Reading #10, “When it comes to writing style, a screenwriter’s goal must be to create a movie in the reader’s mind that is as fast, easy and enjoyable to read as possible. So the qualities of style in the best literary fiction – an extensive vocabulary, rich, textured description, and the unique use of the language – should be AVOIDED when writing a script,” I was wondering if you could explain WHY? Is, for example, a unique use of language not enjoyable to read?
A: Your goal in writing a screenplay is for readers to forget they’re reading words on a page and feel exactly like they would watching your film. The idea is not to make the process of reading enjoyable; it’s to make the movie the reader is imagining enjoyable. And you can do that most effectively when the reader is not slowed down or captivated by less familiar vocabulary, complex or convoluted sentences, or lengthy, overly poetic descriptions. But since I can tell this is nagging at you and you resent not getting to be as unique and original as you want. So if you really want to be original, do so with your dialogue. Clever wording, distinct speech patterns, real sounding jargon and slang, and revealing words and phrases won’t confuse or slow the action, and can hook the reader into your story emotionally in ways that action and description can’t.