Short and Sweet

Learning how to write screenplays was one of the best things I could have done to enhance my “novel-writing” skills.

Given the page count limitations of screenplays, every word you write must serve a purpose and drive the story forward. You have to grab the script reader on the first page, and in most cases, with the first line.

No room for paragraphs of flowery descriptions. You have to knock all that down to one sentence or three sentences MAX! Everything has to be short and sweet. It forces you to be economic with your words, to choose the right ones to get your point across as fast possible, yet still be visual, emotional, and interesting.

That’s exactly how I wanted my short stories and novels to be. Fast paced, in your face, take you on a roller-coaster ride that you want to get back on as soon as you get off.

That’s my style of writing.

Studying screenwriting was a challenge at first, but in knowing what the end result would be, how it would benefit my writing overall, I jumped into the fray with an open mind, eager to learn.

“One sentence can summarize a paragraph, as a paragraph can summarize a book, and a book can summarize ones life.”

In screenwriting, you learn how powerful One Sentence can be. With a group of sentences working together, yet separately on the page, you can control the rhythm of a scene and the pacing for an entire sequence of events. You can give a nice cinematic feel and visually direct, from the page, what you want your readers to see without cameras and special effects.  You can really pull out the emotion in a scene, especially where subtext is involved.

Though it may not be possible to achieve with everything you write in a story, One Sentence should be the goal in my opinion. Ultimately, it makes everything you write shorter than it normally would be if you weren’t trying to reach that One Sentence Goal.

After some time studying screenwriting and really focusing on the One Sentence concept, I noticed that parts of my screenplays almost read like poetry, which isn’t’ a bad thing. Poems are great examples, if not the best, of how powerful One Sentence descriptions can be, and most poems are full of emotion.

Poems, Screenplays, and Novels are all the same thing to me.

They tell stories.

Just in different formats, techniques, and sizes.

Who said you can’t use what you learned from one format

to write in another?

It’s all writing.

For me, this is what One Sentence means:

  • One Sentence can be a shorter sentence
  • Shorter sentences mean less wordy paragraphs
  • Less wordy paragraphs get a reader down the page quicker
  • Down the page quicker means quicker page turns
  • Quicker page turn means readers consume more of your story
  • More of your story means Readers may get through your entire book

Now, the other part to this is to make sure you use these short sentences to get more of your story on the page. Yeah, you read it right. Get more of your story on the page with less words. The greatest challenge ever!

With fewer words and more of your story on the page, (the visuals, the emotion, the drama, the thrills, the mystery, the horror, the comedy, the romance, or whatever) you give yourself more hooks to snag a reader’s attention and get them going down the page and then over to the next.


Add yours →

  1. Yeah, different writing formats can enrich your overall writing, especially in fiction. Screenwriting helped me with immediate scenes and dialogue for my novels. Good post!


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