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07/07/2001 - Even More Characterization

Teleplay Tips & Tricks

Even More Characterization

Even when I don't have a show in production tons of spec scripts are sent to me. Most are spec screenplays, but both they and the spec teleplays share one common flaw. Their writers are so worried about overwriting that they under write the material and fail to draw the reader into the characters' state of mind.

If your reader isn't pulled into the story and made to know and share the feelings of the characters, especially the main characters, then your script isn't going to work. It won't appeal to producers or actors or directors, and if by some chance it gets made anyway it will fall flat to the audience.

Writers write. Even in a spec screenplay, you have to use the tools that make you a writer. A brief sentence here and there, at moments that are extremely emotional, telling the reader exactly what the characters' attitudes are about all that is going down, an be the difference between a script that gets thrown into the "return" pile and one that becomes compelling enough to get a deal. No one wants to say too much, but as you're writing keep in mind this old adage: "If it's not on the page, it's not in the script." The first time I ever heard that was from Oscar winner Stirling Silliphant. That man knew.


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