The world of writing is almost as vast as the imaginations of those that work in it, so it’s important to know where you want to go in it and what will be required to get there. Whether you want to be screenwriter, novelist, poet, or non-fiction writer, there are challenges each miche within the world presents, and it’s up to you to learn how to succeed.
For screenwriters, the world presents the challenge of writing what you see … visual storytelling.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Always Write For Your Audience
Though this may not seem like a difficult challenge, for many it is because it involves a completely different type of thinking. Unlike the novelist, who is free to wander and explore the world she creates both mentally and visually, the screenwriter is limited to the latter. Exploring the world of story in a visual manner, because even though both the novelist and the screenwriter share the same audience in the beginning (the reader), the screenwriter’s story will eventually evolve into a visual rendition for a different audience — the audience watching the screen.
Because the audience of the screenwriter is different than that of the novelist or poet, the screenwriter needs to approach the telling of her storyÂ differently.
Be An Observer First, Writer Second
In order to tell a story visually, you need to train yourself to see the world visually. Instead of going through your day as you have up to this point, watch how it works, watch as events unfold, see how people treat each other, look for moments normally hidden away or lost and take note. Chances are, if you’ve become interested in screenwriting, it’s because you’re both interested in movies and interested in writing, so you may have a strong idea of how to tell a story visually in the first place; yet, there’s always room to improve and hone your craft, so you should always be exercising your skills as anÂ observer. If not, here are a few things to help you get started — one trick I’ve picked up on personally is to spend a little too much time observing your subject … this will enable you to really see it as opposed to what others might see at a glance:
- Look at your surroundings.
- Notice the weather.
- Watch how people interact within different relationship dynamics.
- See what people do when they don’t think they’re being watched.
While observing, imagine how you mightÂ frame the scene and present it to audiences.
Describe What’s Happening Visually
Once you start looking at the world as an observer, you can then describe what you see in your mind as you imagine your story. If you’re still having trouble, think of it like this:
You’re always the director when you dream — you pick the angles and control how the story pans out, — telling a story visually is no different. You simply need to describe how you see the imagery in your head and present it from the best angle possible. If there’s a lot of camera movement, be sure to imply it within your screenplay. If little happens (say you’re in a meadow and you’re enjoying the sound of the wind and feel of the breeze), then you can imply little camera movement.
Before I digress into whether or not to include camera direction in your screenplay, let’s focus on the idea at hand — telling your story visually.
- Focus on small moments between characters
- Describe the setting
- Reveal actions of your characters
- Bring the reader into the action
Remember, your task as a screenwriter is to tell your story visually — the best way to do that is to describe what you see in your mind as you imagine your story.
How Do You Write What You See?
I’d love to hear what all of the screenwriters here do in terms of approaching your story more visually? Have you had trouble moving from internalized storytelling to a more externalized type of storytelling?
Look forward to hearing what you guys do with your own writing!
cc image credit:Â *USB*