Even More Characterization – AKA Part Four
by Larry Brody
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 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. Describe your main characters briefly. Let us know a little about what they look like, or how they dress – because that tells us a lot about them as people.
Similarly, a brief sentence here and there, at moments that are extremely emotional, telling the reader exactly what the characters’ attitudes are about what’s going down, can 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 on the stage.”
The first time I ever heard that was from the late Stirling Silliphant, who not only created and supervised all the writing on the classic series ROUTE 66, he won an Oscar for IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT.
Another in what I hope will be a long run of helpful hints for TV writers here on TVWriter™ every Tuesday. Which brings up a point: If you’d like to share some writing tips with your fellow TVWriter™ visitors, please get in touch with me at email@example.com and we’ll try to make a guest post happen.