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Screenwriting Tips

Expert screenwriting tips by working screenwriters

Show, Don't Tell

Film is a visual medium, sure there's dialogue and it's crucial but fundamentally theater-going is a visual experience. So try to minimize any detail you include in descriptions that can't be shown on-screen - such details are often the sign of a non-pro screenwriter.

The golden screenwriting rule is:

Show, Don't tell.

An exception is character descriptions - these are not technically shown on screen but help the reader get a quick overview of who the character is.


An example of writing that cannot be shown on screen is (in italics):

The SHOT blasts in. Rick does not know what to do. Should he run to his car or fight?

Detail & Explanations via dialogue

Non-pros screenwriters also often try to explain important plot details or complex aspects of their story (or its backstory) via dialogue - they typically employ long and expositional dialogue to do so.

Such things would be much better explained visually i.e. through a scene.

Again such writers should drum in to themselves the golden rule: Show, Don't tell.

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Expositional Dialogue

How to Write Great Dialogue

Screenwriting is Not Novel Writing

Keep Descriptions Brief and Tight

Stay in Present Tense and Active Voice

Don't include Unnecessary Detail