That’s Not Drama, That’s Journalism!
Whenever I read a new screenplay I always hear the booming voice of Prof. Roy Sergeant sounding from the back of the room when he scrutinises the writing of a nervy newbie: ‘’That’s not drama! That’s journalism!’’ he would say with a glowing and beaming expression on his face.
If you don’t want this reminder sounding in your ears when submitting your screenplay to be read by a professional reader, or keep you awake during the writing process, there are three golden rules to obey faithfully.
Don’t Write Your Story, Tell Your Story
When you are writing your story, you are simply filling an empty page with words.
When you tell your story you use words to describe with full emotion and passion what happens. The reader’s senses are fully ignited and emotions charged by rich, visual narrative.
When I did my first stint as radio presenter doing a weekly programme on music in the movies, I was as nervous as hell when I presented my first programme live on air. Fortunately the station manager knew me well and when I took a commercial break after my rather shaky introduction, he entered the studio and simply took a chair and put it in one corner of the studio. ‘’Imagine the person you want to tell your story to sitting in this chair, and talk to him!” he said, and left the studio.
See the person you want to tell your story to and tell the person what happens. It’s as simple as that. Don’t try and impress with mighty words from your Thesaurus, but talk to your reader on the page.
TIP: Describe your writing out loud and record it, then listen to what it sounds like. Is it clear? Or muddled? Or non-descriptive?
Dramatise What’s Happening
Characters are real people who live and breathe in your story. Let them fully live their respective destinies in your story by taking motivated action and not simply doing things. Character is point of view and if you bring your character fully to life, the character will take action to get what they want, interact with whatever or whoever tries to stop them, and react to what’s happening.
Reveal a character’s emotions through their body language and characteristic gestures.
An ordinary event will be turned into an exceptional and extraordinary dramatic or comedic situation, dull and dreary existence will be transformed into interesting and joyful experiences; uninspiring thinking will evolve into challenging and mind-bending discussion. You have to turn the ordinary into drama.
The reader will become immersed in your story and join the action, witnessing what is happening, almost like one of the characters in your story.
You’re a dramatist. Dramatise!
TIP: Next time you get to your car after shopping, stop and ask yourself: ”What drama happened?” If nothing comes to mind, go back and start seeing the world as a dramatist.
Describe What You See
You have to develop a writer’s eye. You have to see the world as a storyteller. When you open a scene and it takes place in a basement, you should have a clear image in your head of what the space looks like. You must vividly share this picture in your head so that the reader can see it as clear as you do. Keep it to a straightforward 2 line description line and not a detailed and inconsequential half-a-page description, naming all the books on the bookshelf, or the intricate detail of the carpet.
TIP: When you look at a person or a a building, immediately describe it in a few words.
Submitting Your Screenplay/ Manuscript To Be Read
If you have completed the draft of a screenplay, or short film, stageplay, or manuscript for a novel, it is vital to find out whether or not it works.
It could mean the end of your story and your career as a writer if you hand poorly written and undeveloped projects over to producers, directors, publishers or potential investors.
A professional reader’s report will give you the guarantee that your writing works or highlight problem areas that need to be re-written and polished.
The evaluation/ reader’s report will be added advantage when producers/ investors/ publishers show interest in your reworked.