What is screenwriting? Do you think you have attained perfection in writing a screenplay? A good way to find out is asking by yourself, what is screenwriting? An understanding of the definition of screenwriting would help you understand the essential elements of a good screenplay.
Screenwriting, it its simplest of definitions, is the basic art of writing scripts for the purpose of translation through a visual medium. Usually in a play, the major force of the whole activity is the speech. In a screenplay, however, the action of the characters is the major consideration. When you have grasped the meaning of “a picture is worth a thousand words”, then you would understand what is screenwriting and what is not.
As a script reader, I have had the experience of going through a lot of scripts, and I can tell you quite concisely what is screenwriting and what is not. One of the most annoying and nauseating ways to write a script is to phrase it in such a way that the reader is told something of the activities in the screenplay instead of actually being ‘shown’ what the thing is. It is the hallmark of all bad scripts. Here is an example of something that can go wrong in a script.
“MIKE comes into the room. He is best friends with JASON, and also the party animal.”
Okay, we follow you there. So we are supposed to take the words “party animal” and transcribe it to mean that the guy is a party lover? A good screenplay does not bother you with the stress of trying to imagine the so-called party animal actually partying. Instead, it creates the party scene for your mental pleasure. A good script should treat the reader just like a movie does: it gives the viewer the scene; it creates it. So, what is screenwriting? A better wording for the same script would have been something like this:
“Immediately JASON arrives, he searches for his friend, MIKE. By doing this, he simply goes to the most rowdy section of the party. This is the living room. Here, he finds MIKE buried in a sea of blondes and brunettes in various stages of undress. MIKE is pouring wine down a blonde girl’s blouse while a brunette is tugging at his belt.”
Did you see the difference there? From the few lines above, no one can make the mistake of thinking that MIKE might be an introverted soul. To tell what is screenwriting and what isn’t, you have to see the scene frozen under the crafty wielding of your pen. Ensure that the impression you are trying to create to your reader is as visual as you can muster with your pen. Of course, you know that you can watch a movie without sound all through and still know what the movie was about. Why do you think so? It’s because of the script! What is screenwriting? It is the written depiction of action. Whatever you do, let your script have depth.