William Strunk Jr.
The Elements of Style
Have you heard about the six-word story?
Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was once asked to write a six-word story and wrote: “For sale; baby shoes, never worn.”
That is indeed a short story.
This inspired Smith Magazine earlier this year to publish “Not Quite What I was Planning” which is a collection of “Six-word memoirs by writers famous and obscure.”
Now I’m not really going to encourage you to write a six-word screenplay but it’s a good jumping point to talk about brevity in screenwriting. One thing you notice if you read through a stack of produced screenplays is how condensed they are.
In general, gone are the long monologues and thick scene descriptions that you so often see in the novices screenplays. I’ve cover some of this ground in my post “Screenwriting by Numbers” but I have found that most lines and scene descriptions in produced screenplays are limited to three sentences or less.
When you hold a classic screenplay in your hand it looks deceptively simple. “Lots of white” as script readers are fond of saying meaning there is not a lot of black type. But there is a simplicity on the other side of complexity that I believe is the real secret of writing a great screenplay.
“The challenge of screenwriting is to say much in little and then take half of that little out and still preserve an effect of leisure and natural movement.”
The Big Sleep
”I think part of being a good screenwriter is being as concise as possible.”