What makes a great screenplay? That's the question film creators have had on their minds for quite some time.
Now, most would argue that a good screenplay depends on multiple subjective factors. There is some truth to this. However, a careful assessment of productions past and present tells us that there are a few common objective elements that come together to create an award-winning screenplay.
In this blog we will be taking a look at some of those elements. So, let's begin.
A fixed storyline
A good story line is one that is connected and not fractured. This might sound like common sense, but strangely enough, most creators make the mistake of moving away from the primary story.
In the real world, if you were to engage in a conversation about food and suddenly start talking about puppies halfway through it, the listener would be convinced that you have issues. However, if you slightly veered from the topic of food to something related such as dieting or health, it would remain relevant and the listener would likely continue to engage in the conversation.
The same applies to screenplays. Storylines need to be connected and relevant to each other.
Another key element of a good screenplay is the element of surprise. The best way to get audiences interested is to provide them with information that they aren't expecting. As you probably already know there are seven key story arcs and most creators have gone through them all in their own unique ways.
So, if you want to stand out, you need to be unique as well. One of the few ways in which you can do this is by rehashing something that's already great but with elements that are unexpected.
If you can manage to do that with the logline right away, great! However, that's easier said than done. So, your next best option is to take something familiar and lead the audience down a path that they can recognize, but flip things over when they are least expecting it.
This is what audiences want. They want something they’re not used to, something that's not familiar.
Of course, the limitation of story arcs can make it difficult to come up with original ideas. However, it's a question of perspective. For instance, what would Star Wars look like from the eyes of Darth Vader?
Doesn't that sound interesting?
Try to disturb the predictability as much as you can. Most audiences know what to expect because they've seen it all a thousand times. So, try to attack that ability of theirs by bringing in something that is relevant and yet unexpected.
To put it in the simplest of words, don't be afraid of being a little unorthodox.
Mix it up
If you haven't noticed it yet, most successful screenplays are a blend of multiple genres.
At first you might disagree, but think of all the movies that you have enjoyed in the past. Did any of those movies qualify as pure science fiction? or pure romance? or pure drama?
We are willing to bet a good amount of money that 90% of your favorite movies were in fact a mix of genres.
You see, movies, to a certain extent, reflect real life and real life is often a mix of joy, humor, danger, thrill, sorrow, happiness, fear, courage etc. As surprising as it might sound audiences expect a similar experience from their movies.
So, take the time to go through some of your favorite films again and see how the greats played with their screenplays.
A script or screenplay is nothing without good dialogue. Dialogue is what determines how characters communicate in a film. It provides viewers with a vision of what each character is all about. The relationship between characters is determined by the quality of dialogue.
So, if your dialogues aren’t up to standards, you are going to have a hard time convincing your audiences. You actually risk losing the realism of your screenplay with improper dialogue.
Good screenplays also have a certain pace at which they move. If it's too fast, the storyline can fall flat. If it is too slow, you risk boring the viewers. So, find the sweet spot. Build the right amount of tension and know when to strike with the climax.