Okay, okay, William Shakespeare himself didn’t provide screenwriting tips – but we can still learn a lot from what he did say, and apply it to our own writing!
- Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast.
This is an easy one – and in the industry, we say it a lot: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t be afraid to take your time on your work. Deadlines loom large, and they’re important, but it’s better to submit a great project when it’s ready than a rushed project that’s not prepared. Do what needs to be done to turn in the best draft possible.
- Brevity is the soul of wit.
We’ve all heard it before “get in late and get out early” is a pretty common phrase when discussing scene structure, but it can be applied to your whole script. Keep things concise and coherent – writing too much can make a reader feel like they’re slogging through a novel.
- No legacy is so rich as honesty.
The good ol’ “write what you know.” Nowhere is this more true than in screenwriting. Be honest with your characters, their emotions, and how your plot develops from that. Make your arcs feel real on the page.
- What is past is prologue.
Great advice for building depth into your story. Remember – what’s on the page matters, but don’t forget about backstory. Build genuine characters by layering in what happened before the script started.
- Suit the action to the word, the word to the action.
This often gets overlooked, but it’s easy to see when in practice – screenwriting, especially in early stages, is often full of redundancies. If you’ve got an action that could be better replaced with dialogue (or vice versa), feel free to do so. It’s generally best to rely on visuals where possible (unless you’re writing a multi-camera sitcom, in which case verbal jokes can take precedence). Use what you can in action, and make sure the dialogue aligns with what we’re seeing, but try to avoid repeating the same emotional beat in both action and dialogue. Keep the story moving forward by suiting one to the next.
Even Shakespeare had great thoughts that can make your script better. Now, get thee to a computer (or stack of index cards; or notebook) and start writing!