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How to Avoid Writing a Bad Screenplay

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 12/20/2010

Here are a few tips so you can learn how to avoid writing a bad screenplay.

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    How to Write a Bad Screenplay

    If you walk the streets of Hollywood you will find a million screenplays, but only a handful of good ones. The ideas that could become a good screenplay are numerous, and most people can come up with one fairly easily. This does not equal into a screenplay of quality because it requires really going into the screenplay format, the conventions that are often observed, the screenplay structure that is common, and the ability to really flesh out characters, stories, and ideas. Learning how to avoid writing a bad screenplay is one of the best ways to try and side step unsuccessful attempts at screenwriting, even though writing a stellar screenplay is something that is hard to draw a roadmap to. Here is a look at how to avoid writing a bad screenplay so that you can try to steer your project into a successful direction.

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    Character Control

    One of the most common mistakes that people make when writing a screenplay is that they fail to make their main character strong enough. Quite often the events of the story will just be happening to the main character without having them actually initiate the main action, which is a good way to look at how to avoid writing a bad screenplay. The character needs to not just be an innocent subject where exterior forces are influencing their behavior without their personal agency. This is a primary way to avoid writing a bad screenplay since the back bone of your film script is the main character. In a lot of ways, this focus on the control by the main character is a primary focus of the screenplay structure.

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    Scenes

    The screenplay structure is a totality in the end, but the screenplay format builds the entire project as a series of scenes. Just like the screenplay as a whole, the scenes themselves have a beginning, middle, and end format. When screenwriting students are learning how to avoid writing a bad screenplay one of the things they are constantly told is that in the scenes something must be occurring that moves the script forward. Each scene must initiate a change of some sort and play a part in the progress of your overall film, otherwise they will just sit statically and the progress you eventually do make will feel unmotivated.

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    Over Description

    The screenplay format is not designed to have a lot of prose passages that describe action. Instead, this should be as minimal as possible because the director and producer is going to want to actually orchestrate how this happens. Avoid anything that goes into several paragraphs, and make sure that you are not being too descriptive. It is best to just describe things that the audience will actually see, and do it in the most bare bones way you possibly can. Flowery language in the scene action is not usually going to be positively received in a spec script and this is one of the primary ways to avoid writing a bad screenplay.