I think novelists can learn a lot from screenwriters because they have a lot in common with their writing. Screen writers have to write as if every moment is in some way an action. Each dialogue,each scene has to be important to the story and it can’t drag on or you will lose the interest of the viewers.
In the same way, a novel works like the scenes in a movie. Too much lag and you start to lose your reader and the longer the lag lasts, you may lose your reader’s interest for good. Scott Atkinson, contributor for Inkwell in Writer’s Digest, wrote a column called “5 Things Novelists Can Learn From Screenwriters” and I thought I should share it with you since I learned from it.
YOUR NOVEL IS PROBABLY TOO LONG.
I know it’s hard to stick to word length when submitting your manuscript, however, if you’re just filling the pages to make the entry submission, then it’s not good enough. Make sure your words count in the story and make sure you keep your reader interested.
A STORY CAN BE BUILT IN SCENES
You don’t have to start at the beginning, especially when you thought of a concept and you want to work with it, without being distracted. You can start writing your novel at any point of the story and piece it together until it fits into place.
TENSION MUST DRIVE EVERY SCENE
If your scene does not propel the story, then you’re going to lose the momentum and then eventually your readers. Your characters have to come alive, be animated and give them a live of their own. Give them the drive to achieve something or work towards a goal so every scene is compelling.
PLOT AND CHARACTER ARE NOT ENEMIES
Plot is just as important as character. The more interesting your characters can be, the more your readers will be drawn to them. However, you need to put them into a plot so they have something to do. With the everyday routine we find ourselves in, we want to be put into an exciting and sometimes dangerous situation where we don’t get our hands dirty but someone else does. Give your readers something to talk about.
YOU MUST BRING DIALOGUE TO LIFE
With screenwriting, the characters have to have vibrant dialogue. Have you ever gone to see a movie and come back from it quoting some of the lines? I have. It excites you, it makes you remember the characters even more. That’s what you want from your novel. Intelligent, funny, interesting lines that people are going to remember.
In many ways, novelists and screenwriters are the same. They both work to make a great story but take it from different angles. If you use some of their techniques, you can create a brilliant piece of work.
Freelance Writer and Book Reviewer