Novel vs Screenplay

Posted on: 29 Jul 2018

Category: English Blog

Blog Views: 783

"A good screenplay shows you more than it tells you. i.e more actions, less dialogues. Actions speak louder than words, even in a screenplay! Writing a novel has its own challenges, it needs more time, it needs more attention to language, grammar etc"

 

            So, what's the difference between a novel and a screenplay? Or is there a difference? Aren't they the same? Well, if you consider that both narrate (supposed to?) a story then yes, they are the same. But the similarity ends there. Because the way they tell the story is where all the difference is.

            Let’s look at the novel first. It tells the story, it narrates places, it describes the feelings of a character, it spells out what the character is thinking, it discusses the conflict, it can be 80 pages or 800. The novel is not bound by many rules. Sometimes the author is free to innovate his/her own style of narration and writing style.

            But screenplay is much more restrictive and definitive. All you write in screenplay is a long series of scenes. The scenes only do two things. They show something or tell something. So, it’s either show or tell. It’s what you see and what you hear. There is no scope for wordy descriptions of a place or a person’s feeling or what the person is thinking. You must show it, or someone must tell it. And more you show it instead of telling it, the better. A good screenplay shows you more than it tells you. i.e more actions, less dialogues. That’s because what you see is easier to grasp than what you hear. Actions speak louder than words, even in a screenplay! A screenplay has much stricter rules and formats, the details of which is a subject for another blog that I plan to write in the near future. A page in the screenplay is roughly equal to a minute of the movie runtime. So effectively you have to tell your story in less than 120 pages. To make it even more interesting, the story should have 3 acts -

  • Act-1: First 30 pages, where the conflict in the story is clearly visible, often with a significant event taking place within the first 10 pages
  • Act-2: The next 60 pages, where the conflicts build on, the characters develop, plots lead to sub-plots and ultimately leads to the final act
  • Act-3: The last 30 pages, where the conflict that had reached point of no return is eventual solved. This is often called as the climax, the most important part of the movie that makes or breaks it in many cases

 

Now compare this to novel, which has none of these. But by no means writing one is easy over the other. Writing a novel has its own challenges, it needs more time, it needs more attention to language, grammar etc. Not that the screenplay can get away with bad grammar and language, but the readers of the screenplay is a smaller group compared to novel. Last but not the least, the cost of producing a movie vs printing a book. And for this reason, a screenplay has to be a financially appealing proposition compared to a novel.

Simply put a novel with lots of rules and restrictions put together is a screenplay!


Tags: Novel vs Screenplay, Screenplay writing






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