Are your screenplay pages too long? Sure, you’re a good screenwriter, but are your script’s scenes filled with too much description? Does your dialogue take forever to slog through? Are you simply using too many words? It happens to the best of us!
Take my easy five-question screenwriter quiz to see if your script pages might be too long, and use my tips below to help turn your screenplay into a lean, mean, agent-wooing machine.
Answers are at the bottom.
Long screenplay pages are often due to long character introductions
1) Which character introduction is the best if you want to write a nice lean screenplay?
A) PETER JENKINS (40) — pudgy, iPhone on his belt.
B) PETER JENKINS, late thirties/early 40’s, slightly overweight, sandy blond hair and innocent blue eyes, carries his iPhone on his belt loop in an outdated leather case.
C) PETER JENKINS is in his late thirties but doesn’t look like it. He has an innocent expression on his face and wears an iPhone cell phone on his belt, and his yellow, weathered polo shirt is tucked in.
Long screenplay pages can be the result of too much action description
2) Which action line is the strongest if you’d like to write a nice tight scene?
A) Joey slams on the brakes hard with both feet and the car screeches and squeals to a halt just an inch away from the deadly propane tank.
B) Joey slams the brakes. The car stops, inches from the propane tank.
C) SCREEEEECH! Joey slams on the brakes. The car screeches to a halt, skidding its tires, and stops just inches away from the propane tank. WHOA!
Long screenplay pages can be caused by bloated scene headings
3) Which scene heading / slugline in this script’s scene is easiest and quickest to read?
A) INT. FRITO LAY PLANT – PETER JENKINS’ CORNER OFFICE – BY THE FOUNTAIN – DAY
B) INT. FRITO LAY – OFFICE – DAY
C) INT. FRITO LAY CORN CHIPS PLANT – OFFICE – CORN CHIPS DELICIOUS – DAY
Long script pages are often caused by telling us what’s already clear from the context
4) Which way of writing action is the tightest and best if you want to avoid a long screenplay page?
A) Larry leans up against the bar. He looks down at his drink, thinking about Meg.
B) Larry leans up against the bar, looking down at his drink, thinking about Meg.
C) Larry looks at a photo of Meg. He takes a drink.
Long screenplay pages often employ parentheticals incorrectly
5) Which dialogue/action combo is the the leanest, meanest, and greenest? Okay, not greenest, but the other two.
I can’t wait to try my new AK-47!
I can’t wait to try out my new AK-47!
(jumping up and down, smiling like an excited kid)
I can’t wait to try out my new AK-47!
SCROLL DOWN FOR THE ANSWERS.
Correct answers: A, B, B, C, B
1) Brevity, brevity, brevity! All we need are a hint that Peter’s a bit chunky and has a phone on his belt. That tells us pretty much everything. Long screenplay pages, begone!
2) We’re perfectly able to imagine the “screech” if you simply use the verb, and not the sound effect.
3) Do we need to know it’s the Frito Lay plant? If not, delete the “FRITO LAY” part and just say “OFFICE.”
4) We can’t see or hear Larry thinking, so show him thinking. When he looks at the pic, we know what he’s thinking about.
5) Keep action and descriptions in the action lines, and only use parentheticals if, without them, there’s absolutely no way the reader will understand the way the line is supposed to be delivered.
Naturally, these five quizzy questions aren’t the end-all-be-all of whether or not your screenplay pages are too long. And even if they are, it’s all good. Just keep in mind that less text = easier read. And easier read = people like you more. Or at least your script. And sure, yes, maybe you as well. I guess.
4 thoughts on “Why are my screenplay pages too long?”
I got all correct. BB
So did I. That was easy!
A nice beginner quiz however I have to disagree with number 3, While out of the choices provided I agree that the selected choice is best I would have not have used any of these slug lines.
In an earlier scene in this screenplay I am assuming we would learn Peter works for Frito Lay. Therefore I would find it redundant in a sense to indicate it is a Frito Lay office. Therefore slightly going against the explanation provided a better slug line would be INT. Peter’s office.
As this article stated Brevity! Brevity! Brevity!
An excellent quiz and a sensational learning tool. Well done.
INT. KITCHEN – DAY
Newbie Screenwriter wrests cat off laptop keyboard and smiles, blood dripping from her wrist.
Hallelujah, praise the Goddess, I’ve found Screenplay Readers! I will survive!
INT. KODAK THEATER – ACADEMY AWARDS – NIGHT
Experienced Screenwriter holding Oscar aloft, triumphant, pirouettes and chortles.
Thank you Brian and Screenplay Readers!