The one thing that all creative writers do without thinking is read. Why is it that many scriptwriters don’t do the same thing? If you ask an author why they read, they’ll tell you (apart from sheer enjoyment) that they learn from reading other people’s writing.
So, let’s break down what you can learn from reading a good script. I say good because, like a poorly written book, a bad script is no fun to read, and additionally, you may pick up a bad habit or two. The first thing to do is find a script of a successful movie or TV pilot, preferably one that you’ve watched. Personally, I recommend Simply Scripts as the go-to place to find one. There are many other places, but Simply Scripts has such a huge number of scripts, that you’re bound to find one to your liking.
First, let’s look at how to break a script down into its component parts.
How to Read a Script
There are several components that make up a good script;
- Break the script down into individual scenes
- Identify the Plot and Sub-Plot
- Look at the major characters and their backstories and development
Look out for my article on The Components of a Script coming soon.
- The most obvious benefit of reading a variety of scripts is that you will see how other screenwriters approach a similar scene in their own way. You might be able to pick up and adapt some of these approaches to your own style of writing.
- Identify the great scenes in the script to see how they work. What makes them so great?
- How were the major characters developed? See what has worked well.
- How scenes transition is approached differently by every writer. Find ones that stand out and see how it was done.
- By reading lots of good scripts, a kind of osmosis happens, you will start to use the good parts of what you’ve read naturally.
As always, make sure your script is formatted correctly and has been proofread before you submit it to an agent or competition. If you’re unsure of how to format your script, then have a read of my guide to formatting article.