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First Draft: Five Criminally Underrated Elements of Successful Screenplays

First Draft: Five Criminally Underrated Elements of Successful Screenplays

First Draft

4. Fewer Characters

This element is paired well with writing in small story windows. The more characters in the screenplay, the more the reader has to remember and then apply to the story they are being tasked to follow.

While this sounds obvious, you would be surprised how many screenplays have too many characters.

Instead of having four lead characters with a few additional supporting characters, why not whittle it down to one or two leads with just one or two supporting?

And it’s not just about the reader’s lack of memory application. When we tell that World War II battle story through the eyes of a single soldier — as opposed to generals, admirals, captains, and their family members back home — it’s a much more personal experience for the reader. The reader can better relate to a single point of view as opposed to that overarching assembly of characters.

The story of Tommy in Dunkirk could have been an even more contained film by itself.

While some stories just require more characters, do your best to make sure that each and every character that you do have matters. Ask yourself questions like:

“Are any characters redundant?”

“Can any characters be combined?”

“Can the story survive without this character?” 

You’d be surprised how many characters in your scripts are redundant, could be combined, or just aren’t needed. When you make those discoveries and perform the necessary changes, your scripts will only be more successful in the end.

Note: Again, it’s also more attractive to Hollywood. The fewer characters there are, the cheaper the film will be to produce.

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