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Tips on Keeping your Script Under 120 Pages

One of the most intimidating elements of writing a script has to do with the length. Whether you’re an over-writer who can’t seem to get their script under 120 pages, or you have difficulty writing above the 90-page minimum, the length of a script always seems to be a burden for people involved in the matter.

With the specifics of someone who writes too much, this is a better fault to have than someone who doesn’t write enough. It’s much easier to eliminate what’s been written than someone who needs to develop new ideas to add more to the script.

If you find yourself under this umbrella, don’t pat yourself too much on the back, since there’s a lot you can approve on. For starters, take a look at your script and see what the length of it is. If it’s only a few pages over 120, you might not need to edit much out since it doesn’t need to be precisely under 120.

On the other hand, if you’re closer to the 150 mark or well-above that, you’re going to need to edit quite a bit. Only A-list screenwriters can write insanely long scripts, and since you’re not one of them yet, don’t get too ahead of yourself.

Plus, most novice screenwriters have a lot to edit out that’s not needed in the script. Nevertheless, let’s take a few key points on how you can keep your script under 120 pages and why this is important in the first place.

Photo credit: Industrial Scripts

Communicate Efficiently Using Very Little

Most professional screenwriters will tell you the best scripts are scripts that communicate efficiently using extraordinarily little. Considering this is a bit of a learning curve, it makes perfect sense once you’re able to master it.

Communication is a critical component of any art form, especially in the world of screenwriting. For starters, get in the habit of understanding less is more. This doesn’t mean you need characters to give one-word answers; that’s obviously boring.

Still, it means to look at your scene direction to make sure it’s not a full-length book before every scene. Overexplaining is never a good idea, but if you can manage to edit this down while being descriptive enough, you’ll find it to be beneficial.

With dialogue, make sure the characters are speaking realistically and not over-explaining things. For example, if a character walks in and sees a dead body, they shouldn’t say, “Oh my god, there’s a dead body,” when they’re by themselves.

The correct response would be to write dialogue into action, which we’ll discuss more after this. Basically, keep it simple and keep pushing your story forward. No one wants boring, meaningless scenes, no matter their tastes in film.

Rewrite Dialogue into Action

Dialogue is meant as communication and the primary driving force behind a script. Of course, this doesn’t mean the conversation is the sole piece behind a great film, but if you can manage to develop great dialogue, you’re going to want to use it a lot.

However, this doesn’t mean you should rely on dialogue for everything. For example, if there’s a shorter, better way to show something through action, definitely go with that route. Rather than someone they miss someone who has passed, a simple teardrop will do the trick.

Aside from the teardrop example, you can utilize this in almost any example as long as you’re thorough and know when you should use dialogue and not. As you progress forward, take the time necessary to analyze every scene and dialogue piece to see if it’s needed or not.

Does Each Scene Add to the Story?

Other than the dialogue itself, scenes to be the heavy bulk that can be eliminated or not. For example, if a scene doesn’t add to the story or serve a purpose, you can more than likely rid the scene entirely.

A good rule of thumb for this is to have a scene checklist determining if a scene has conflict, its purpose, and how it pushes the story forward. Having a scene checklist is a great way to go through each and every scene in your story, and if all three elements are met, you can keep it. If not, then you can easily remove it from your story.

What Conflict Is Going On?

Conflict is what drives a script, and a script without conflict typically falls flat since it’s boring and doesn’t have anything enticing in it. For example, a simple warrior saving a princess story is mundane if the warrior faces no conflict and saves the princess no problem.

However, if the warrior gets in numerous battles, and almost dies trying to save the princess, it’s more interesting. Still, conflict doesn’t mean external conflict, such as fighting. It can be from an emotional, societal, or internal matter that can mean many things.


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