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Writing a Period Drama: Things to Keep in Mind

As someone gains more experience writing a script, a lot of the time, they want to venture out writing different types of pieces, such as a period drama. For those who don’t know, a period drama is a story set in a particular historical timepiece characterized by dialogue, outfits, settings, and much more.


Period drama pieces are interesting because they tend to be a step outside of the world we’re currently living in. A film based during the 1970s tends to excite an audience more than set in current times.


Of course, the script itself and the story are what makes it good or not, since there’s plenty of terrible period dramas. Still, if executed properly, a period drama can be one of the brightest spots for a scriptwriter to accomplish.


Whether you’re beginning your journey into screenwriting or are working on your tenth script, there are plenty of information tied period dramas you need to know. Screenwriting is about learning and executing what you learn linked to your writing,


Nevertheless, let’s discuss a few points related to writing a period drama. Be sure to utilize this information to help you get a jump-off on your script and know where to take it from there. Without further ado, let’s get started!

Still from 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'. Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly


Don’t Worry About It Being Historically Accurate


Whenever someone brings up a period piece of any caliber, writers often get worried about it being historically accurate. However, what many fail to realize is a period drama doesn’t need to be historically accurate.


Frequently, writers confuse historical pieces with period pieces, and there needs to be a difference between the two. A history piece is based on real characters and real events. In contrast, a period piece is during a real setting in history. Still, it can have a fictional story, characters, and so on.


Understanding the difference between the two is an essential matter for period dramas. You don’t want to confuse yourself with how accurate you want. For example, in the second season of Fargo, a period dramedy, they had fictional characters and fictional storylines. Furthering this notion, they even had a bit of SY-FY in the story.


Whether you saw the second season of Fargo or not, it doesn’t matter all that much. What matters is your ability to craft your script how you want it and the execution of it all. Get a good sense of how the time period your story is in was, and that’ll be a good jumping-off point for you.


Rather than focus on the time period, analyze your story for what it is, and if it can hold as a story by itself. If it can’t, you may want to reconsider several of the elements tied to your script, since the story is the most crucial element before anything else.


Research


Although a period drama doesn’t need to be historically accurate, definitely take the time to do some research. Even if your characters and story are entirely fictional, getting a sense of how the setting and timeframe was will allow you to craft your story better.


For example, if a story based in the 1960s and your character uses a cellphone, that wouldn’t make much sense. This is a straightforward notion of what research means to a period drama, but basically, make sure what you’re writing makes sense.


Confusing your audience with what’s written is never a good idea. It needs to be accurate enough for how the timeframe was. Plus, if someone is familiar with the timeframe your story is in, they’ll be impressed with how authentic the setting is.


Show Us the Human Element


Oftentimes, writers get stuck with a period drama’s specifics rather than the actual story’s human element. Remember, the story is always more essential to the script than the setting in which the story takes place.


As tremendous and impressive a unique setting might seem to people, it can be entirely useless if the story is overshadowed by the time frame. There are plenty of period drams that failed to show the human element and cared more about the timeframe.


Take a look at great period dramas to help you, no matter how out there or unrelatable they are to your story. For example, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is an excellent period comedy that shows the human element more than the unique setting the story is in.


Don’t Educate Us, Tell the Story


Since writers have a troubling time differentiating between period dramas and historical pieces, make sure you worry about the story rather than educating us for a period drama. Keeping this in mind will allow us to focus on the period drama and not confuse the two.


Whereas, suppose you focus on the facts and telling it truthfully. In that case, you’ll be stuck in a rut as an educator instead of a storyteller. It’s effortless to do one over the other, which is why it’s a crucial matter for you to take your time with both.

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