5 Reasons Aspiring Screenwriters Should Be Reading Scripts

Woman reading a script

Screenwriting is a craft that requires practice and dedication. Fortunately, one of the most effective ways to improve your skills as a screenwriter is simply by reading screenplays. Reading scripts helps you better understand screenplay structure, format, and style of successful film and television screenplays. In this article, we will explore five key reasons why it is essential for screenwriters to read professionally developed scripts as a way to learn.

1. Strengthen Your Understanding of Formatting

Reading screenplays can help you understand industry standards. As you likely already know, a screenplay must adhere to a specific format and style to be taken seriously in Hollywood. Industry professionals will look for any excuse to discard your script, therefore you mustn’t give them a reason to toss it aside. Reading through successful screenplays will help you understand how to format screenplays, use industry-specific terminology, and write in a way that resonates with producers, agents, and other executives in the industry. While your screenwriting software will do most of the heavy lifting in terms of formatting, you’ll still be able to pick up some tricks by reading scripts whether it’s how to properly format a montage or dealing with flashback sequences.

2. Learn How Writers Hook Their Audience

By analyzing the pacing, dialogue, and action of successful screenplays, aspiring screenwriters are able to learn how to craft a well-told story. As you read, pay attention to how the writer reveals the nature of their characters, exposition, and manipulates the narrative’s plot and story. If you’re reading a successful screenplay, you’ll gain insight into how that particular script managed to engage its audience and keep them hooked until the end. Find a movie that keeps you off your phone and find the script. What about the story or characters keeps you invested? Apply the techniques you discover to your own writing.

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3. Study Elements of Visual Storytelling

Not sure how to use transitions, camera shots, or visual language? Reading scripts can help you understand how to write visual descriptions that give the director, cinematographer, and other crew members the ability to bring your vision to life. You don’t even have to use camera shots in your screenplay to convey how a scene should be shot. In fact, it is often recommended that you avoid adding these as they are usually discarded by the director anyway. Instead, read a screenplay and focus on how the writer crafts each of his action lines. The way in which your action lines are written can provide valuable insight into how the scene should be shot and edited. Moreover, you can also look at how screenwriters use transitions to move from one scene to the next. Smooth transitions are a hallmark of a great writer.

4. Keep Up With the Latest Trends

Every awards season the best screenplays of the year are typically made available to read online for free. A quick internet search is usually all it takes. Taking the time to read these popular scripts is a great way for screenwriters to stay up to date with the latest industry trends and techniques. Moreover, it’s a great way to see the writing styles currently being recognized. The film industry is constantly evolving, and new trends/techniques emerge every year. Making note of these changes will help keep your writing current and allow you to incorporate popular industry techniques into your writing. Whether it’s a new way to format specific story elements or a specific writing voice that happens to be “in,” you’ll be in the know after reading the most acclaimed scripts each year. Make it an annual routine and see how nominated scripts differ from year to year.

5. Read Scripts for Fun

As a screenwriter you should be able to enjoy spending time with a script. Reading screenplays can and should be an immersive experience and a fun creative exercise. Once you finish a movie, find the screenplay and take the time to read it. Note the changes from script to screen and see if you can understand why certain things may have been edited. Or start with the script and then watch the movie. How is it different from what you had imagined in your head? Nevertheless, have fun with it and let your imagination ruminate on the elements that you find most engaging. Additionally, reading screenplays is a great way to overcome writer’s block and kickstart your own creativity because it primes your imagination.

As you can see, reading scripts is an essential part of learning how to write screenplays. By reading these successful screenplays that were produced, you are able to learn from the best screenwriters in the industry and learn how to craft compelling stories, adhere to industry standards, and translate your vision to the screen. It really is one of the best and most accessible ways to hone your abilities and increase your chances of success in the industry. Use the resources linked below to discover downloadable screenplay files.

More: Learn about Your Screenplay Guy's Affordable Script Coverage

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