Posted by: Natalie Hatch | November 1, 2010

Going to the Movies

I read on a writing blog recently that novel writers can learn a lot from screenwriters in how to set the pacing, character development and over all story arc. So I took up the challenge to see just what’s the difference between screenwriting and novel writing. The first thing that hit me was length. Screenwriters have only 110 pages to tell their story, whereas most novels are between 280 – 400 pages long (we’re not even going to look at Ayn Rand’s epic tales here). Screenwriters also are limited in description, they seem to be very dialogue centric, which really is interesting to read.

Scott Myers blog GoIntoTheStory offers insight into the heady world of screenwriting, I highly recommend it. I’m learning so much about how I should be developing my characters etc as I trawl through his archives. At the moment Scott is sharing movie scripts based on genre. Last week, being Halloween over in the US, meant that we were offered the chance to read 7 horror scripts, including Alien and The Thing. I also read the script to Tremors (perhaps one of my favourite movies of all time) and loved the way the writer developed Burt’s character. I’d forgotten the truly amazing lines he delivered throughout the movie.  It was a great read through and opened my eyes to how well the dialogue of each scene fit into the plot. If only I could write that well. This week we’re looking at Romantic Comedies, and Scott’s offering the chance for writers/readers to go through movies like Pretty Woman, Knocked Up, 500 Days of Summer, and so forth. Can’t wait to sink my teeth into them.

Another prolific screenwriting blog/website belongs to John August. He offers information in regards to how to write, what the life of a professional screenwriter is like, and so on. Have a look through the site, you’ll be glad that you did.

William M Akers has written a book (which I’m reading at the moment) called Your Screenplay Sucks. He offers a myriad of reasons why your writing sucks and how you can fix it. Very entertaining, and I have had a few light bulb moments with my current work in progress that has led to being able to push past road blocks. He also has a blog of the same name.

Finally my recommendation is to read a few screenplays and see for yourself how the professionals get it right (and some where they get it horribly wrong). The more you read as a writer the better it can be for your story. MyPDFScripts offers a list of movie scripts in all genres that you can download for free. They also have links to other sites that share free movie scripts and are worth having a looksy.



  1. great post Natalie thanks for that, and the tips of what blogs to check out. I too get a lot of inspiration from screen writers, Joss Whedon in particular, when it comes to dialogue. I find tv shows the most help as they have longer story arcs than films and the characters can be so well developed. I have been known to watch Buffy as research when my inspiration is flagging. Of course that can get a bit distracting.

  2. Thanks Lara, it certainly is eye opening reading through different movie scripts. These blogs are amazing with the amount of information they freely give out. Joss is a fav of mine, I also love Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead/HotFuzz/Paul) and John Hughes (miss that guy so much). I’ve relived my teen years as I trawl through John’s scripts, he had a fantastic way of getting into teens heads and bringing it out on film.

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