Screenwriting Vs Novel Writing

As a writer who writes both screenplays and novels, I am often asked the question: which is easier to write? Most of the times I fumble for an answer and manage to say something appropriate, but persistent questioners are not easily fobbed off. She will repeat it by asking: do you prefer writing a script or a novel? Believe me, I still haven’t come up with an answer to that question.

In this piece, my attempt is to help readers figure out how screenplay writing and novel writing differ from each other and also show up the similarities.

Both screenplays and novels require the same kind of pre-writing preparation (not to mention focus and dedication!). You need to figure out your characters and the plot; develop the story so that it has loads of dramatic tension to keep readers engaged and turning the pages to know what happens next. Both aspire to create vivid images in the readers’ minds and provide the satisfaction that comes from reading a well-crafted story.

A screenplay is often described as a roadmap that guides a filmmaker towards her destination of putting together a film. Typically, one page of a script equals one minute of screen time and hence the script for a 100 minute film ideally should be between 90-100 pages.

Less is more in a screenplay. As a result, descriptions have to be minimal. Its entire purpose is to inform the reader the very essentials about location, the ambience or mood and the action that the audience will see. White space is critical in a script. So typically, three to four lines of description are interspersed between dialogues.  Writing long dense paragraphs is frowned upon and a sure-fire way of getting your script trashed in the nearest bin!

NA cover (small)In the following excerpt from my novel, The Indian Tycoon’s Marriage Deal, I briefly describe the setting for a scene before I launch into a tense war of words between the protagonist, Krish, and his father KD.

KD was waiting for him, a tumbler of Scotch in his hand, on the terrace lawn of the penthouse, which afforded a spectacular view of the Delhi skyline. In the distance, Krish could see the distinctive dome of the pink stone Humayun’s Tomb, a regal backdrop to the modern expressway that arched in front of it. Row upon row of lights sparkled as cars streaked away to the farthest corners of the city.

Writing such a description would be totally pointless in a script. So while in a book the author needs to do the job of the cameraman by providing appropriate visual cues, in a script, a slug line stating the location of the penthouse and time of day/night would be enough. The focus there would be on the conflict between father and son.

The above piece was written by me for Storyizen Magazine. Read the rest of this piece here….

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