How Long Should My Screenplay Be?
This is a common question and the common answer used to be that the industry standard was 120 pages in length. I personally never followed that rule because a lot of the genre scripts that I write always seem to be able to be done within 90-110 pages which seems to be the norm these days in the industry by a lot of execs. Now of course you can go find examples of outliers who have sold screenplays much longer or much shorter than that, but there’s a reason why those examples aren’t considered the norm. Also if those scripts didn’t start out as specs then it’s apple and oranges anyway. If Tarantino writes a screenplay with 140 pages and calls it Django, obviously that doesn’t benefit you in a debate about why you should be able to sell a 120 page screenplay based on whatever.
Typically when readers or execs see a script over 120 pages then their first impression is the writer may have an unfocused idea or simply doesn’t know how to tell an effective story under two hours. Maybe the writer has completely overwritten the story. Or maybe the screenplay is one gigantic brain fart that the writer hasn’t bothered to have edited or done any additional drafts on in order to keep it as lean as possible.The average audience member has a short attention span. Let’s just be honest. I will admit even I get impatient after a certain amount of time in the theater despite watching something that’s got me on the edge of my seat.
On the flip side, if your story is well under 90 pages then the first impression is that the story is thin. Maybe this writer isn’t seasoned enough to tell a complete story effectively. Maybe this writer is just another “idea guy” who doesn’t know how to effectively flesh things out into a compelling story. Just like anything, first impressions matter. When someone flips through your screenplay to see how long or short it is these are the things they start to look for.
What you should focus on when writing your story is that you have told a very entertaining, intriguing or compelling story in the best way possible. If your page count comes up short then it’s possible you haven’t fleshed out the idea enough. Or, if you’ve overwritten your story then there’s probably a lot of places where you can cut the fat.
Focus on mastering the principles of dramatic writing and the basics as well. Things like knowing what types of things should happen within your given genre, pacing, story structure and dialogue will help you when it’s actually time to write FADE IN and FADE OUT.
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How Important Are Character Names?
This is a question a lot of writers ask at one point or another when starting that fresh new story that has them excited enough to dedicate the next several months (or longer) of their life and being able to type “THE END” with pride and satisfaction. Character names can say a lot about your story’s plot, scene, tone or even play on the theme. While it’s never guaranteed that one hundred percent of your audience will get the full meaning or purpose of what may seem like an ordinary name on the surface for your character, however it can be quite satisfying to those who do. These character names can also serve as a reminder to each of their purposes within your story.