How To Begin A Screenplay when adapting a book to a screenplay so that you can enter it into a screenplay contest?
As we've said in our articles on adapting a novel or book into a screenplay, the first few pages of your screenplay are critical. In the case of a screenplay contest, the judges will see it first. They are, more than often, judging the screenplay to find scripts and screenplays for television series, like our Screenplay Award judges, therefore they want to be hooked into your story within the first 10 pages.
Even if you're not writing your screenplay adaptation to enter into a screenplay, most film producers who read screenplays will only give you about 10 pages to get them interested. That is why your screenplay must have a great beginning.
Here Your Book Into A Movie gives their nuggets of advice for authors adapting their novels into a screenplay.
- Formatting: All descriptions and character names should be aligned with each other in the centre. However, they shouldn’t be ‘centred’. In a lot of writing programs when you use the centre justification option it aligns the middle of the word with the centre of the page. You want your names and descriptions to be left-justified, but they need to start in the centre.
- For the names you can just hit the tab key six times, but if you want a paragraph to do it properly you can highlight the entire section then go up to the ‘increase indent’ button in Microsoft Word (It’s usually located to the right of the bullet buttons) then just click the button enough times to align it to the middle. I’m sure there’s a fancy way to do this that will auto-align everything but the more you mess around with the settings in Microsoft word the more likely you are to get a wacky result.
- Names are always in capital letters.
- Descriptions are always separated by parenthesis and are always in the third person present tense.
- The title of the play and the author’s name should be listed on a cover page.The title, author, setting description and character list can all be centred using the centre justification tool (unlike description and Character names in the body of the screenplay).
- Only dialogue is left aligned and never indented.
- Description: Allow Some Creative Room in Your Description.
Description When Adapting Your Novel Into A Screenplay
When writing a book or a short story, the audience expects description out of you. In some cases, writers go wild and give you page after page of description. For script writing, however, you only need to give basic direction between dialogue. Remember these scripts are intended to be acted, directed and designed by people other than the writer.
So if you give a long description of what a character is wearing, these other people who also contribute to a movie or play are just going to hate you and likely not use another one of your plays. Keep things general so that the other creative minds have room to take your script to a different level. This can be a difficult concept to accept because, for other forms of writing, we are taught to be specific. But try to picture yourself as a director reading a script. You come across this description:
“Bill is eighty-two with a dark scar running across his forehead. He wears thick glasses and has thin wisps of white hair poking out of his brown leather cap.”
Versus this description:
“Bill is old, with glasses and grey hair.”