A reminder: This post courtesy of Julie Jarnagin’s 101 Blog Post Ideas for Writers.
12. What novelists can learn from screenplays
I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever written a screenplay. I’ve once or twice considered participating in Script Frenzy, which is run by the same people who do NaNoWriMo and is basically a challenge to write a screenplay in one month, but I’ve never gotten around to it. I prefer prose, so my motivation to actually take part in this challenge is low. But I have actually read a couple of screenplays, mostly because my best friend gave me a Buffy the Vampire Slayer screenplay book that she needed for one of her courses in college. So I’m going to base my meager response on that book…bear with me.
I think one major thing that novelists can learn from screenplays is simplicity. Screenplays are mostly dialogue with a bit of description thrown in as a general idea of what’s happening nearby. Many novels are the exact opposite. I’m as guilty as any other author for over-describing things, or so I’ve been told by critique-readers. As the creator of an entire world, writers tend to want to describe everything down to the tiniest detail, so that the reader can see it exactly as they’re imagining it. The problem with that is that half the fun is in the imagination part. Sometimes the reader wants to be able to figure it out themselves, instead of having a million-and-one details shoved down their throat. George R.R. Martin is famous for this. He creates an amazingly expansive world with characters upon characters upon characters, but his descriptive style leaves the reader constantly struggling to hold torrents of information in their brain, only to eventually realize that 99% of that information was completely irrelevant to the plot.
So, yeah. Simplicity. Learn how to use it.