Screenwriting Tips for Novelists

It’s all about Story.

Whether you are writing for page, stage, or screen, you want to write a compelling story that keeps the reader/viewer enthralled to the end. Screenwriters and novelists can look outside their box to see how the other guys do it, and take some tips and tricks from each other.

As a novelist, I’ve read several books on screenwriting, particularly Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need! by Blake Snyder. He died at a young age, but not before sharing his thoughts on how to write a script that sells. He also showed how to use his Beat Sheets to write a novel.

He breaks down the  three-act structure into smaller, discrete pieces that move the story from inciting incident to satisfying conclusion. He talks about using log lines, high concept, and pitches. If you can distill your story into a log line, a tag line that would go on a movie poster or novel cover, you are well on your way to breaking your story down into the elements that people subconsciously look for.

Alison McMahan is an award-winning filmmaker and award-winning novelist. A member of Mystery Writers of America – Florida Chapter, she spoke at our meeting Saturday, October 17. She talked about “Screenwriting Tricks for Novelists” and gave Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat! as one example.

Another was using Chris Soth’s Mini-Movie Method, which essentially breaks down a movie or novel into eight mini-movies, each with their own tension arc.

The takeaway for a novelist is to look at how screenwriters break down their story, and use whatever methods make sense for you to break down your novel. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by thinking of a 50,000 word Act II, and not knowing exactly what to write. Utilizing screenwriters methods can break that huge task into smaller, easier to digest chunks that when outlined are a road map to completion.