Want your script to stand out from the crowd? Want it to be read from cover to cover and passed from hand to hand?
It’s time to discover your inner playfulness.
Playfulness is not the opposite of seriousness. In fact, the most serious writers are often the most playful.
Who could be more serious than Kafka? And what could be more playful than the idea of a trial with impossible rules, or a man who wakes up transformed into an insect?
Go to any good production of a Shakespeare tragedy and you’ll find it full of wit, surprise, invention and trickery.
We all love reading a script where the writer plays with us, leads us here and there, turns the tables on us, uses a little wit in a description, an enjoyable piece of word play in dialogue.
In the first scenes of Bonnie & Clyde, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow flirt, tease and taunt each other – drawing us into caring about the characters and making their rapid shift to brutal violence all the more shocking.
Playing with the audience is fun for both sides. The Coen Brothers have built their careers out of toying with our expectations, as did Hitchcock.
And the playfulness can occur in many different ways. Two recent films both have fun with their opening scenes. Scene 1 of The Town toys with the idea that something is about to happen, which doesn’t… yet.
While the script of The King’s Speech gets great enjoyment from an opening description of a plummy announcer who thinks he’s God’s gift to the world of broadcasting.
Go over your recent writing and pick a few places where you could try a lighter touch. A sharper phrase. A neater surprise. A swift removal of some of the heavier clutter.
Of course, as with the greatest games and sports, you can only be truly playful when you thoroughly immerse yourself in the techniques and have mastered the skills.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and play as you grow and learn.
After all, we do call them Screen-Plays. So go play.