One of the mistakes that beginning screenwriters make is the tendency to "novelize" in the descriptive passages. That its, they use the methods found in novels. For example:
When John looked at Allison he remembered all the other women he had been with. Some had hurt him and some had loved him. But he was willing to continue trying to make it work with her.
When Mary looked at the boat, she realized it was the most beautiful one she had ever seen. She knew she had to have it, even though it was out of her price range.
How can you possibly show those things on the screen?
A screenplay can only contain what the audience can see and hear on the screen. Unlike the novel, you can only reveal character and backstory (history) through action and dialogue.
This is the challenge. To take what you know about your characters and reveal it on the screen, ONLY through action and dialogue, without resorting to long passages of one person describing themselves and their history. Boring and amateurish.
Let's look at how you might handle John's situation. Please note, the following are NOT in proper format.
Allison's remark stings. John hesitates before replying, then he looks into her cold eyes.
I never thought you'd talk to me that way.
What? No woman has ever talked to you that way?
No, that's happened before. More than one said something like that.
So now we're all evil harpies?
I didn't say that. Some were very kind -- like Judy.
I told you not to bring her up again.
I don't love her any more. I love you. And I'm
willing to try again, to make it work with us.
Allison's last statement also reveals something about the couple's past -- John's past relationship with Judy is still a sore point with her.
So as you're adapting your book into a screenplay, look out for the places where you might tend to "novelize" and instead use screenwriter's methods of revealing information.
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