Finding your descriptive voice in screenwriting
Screenplays aren’t Literature.
If there’s one core screenwriting truth you’re supposed to learn as soon as possible, that’s it. All the stuff that made your fiction writing awesome, all the flowery language, the detailed descriptions, and lengthy internal dialogues are anathema to the script. That two page treatise on your protagonists 1970’s wardrobe and its roots in a painful high school career fraught with bullying and inattentive parents? Fuggedaboudit. What got you gold stars in creative writing will get you tossed at page one by an intern at insertprodcohere.
In screenwriting, the industry tells us, your descriptive passages must remain simple, clear, minimalist. Describe ONLY what the viewer might see (with a few exceptions) and eschew Literary flourish (as well as directorial specifics – but that’s another discussion).
Play a little telephone
I often tell people: Imagine you’re watching an awesome movie (your movie is awesome, right?), and you’re on the phone with a friend. You’re describing to them what’s happening, while it happens. In fact, try it. Turn on the TV, call a friend, and see how it feels to really try to keep the story moving real time… 1 minute per page, 90 pages for 90 minutes.
Here’s what happens when you insist on being Literary on the phone: