Writer’s Digest: “5 Things Novelists Can Learn From Screenwriters”

Whether or not you’re a novelist (I am not), consider the following tips. Maybe they’re useful for a current project or will help you in the future. Both fiction and nonfiction, in the end, rely on storytelling. Screenwriters work in a tight format. No fluff. We can learn from them.

These five tips are from a Writer’s Digest article. (Read the full article here.) The parenthetical comments are mine.

1. Your novel is probably too long. (That’s OK. Write it long. Then cut it. I’ve read that bestselling author Stephen King cuts a lot out of his first draft, something like 20 percent. The first draft of my next book was 105,000 words. I cut it to about 90,000.)

2. A story can be built in scenes. (And tight, well-linked scenes move the story forward. In novels or narrative nonfiction, these might be chapters.)

3. Tension must drive every scene. (In a larger sense, there’s conflict in your story–or should be–and it should seep into each scene or chapter.)

4. Plot and characters are not enemies. (Screenwriter David Magee calls them “two sides of the same coin. A character behaves the way they behave, and their behavior makes the plot.”)

5. You must bring dialogue to life. (Dialogue, or quotations in nonfiction, give voice and life to your story. It must ring true.)

Would you like more tips? Read “The 5s” found in the sidebar. (Scroll to bottom.)

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