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Screenwriting and Its Literary Elements Essay

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Updated: Aug 23rd, 2022

Introduction

Screenwriting for the films is required to represent the ideas to the cast, director, and others involved in the process. Further, the script affects how the movies, TV series, games, or other work will look on the screen. It is both a process of innovation and adaptation of the ideas of others that requires a balance. It is important to consider that screenwriters can not only convey other people’s ideas but also bring their own, as well as use literary methods and approaches that can make a film successful, or vice versa. Screenwriters are one of those people, without whose participation it is almost impossible to make a film. Screenwriting includes many literary elements that vary depending on the genre and point of view of the writer of the script. These elements reveal the scenario in different ways and influence the perception of the viewers.

Literary Elements of Screenwriting

Fiction

The role of fiction in screenwriting is irreplaceable for any genre. Most of the films presented to the general public are based on fiction or have elements of it. This is based on the fact that there are not enough historical and present-day events that could be reproduced and filmed (Batty and Taylor, 2019, p.377). Moreover, most of the possible ideas have already been filmed in documentary or fictional materials. The film industry requires constant innovation as the public becomes more demanding. Because of this, the creativity of the film’s production team is important, as it will help bring innovative ideas and make the script interesting for further creation and projection on the screens of the audience.

Screenwriters are usually part-time or seasonal employees for a particular movie, TV series, or any other show. This kind of work is very time-consuming and requires attention to detail, soft and hard skills. For the presentation of a story, the script is one of the most important aspects (Batty and Baker, 2018, p.2). Therefore, the participation of the screenwriters is essential in the film development process, as well as their ability to adapt the fiction into the script.

In drama narratives, fiction is used to deliver the message of death, gender, or sexuality. At the same time, in speculative biographies, it is used to illuminate historical events (Batty and Baker, 2018, p.6). The use of fiction is a popular element in screenwriting but is used differently depending on the genre of the film.

Screenwriter Voice

Screenwriting fully describes the events occurring on the screen. In this case, every detail is important, as they play a role in conveying information to the filmmaking team itself and to the viewer. The role of a screenwriter is quite flexible, as it implies a number of tasks, such as adapting a script to an existing idea. Usually, in work, it is necessary to present several versions, while only one of them will be approved (Finnegan, 2017, p.209). Screenwriting requires the communication and coordination of many members of the production team. At the same time, the screenwriter brings his own contribution, as the style and adaptation of the screenplay will also contain personal characteristics (Ferrell, 2017, p.161). Thus, even in the case of the task of representing other people’s thoughts, the screenwriter brings his own style.

During the writing of the script, the personal style of the author is manifested. The so-called “voice” is reflected in tone, pace, coordination, and other features of the script (Ferrell, 2017, p.162). Therefore, the scriptwriter has a direct influence on the reproduction of the final draft, and it is important that his style coincides with the original idea.

The voice also reflects the screenwriter’s perception of the world, which is largely based on his life story. This affects how the scriptwriter conveys the personal voice and ideas of others through text (Ferrell, 2017, p.162). Thus, even with the exact challenge posed to different writers, each of them can convey it differently due to their own contributions.

Anti-heroes

In the modern world, views and ideas are changing, which requires innovation in film scripts. Inti-heroes have become one of the popular innovations, attracting more attention from people than positive characters (Dean, 2020, p.337). Screenwriters began to successfully implement and use them for the films.

Anti-heroes can have negative characteristics such as selfishness, anger, and hatred. Not only are anti-heroes becoming popular, but also anti-heroines. These characters are most popular in horror films, but they are also starting to appear in other genres, including romance and comedy. They are used by screenwriters to engage viewers’ interest, create a variety of cast, and instill a certain amount of empathy for non-standard characters (Dean, 2020, p.337). Thus, the literary element used in one genre began to spread to others as its popularity grew.

Violence Expressions

Violence, similarly to anti-heroes and heroines, also grabs the audience’s attention. Despite the negative effects of including violence in the script, it has been proven to be profitable for films. To add violence, negative words and expressions, events, and behavior of the characters are used, thus including it in dialogues and descriptions of scenes in the script (Martinez et al., 2019, p.672). This element has become a part of films and is used to gain more popularity and attract an audience.

The use of violence as an element of the film is presented differently in each case. Film genres have a great influence on the breadth of use of this element. Each genre of the film defines a certain theme of the film, because of which the use of expressions of violence may be appropriate or, on the contrary, unacceptable. Moreover, what is considered violent in one genre will not be perceived the same in the other (Martinez et al., 2019, p.675). Therefore, the use of violence as part of the setting in the script and its perception depends not only on the volume of its use but also on the genre of the film.

Language

The elements of language used in screenwriting also differentiate films from one another. Such elements can include emotionally charged words, opposition, irony, and hyperbole. These elements include the use of words in the film that emphasize the original meaning. Language in the form of words, expressions, and phrases allows the viewer to understand the idea of the film (Benis, 2020, p.27). Because of this, the results of the success of the film depend largely on the scriptwriter since he defines the process, the type of activity in the film and describes all the interactions. Elements can give both emotion and engagement for the viewer, and vice versa, alienate the viewer.

Elements such as emotionally charged words allow the viewer to be drawn into the atmosphere of the film. Each film has a different style of storytelling, as for which emotionality is more emphasized, for example, in dramas, while others, on the contrary, are more monotonous. At the same time, a certain emotion and atmosphere in the film can be conveyed not only through words, but it is also emphasized by the pace of the script, the general atmosphere, and other aspects (Benis, 2020, p.30). Therefore, it is important for the screenwriter to consider the overall fullness.

Each genre has different requirements for the content of the film since each has a specific theme. Moreover, many films are aimed at different age audiences, and because of this, the acceptable vocabulary varies. Therefore, the screenwriter must take into account not only the idea of ​​the film itself but also the target audience to which it will be presented.

Screenplay

The screenplay and scenario are directly related. Depending on the script that is written for the film, the action on the screen will unfold in one way or another (Joyce, 2016, p.245). The emotions that the author has laid down will influence the kind of atmosphere and emotion the viewer will experience while watching.

Scripting has a direct impact on the performance of roles since this is what identifies the spoken text. The text can create both the emotion of worry and the opposite. It largely depends on the initial request, the task given to the screenwriter, but also reflects the personal vision and point of view of the screenwriter himself (Joyce, 2016, p.245). The written text is most often presented on the screen in exactly this form since the actors memorize the script. There are only small minor deviations from the text, applicable in rare cases in the form of improvisation. It is important that the text reveals each of the characters can convey the idea of the film and present the atmosphere to the viewer.

Creating Awareness

Screenwriters can report social, economic, political, and other issues within the script. This is especially noticeable in the genre of comedy, where, through outwardly positive characters and events, global problems are conveyed, thereby raising them for discussion in society (Batty and Taylor, 2019). In other genres, screenwriters also use dialogue and other techniques to communicate public issues.

Thus, even superficial films and scripts can carry deep meaning. This makes it possible to convey existing problems in different genres, regardless of whether the film is fun or fantastic. This attracts the attention of the audience and increases the semantic load.

Self-adapted Screenplays

To write a script, pre-existing events or stories are often used, described by other authors or directors. A style in which actions are a combination of the previously described and creative additions is becoming popular (Fryer, 2018, p.58). This style of presentation makes it possible to resent the past in different ways depending on the genre of the film, the year of release, the team’s vision, and other factors.

Self-adaptation is a process of interaction and collaboration. This option allows to reincarnate events that were previously written or shown on the screen (Fryer, 2018, p.57). This combination is, in any case, an innovation, as either the scriptwriter or the director of the film brings changes to the initial development of events. This allows the creation of unique films, series, or other shows based on additional elements. In addition, the style of the original author will be tracked as well as the style of those who participated in the formatting of the initial script. Thus, it’s possible to revive works and show them from a new perspective with the use of the self-adaptation style.

Storyline

Most scenarios have primary and secondary characters, as well as multiple storylines. It is important that the storylines are consistent to reflect the original idea of ​​the film. At the same time, the actors themselves are often important for reproducing the plot in the script. In the case of the drama genre, it is important that the storyline conveys the tragedy of what is happening through the characters, and in the case of some actors, the final version does not correspond to what is required by the script (Andrews, 2018, p.42). Therefore, the screenwriter should take into account not only the originally laid meaning itself but also the realism of its representation.

Screenwriters have a direct impact on many elements of the film, including on-screen play, dialogues, events, and storylines. In the case of inconsistency, this will affect the final perception of the viewer. Therefore, it is important for screenwriters to have their own vision in balance with the ability to express other people’s ideas through the text.

Cultural Influence and Personal Style

Francis Veber, who has been writing scripts since the 1970s, has mostly contributed to comedy films. Veber’s most recent scripts date back to 2010, and over the course of his career, elements he has used consistently include characterization and comedy dialogue. The dialogues that the author wrote influenced how the cast would perform their parts and how interesting the film was to watch. Francis Veber wrote mostly for French cinema, and the elements used were partly reflections of that time, conveying the real life of people with little adaptations. Most of the scripts ordered from Francis Veber were in the main genre of comedy, in which he specialized. (Leahy and Vanderschelden, 2021, p.304). Thus, nationality, culture and local folklore have an impact on the writing style.

Classic and New Elements

There are classic script elements that convey atmosphere, emotions, or allow to create intrigue. In parallel, innovative elements arise, such as an interactive scenario that implies the presence of conceptual models and visualizations (Ogle, 2019, p.4). Screenwriters must continually introduce updates to their work to grab and hold viewers’ attention.

Screenwriters, including Billy Wilder, say that scripting requires not only talent, but sometimes years of study and practice to achieve optimal results. Due to this, there are no simpler or more difficult genres, but there are more complex and intricate plots that require a variety of writing elements (Cernik, 2021, p.1). Moreover, modern screenwriting is no longer limited to script writing. Additional specialists with one example being Randy Thom are involved, as they prescribe the musical and design parts of the script (Lee and Stringer, 2018, p.145). Thus, screenwriting is becoming an increasingly comprehensive direction in pre-production of a film.

Conclusion

Most screenwriters have different approaches to the task and use different elements in their writing. It depends on the genre of the film, the approach of the scriptwriter himself, his personal life story, and the point of view. Therefore, it is important that the viewpoint of the screenwriter coincides with other criteria for the implementation of the script to obtain a full-fledged picture on the screen, which the viewers will later see. Screenwriters convey the underlying idea, which can include both creative elements and be exclusively the transmission of someone else’s idea.

Reference List

Andrews, H. (2018) ‘‘Real people’s lives rarely fall into a three-act structure’: Writing biographical drama for British television’, Journal of Screenwriting, 9(1), pp.41-56.

Batty, C. and Baker, D.J. (2018) ‘’, Journal of Writing and Writing Programs, 48, pp.1-10.

Batty, C. and Taylor, S. (2019) ‘Comedy writing as method: reflections on screenwriting in creative practice research’, New Writing, 16(3), pp.374-392.

Benis, R. (2020) ‘The origins of screenwriting practice and discourse in Portugal’, Journal of Screenwriting, 11(1), pp.27-44.

Cernik, J. (2021) ‘Where do the theory and the teaching of screenwriting intersect? A survey of teachers of screenwriting from East-Central European film schools’, Studies in Eastern European Cinema, pp.1-9.

Dean, L. (2020) ‘Altering screenwriting frameworks through practice-based research: a methodological approach’, New Writing, 17(3), pp.333-347.

Ferrell, R. (2017) ‘An introduction to voice in screenwriting’, Journal of Screenwriting, 8(2), pp.161-175.

Finnegan, J. (2017) ‘Beyond the page: Crowdsourcing as a case study for digital screenwriting techniques’, New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, 15(2), pp.209-228.

Fryer, L. (2018) ‘Screenwriting, adaptation and reincarnation: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s self-adapted screenplays’, Journal of Screenwriting, 9(1), pp.57-71.

Joyce, H. (2016) ‘Text and performance: What does a screenplay do?’, Journal of Screenwriting, 7(3), pp.245-254.

Ogle, G. (2019) ‘Screenwriting for new film mediums: Conceptualizing visual models for interactive storytelling’, Journal of Screenwriting, 10(1), pp.3-27.

Leahy, S. and Vanderschelden, I. (2021) Screenwriters in French cinema. Manchester University Press. Web.

Lee, N.J. and Stringer, J. (2018) ‘From screenwriting for sound to film sound maps: the evolution of live tone’s creative alliance with Bong Joon-ho’, The New Soundtrack, 8(2), pp.145-159.

Martinez, V. R. et al. (2019) ‘Violence rating prediction from movie scripts’, Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 33(1), pp.671-678.

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