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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Orwig

Script Writing vs. Novel Writing

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

Both tell a story, which do you prefer?

I have had the absolute joy of being able to work with scripts and long form stories. And it has been a learning curve indeed! Both involve writing, but almost entirely different structures. One requires twice the length and descriptions layered in these complex webs of character arcs and plot. And one is short, punchy dialogue and minimal four lines of description amidst expanding plots and character arcs! I love both, and here is why....

Let’s start with scripts: they are fast paced, with tight dialogue that holds immense power to push both the plot and characters along the journey with not a moment being wasted. The description is short and each word counts twice as much since four lines (not four sentences!) are max. What a whirl wind.

Personally, I write dialogue first, so script writing is super fun to me. I get to write whole pages of dialogue????!!!! Dream come true. And they can be fragments? Even better. Also, you can cut from character to character and give viewers a different kind of heightened expectations through the use of film that you just can’t get from reading. Like showing a bad guy around the corner of the house holding a knife that the-would-be victim doesn’t see. Will the main character see the bad guy in time or not?

Novels are my first love and will forever be until the day I die. Simply because I get to build this huge world that can expand into hundreds of pages. It doesn’t end at 110 pages, but whenever the character’s story is finished. I love that kind of freedom and room for certain stories that want to explode out. And a part of me does love description...especially of water.

And yet sometimes, I have found going back and forth between the two mediums can help fix a story point. Take for example a battle I wanted to write in a novel. But I could not write the battle no matter how hard I tried. I wrote everything else except that one battle. So I took that scene and I wrote it in script form. What would the battle look like on film? How to describe that? What would they say in quick bits? Battles are so fast and slow at the same time as they are counted in heart beats and moments than in ticking clocks.

Suddenly, I had the words and wrote the battle in script form that very afternoon. I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome, that was what I had wanted and visualized in pictures, and now it was in written words. I then could transfer it over to novel form because I already had a solid foundation from the script. All I needed was more description and character feelings.

It is simply amazing to be able to use both forms to play, create, and develop with! Have you tried script writing? Have you tried a novel? Both? What about poems? I now wonder if there is a way to combine these different structures of writing for even more paths to writing captivating ideas. Time to go and try!

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