How much description of thoughts background of a characters should be included in a screenplay?
I am interested in discussing how a screenplay is to be properly written. I am working on editing a screenplay for a friend which has a lot of description of the characters and what they are thinking like you would find in a novel. Of course it has dialogue too but there is ALOT of written description about what the characters are thinking as well as the necessary description of what they are doing. I wonder if only the dialogue should be in regular font and whether all thoughts and descriptions should be in italics. Also, should the writer describe what a character is thinking?
Unlike novels, there shouldn't be any mention of what the character is thinking in a screenplay. Everything must be conveyed through either the character's actions or in their dialogue. Otherwise, leave it out. The camera can't see what's going on in their mind, so the best thing to do is find a way to show it. For example, if the character comes home from a dreadful day at the office, have them slam a door, throw their work bag across the floor, take an aspirin, etc. Talking about things in dialogue is okay too, but the old 'show, don't tell' motto applies in screenwriting. If something can be shown through some sort of action, it's better than saying it. On format, everything should be in a regular font. Italics are rarely used in scripts. If emphasis on a particular word is very important, it can be underlined, but don't over do it. Hope this helps.
P.S. There are sites like DailyScript.com and others that let you download free scripts to actual movies. Some posted on there are shooting scripts which are a little different than spec scripts, but they might help give you an idea of what to include or leave out in terms of character and description. Also, the book "The Screenwriter's Bible" by David Trottier is really great for learning the proper screenplay format.
In a screenplay, less is more - always. There are exceptions to the rule, but keep the descriptions as lean as possible. On my Hubpage, The Art of Words: Screenplay Optimization, I go into detail about how to focus on brevity. A good script to read that demonstrates optimization is the screenplay for Pixar's Up. As lean and tight as any script you can find, and the whole story is there on the pages. The most important part of optimizing a script is to keep only the high-value words, the ones that really tell the story, and ditch the unnecessary clutter. Hope this helps.
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