Richard Romano is a former NYPD sergeant and the brother of comedy legend Ray Romano. A screenwriter, Richard Romano’s 2014 movie The Investigator saw a nationwide theatrical run and was picked up by WalMart as an exclusive. Like The Investigator, all good films start with a script. Whether you’re a seasoned screenwriter like Mr. Romano, or penning your first attempt, here are three common screenwriting mistakes to avoid.
1. Too Much Character Description:
You’re not writing a novel, so you don’t need to devote half a page to describing the character you just introduced. Unless the appearance plays a significant role in the character’s story or development, you don’t need to paint a detailed picture. For example, “Inside we find Steven, a mid-40s banker with a downtrodden look and disheveled suit,” gets to the point and gives a basic idea of who Steven is.
2. Don’t Direct:
Unless you’re actually directing the screenplay, don’t pretend to be the director. Many novices add unnecessary camera shots or try to dictate the soundtrack. Yes, it’s your baby, but your job as screenwriter is to give the director something to direct, not a pre-directed screenplay.
3. Deus Ex Machina:
Also known as “God from the Machine,” Deus Ex Machina is a improbable savior or device that extricates the protagonist or solves a problem suddenly, appearing at just the right time. It’s a sloppy, easy convention many audience members recognize for its lazy storytelling and don’t appreciate. It creates much more impact to have the protagonist save the day in the midst of the struggle, rather than have some outside person or force move the story along. Make sure whoever saves the day has a stronger role than “savior with perfect timing.”