Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Distracting Your Readers
True or False: 100% of distractions in your screenplay are avoidable?
The correct answer is, of course, true. Anyone who has read a screenplay and cringed at the sight of spelling mistakes will attest to that. There's nothing worse than unintentionally sabotaging your screenplay especially when the mistakes are easy to spot. The reality is, some people will not like your story. It’s unavoidable. But NO ONE will like your screenplay if it’s full of errors and distractions.
Unless... It's your intention to distract your readers. Perhaps it's your goal to make sure the story isn't the primary focus on every page. If that's the case then, by all means, follow these 10 simple tips and ruin your screenplay for everyone!
Check out The Ultimate Guide to Screenwriting Mistakes.
SCREENPLAY DISTRACTION #1: Well Worded Wordy Words
Make sure you endlessly elaborate in every single description in order to achieve the maximum amount of word waste. That way, your elegant paragraphs can be as long as possible and thus readers will be able appreciate your enhanced vocabulary and incredible grasp of the English language. These overly wordy paragraphs often repeat ideas and include metaphors that do nothing more than strengthen the reader's opinions that your writing lacks clarity and is hard to follow like rain-soaked roads on a foggy night. If that's what you strive for then, by all means, stuff every sentence with adjectives and inflate that word count like a freshly punctured tire pierced in a pothole you didn't see on the aforementioned rain-soaked road. Plus it was foggy that night... What was I saying again? Oh right...
SCREENPLAY DISTRACTION #2: Wind Sprint Sentences
Run on sentences will surely increase the pacing in your script because readers have no choice but to read nonstop without taking a breath to process the actual ideas you're trying to convey in any given sentence thus hindering their ability to truly understand your story. Whew...
SCREENPLAY DISTRACTION #3: Gramar Games
It's your job to challenge the reader by testing their spelling and grammar knowledge. Their is no kneed to inclued punk-chewation let alone eusing a dictionerry. Chek this infographik ouut over at Copyblogger. If you make at least one of these misteaks your definitly a distraktion wizzard! Keep up the good werk.
SCREENPLAY DISTRACTION #4: Who?
Make sure you introduce Mary, Marise, Mare, Marty, Ben, Benny, Stephanie, Stephane, Lydia & Lynda on the first page so readers can completely forget every single one of them. Too many characters is a staple of distracting screenplays.
SCREENPLAY DISTRACTION #5: UnderEmphatiCAPS...
In order to properly EMPHASIZE the key moments on the PAGE be sure to CAPITALIZE, underline and bold as many WORDS & sound FX as possible. This is especially HANDY when used in conjunktion with wordy paragprahs over stufed with speling mistakes and a lack of punctuation and repeated IDEAS so readers will remember your words FOREVER especially that clever metaphor you used on PAGE 1 that has literally nothing to do with the story your trying to tell.
*Bonus tip: Try capitalizing, underlining AND bolding words for extra OOMPH! But don't you dare italicize!
SCREENPLAY DISTRACTION #6: Stop It
INT. SCENE HEADINGS - MUST INCLUDE - AS MANY DETAILS - AS POSSIBLE - MORNING - DAWN - DAY - 10 AM - FOGGY
SCREENPLAY DISTRACTION #7: (Must (Ha(v)e) Parenthsesseses)
(Yelling!) Overuse of parentheticals is an effective way (stops to think) to interrupt (sarcastically) the flow of dialogue in your screenplay. Most of the time, these tend to be obvious and unnecessary. (Rolls Eyes)
SCREENPLAY DISTRACTION #8: Margin Mayhem
Improper use of format is a great way to take readers away from your story. Go ahead and play with the margins and fonts. It's perfectly acceptable to insert 20pt Comic Sans paragraphs with a 4 inch margin. Perfectly. Acceptable.
SCREENPLAY DISTRACTION #9: Every Writer Has Been To Space!
If you truly wish to distract your readers avoid research at all cost! Wrong information will always push your story to the background. If you don't write what you know then at least KNOW what you're talking about.
SCREENPLAY DISTRACTION #10: Wait... What?
Did you craft a convoluted screenplay that's hard to follow? If your narrative is a mess and you mess around with the structure enough, you'll have readers burning your pages in no time! Tell a good story!
LET'S GET SERIOUS
At first glance, this list may seem a bit obvious and it certainly doesn't cover all the mistakes you should avoid. It's simply a reminder that perfection in screenwriting IS possible if you're skillful enough to eliminate every mistake and distraction possible. That's the easiest and most effective way to make your story soar like the eagles high above the-- never mind...
Jason McKinnon is a ScreenCraft guest contributor. He is the creator of The Screenwriting Spark.