Brevity, Clarity, Precision.

Diamond ring

Crystal clear:

If brevity, clarity, and precision are important in specialist writing, they are crucial in a screenplay. Hollywood has a notoriously short attention span. Readers have to wade through dozens of new screenplays daily, and their tolerance for poorly worded stories is short. Of course, Hollywood is not the only place to peddle your screenplay, but if you’re looking to play the Lotto, it’s a good place to start.

Let’s look at two aspects of tight, vivid writing in screenplays—use of verbs, and scene descriptions.

Here are three examples of lame verbs:

1. Susan enters the room.

This is inadequate. How does Susan enter the room? Does she breeze, limp, march, slink, flow, or pad in?

2. Joe looks at the girl standing opposite him.

How does he look at the girl? Does he gaze, leer, glance, squint, or peer at her?

How does she stand? Is she slouching, leaning, erect?

Never miss the opportunity to have a verb convey the personality and attitude of your character. Not only do you void the need for adverbs, you make your sentences crispier and more vibrant.

Character descriptions in screenplays, too, should be brief but impactful. Because they influence how we view the character, they should be crafted with care. Consider this character description from one of my screenplays:

I started with: “BRUCE DODGE is very big, very crude, but with a surprisingly light gait that belies his enormous size.”

…but ended up with: “BRUCE DODGE is built like an army barracks shit-house but moves like a ninja.”


“A casually dressed BARRY FIN, pads into the room. He is strong and graceful, with a feline quality that suggests a strength and agility that comes from years of training.” Too wordy.

“BARRY FIN pads into the room, a panther in jeans and tee-shirt.” Better.

Appropriate metaphors enliven character description and eliminate unnecessary words.


Be brief, clear, and precise in describing your subject. Where appropriate, use metaphors to capture your character’s essence.


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Image: Jeffrey Beall

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