Beginning screenwriters often make the mistake of letting characters talk, and talk, and talk… Talking heads might work for the playwright, but it certainly is not good screenwriting. Film is a visual medium. Show the story! Don’t just tell it.
Action speaks louder than words – always. An excerpt from Shane Black’s screenplay Lethal Weapon illustrates:
“Riggs straps on his .9 millimeter Beretta. Downs a shot of whiskey. Pauses, looking at a photograph on the wall. Riggs, much younger, along with a pretty and vivacious woman in a wedding gown: his wife. He stares at the photograph. His fingers twirl the whiskey glass with completely unconscious skill. Tense. Tense … twirling the glass … RICHARD DAWSON DRONES from the TV (our survey says — !). Riggs slings the shot glass. Dead center, SHATTERING the TV SCREEN.”
The scene is quite simple – Riggs inside his trailer, preparing to leave for another day on the job. But the complexities are enormous. We understand the core of his tragic past, and all without a single line of dialogue.