How To Make Your Script a Page-Turner

By Michael Schilf · January 24, 2011

Your job as the writer is to make it as easy for the reader as possible. Now this doesn’t mean that you write to a lowest common denominator or dumb down your script in any way. Easy reading is damn hard writing. It seems easy, however, because there aren’t any mistakes: the writing is clear and concise, with engaging creativity. But most importantly – and this may be the highest accomplishment to any screenwriter – it’s easy because it’s fast: a literal page-turner.

There are many ways to get a reader to flip the pages fast and furious, and the most important ingredients are obvious: great characters, awesome story, and solid structure. However, assuming you have those three behemoths taken care of, here are a few more tricks of the page-turning trade that you should apply: script economy, describe the shot, and white space.

Script Economy

Start your story as late as you can, begin each scene at the last possible moment, and get out of scenes as early as you can. Limit your action paragraphs to three or four lines, and use spacing on the page for emphasis, pacing, and rhythm.

Describe the Shot

Never direct on the page – that is to write in how the shot or scene should be filmed. Instead, visualize the subject. Then describe the shot by writing only vivid dramatic action so that the page can come to life for the reader.

White Space

The less words on the page used to accomplish each scene without losing the voice of the writer, the better. Write concise action and short dialogue. This breaks up the page with extra spaces, creating a nice visual composition for smooth, fast reading.