Screenwriting: What are the Spec Screenplay Page Properties?

In the screenwriting market, the spec screenplay is a very special animal. "Spec" stands for 'speculative'. The purpose for writing a spec screenplay is to show someone that you know how to write screenplays, to convey a special story that only you can tell, or both. These are valuable tips to help you write the best spec screenplay you can.

Who Is It For?

Your spec screenplay is not for a big theater audience-not yet. Your first audience is The Reader. The Reader is a solitary audience, generally well educated, and he has read screenplays exhaustively. Readers recognize amateurs quickly. Don't give them a reason to reject your screenplay before you start. Learn format, proofread, and don't use clich├ęs. Also, realize that they're actually on your side; they want to like your screenplay. If they discover the next big thing, it makes them look good.

White Space

It's easier to read a few words than many. Because of that, readers like white space. It's like poetry. Dialogue should be brief-"pithy." No more than a few lines. Unless you're brilliant, people don't use monologues much in the contemporary market. For descriptions, keep them brief, too, no more than 3-4 lines. If it goes on, break it into two paragraphs.

Descriptive Words

Write well. Use active verbs. Avoid adverbs. Don't write in the passive. Be specific. (Incorrect: "Jason was going quickly to the car;" correct: "Jason raced to the Maserati). The difference is in the power. Wrestle to get the right word. Mark Twain said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug."

Page 1

Your first page is critical. By the end of page 1, the reader should know who the story is about, what they want, and that there will be opposition. By the end of the first page, there should be enough interest to make the reader turn the page to find out what happens next. Repeat this with each page.

Emotions: Make the Reader Care

Screenwriters are in business because they make people-a reader or an audience- feel. Make them anxious, happy, stressed, uncomfortable, excited, curious, but make them feel something!

Finally, the most important thing to remember with your spec screenplay is to rewrite. Good writers don't write; they rewrite. Make it sparkle. You want to make the best impression with your writing your first time out.