Screenwriting Versus Book Writing

Cat using laptop or notebook -- isolated on white

I took away lots of lessons from ThrillerFest 2016, including the need to spice up dialogue and emphasize active over passive. More than a few faculty members, bestselling authors all, went so far as to encourage attendees to learn about screenwriting techniques.

Ever eager to learn, especially now at this early stage of my mystery writing endeavors, I signed up for the next Save the Cat workshop in New York City. For those who don’t know, this famed approach to screenwriting was created by Blake Snyder and described in a series of books he wrote prior to his untimely death in 2009.

In a Writer’s Digest article, Michael Ferris describes seven differences between writing a screenplay versus a novel to include a focus on the visual, economy of text, story simplification and knowing one’s audience. Some might counter that these reminders apply to books and not just film scripts. Interestingly, more than a few successful thriller book authors such as Lee Child started in television.

Ahead of my screenwriting class, I’m doing homework by watching mostly British police procedurals such as Prime Suspect, The Fall, Broadchurch, Luther and Happy Valley. I then review the episode scripts (when they are available for downloading) and of course spend time banging out my own magic. Like anything else, there’s a lot to know.