Writing emotion in screenplay

Hi. When I want to write emotion in film i.e. 'Mary cries', or 'John is frustrated'....Is it too on the nose to write how their feeling? Is it best to find a way of describing their emotion
 
It's always better to show rather than tell. "John is frustrated" is better shown: "John rips the toilet paper into ten million shreds. JOHN: Goddamn Ex-Lax ain't worth shit."
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
Hi. When I want to write emotion in film i.e. 'Mary cries', or 'John is frustrated'....Is it too on the nose to write how their feeling? Is it best to find a way of describing their emotion

"Mary cries" in an action - something that can be seen on screen.
How is John frustrated? What will the actor do? What will be seen
on screen?
 
Crying is a little trickier. Crying is actually not an emotion, it's a response to an emotion: fear, sadness, love, etc. There's no other way to "show" crying than to say "John cries."
 
Show not tell. Let your character's actions and decisions define their feelings/characteristics.

If you have a scene were a character gets angry...Do you have to describe this i.e. John breathing gets heavier, he grips the top of the chair......Or would the nature of the character and scene, be able to indicate to the reader that they are angry, without describing it?
 
How does the audience know that the character is angry? What do we see that shows us that they are angry?

Personally I think lines like 'his breathing gets heavier' are totally unnecessary, as are sentences like 'he is angry'.

What do we see?

She throws a glass. SMASH! It hits the wall and breaks into tiny pieces, just missing his head. HANNAH You asshole!


STEVEN rushes in, frantically waving a magazine STEVEN The review came! ROB Any good? Steven throws the magazine on the table and rifles through, finding the page. STEVEN Check this out He taps the bottom of the page. 5 stars. STEVEN 5 out of fucking 5! Doesn't get much better than that. He starts to dance. He pulls his phone out and shows it to Rob. STEVEN The calls are gunna start rolling in after this, I tell you that right now.

Yeah, okay I'm no writer. But you get the gist. Write what we see. Don't write 'Hannah is angry'. Don't write 'Steven is excited'. I personally don't think you even need to write 'Steven rushes in, excited'. Write it so we get the idea. And it gives the actors and Director scope to work with it.
 
How does the audience know that the character is angry? What do we see that shows us that they are angry?

Personally I think lines like 'his breathing gets heavier' are totally unnecessary, as are sentences like 'he is angry'.

What do we see?

She throws a glass. SMASH! It hits the wall and breaks into tiny pieces, just missing his head. HANNAH You asshole!


STEVEN rushes in, frantically waving a magazine STEVEN The review came! ROB Any good? Steven throws the magazine on the table and rifles through, finding the page. STEVEN Check this out He taps the bottom of the page. 5 stars. STEVEN 5 out of fucking 5! Doesn't get much better than that. He starts to dance. He pulls his phone out and shows it to Rob. STEVEN The calls are gunna start rolling in after this, I tell you that right now.

Yeah, okay I'm no writer. But you get the gist. Write what we see. Don't write 'Hannah is angry'. Don't write 'Steven is excited'. I personally don't think you even need to write 'Steven rushes in, excited'. Write it so we get the idea. And it gives the actors and Director scope to work with it.

Excellent, thank you
 
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