What will screenwriters need to know to succeed in the future? Linda Aronson is an award-winning screenwriter, novelist, playwright, and screenwriting guru, and she’s been keeping a watchful eye on the storytelling industry. And it’s not just the medium that’s changing rapidly, but also what viewers expect out of a movie or TV show. Yes, filmmakers have all the tools at their disposal to make their own movies, publish their own webisodes, and market their stories without a distribution company. But writers should also be paying attention to these technical elements in their future scripts.
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1. One storyline will not be enough
“If you want to become a professional screenwriter, you need to understand how to create and interweave multiple storylines and multiple protagonists,” Aronson told us.
Make sure each of those protagonists has a plot, Aronson advises, which you can do by making sure your main plot is about a group together on a quest for a particular goal or thinking of each group member as a different version of the same protagonist, reacting in their own way to the same situation.
2. Format will matter much less
“Television and film now are becoming interchangeable. It’s all blending,” Aronson said. “So, don’t say, well, when I’m watching television, I will watch a multiple storyline piece, but when I go to the movies, I want to see a single protagonist story.”
The format and medium in which audiences consume stories are changing rapidly, dare I say daily. From YouTube webisodes, IGTV, Netflix miniseries, Quibi 10-minute episodes, and bingeable, streamable content, people are open to watching your content in various ways, and at various lengths, so it’s less likely you’ll need to stick to stringent page counts, and more critical that you focus on keeping your audience engaged and wanting to know what happens next.
3. Audiences will be quicker
“The exposure to digital media has meant that people are a lot faster on the uptake,” she said. “The first act turning point used to happen about 20 minutes in. Now it’s 15, 10 minutes in because audiences are faster.”
Don’t test your audiences’ patience. Attention spans are shrinking, so you need to keep your viewers hooked at every moment, which goes back to Aronson’s first point. Tell stories that give viewers more than one character to root for, more than a few challenges to overcome, and more than one reason to watch.
“Everybody really does need to understand multiple protagonists and the problems of creating and interweaving those stories because that’s what television is about,” Aronson concluded.
The more, the merrier,