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"PARANTHETICALS" and why you're using them incorrectly.

Many new and inexperienced screenwriters of Film and TV have a knack for overpopulating his/her script pages with an ungodly amount of Parentheticals, which could deter the reader/ producer/ agent from going past pages 3, 5, or 10. This means it will likely get tossed in the No/Trash pile. That does not mean your journey as a screenwriter ends for you. It just means you need to improve. That's why my series of Weekly Screenwriter Top 10's will hopefully enlighten or possibly teach you ways to could improve your craft. So here now are my 10 tips to help you be a better screenwriter.


Just like I mentioned above with excessive usage of the parenthetical, YOU the screenwriter will kill your own script by making it unreadable. Seriously, I couldn't tell you how many times I've had a screenwriter submit a screenplay for me to read and consult. Three pages in and the number of parentheticals was so overloaded that it literally made it unreadable.

ADVICE: Using too many parentheticals, within a page, chapter, act, or script can clutter it up and it will be a difficult read. Thus a producer, agent, script reader, or assistant will most likely feel your amateurish writing and discard your brilliant idea into that, much-hated, NO or Trash pile. Keep it to one or on occasion two parentheticals. It keeps the page clean and it leaves the actor with more ability to improvise the scene their way.


If your parenthetical is not clearly written, it WILL most definitely be confusing to the reader. And it WILL hinder his/her understanding of the scene. Emotions in your character's parentheticals should be like gentle waves on your page, you want them to hit exactly where you planned it. Sadly the reader sometimes gets fireballs, lightning strikes, explosions, and/or tsunamis of emotions that make your story lack clarity. You end up losing sight of your intended story. Stray away from emotional rollercoasters. Do stay on the clear and narrow path and it will make your story an easy read.


When a parenthetical interrupts the flow of dialogue or action, it can distract from the overall story. And that's the last thing you want to do. You want the reader emotionally involved the entire time. Your best hope is for an easy read. If you have too many "wrylies" it could become a distraction and make it difficult for the reader to focus on the dialogue. Unnecessary information can clutter your script.


Too many parentheticals, with conflicting or contradictory information, can confuse the reader and may make the story harder to follow too. This can happen when a writer tries to pack too much information into a single parenthetical. If a parenthetical contradicts information already established in the script, it can cause confusion for the reader and it will make you seem like a rookie. Thus... NO pile with your script.


Too much unnecessary information can clutter your script making it bloated and overly complicated. It can and will slow down your pacing and will unfortunately distract the reader from your main plot points. Use only relevant information pertaining to your story. Cut out unnecessary or irrelevant details from your parentheticals.


Unnecessary and confusing parentheticals will take up space on your page. Then repeating that same crap will indicate, to the reader, your lack of experience. Having an organized and concise look to your parentheticals, on your script pages, won't distract from the main action of the story. Try your best to only have one Parenthetical per page, unless it's for a specific scene with tension or comedic timing then it's okay.


Using parentheticals to directly address the audience or reader can and WILL break the immersion of the story and distract from the main plot. I know it may seem like you're being slick or humorous but it's not needed. You can use it sparingly but mostly for comedic commentary. Shane Black does this constantly in his screenplays because he can.


Once you choose the final tone of your story... STICK WITH IT. Parentheticals are a great way to showcase that tone by being a small guide for the actors. Too many contradicting tones can and will affect an Actors performance because it will confuse them. Consistency in tone is the key to having a clear and cohesive story.


If parentheticals are used inconsistently throughout your script, it can be confusing for the reader and will disrupt the overall flow of your story. It can also create confusion and misunderstandings with the actors and directors making your pilot or feature. Miscommunication can lead to the poor execution of your scenes. But when done right, it can help maintain continuity and avoids potential plot holes.


Excessively long and complicated Parentheticals can disrupt the flow of scenes and distract from your overall storytelling. It's important that the parentheticals be integrated seamlessly into your scenes without sidetracking the flow and narrative.


I know this top 10 list might not seem like a big deal BUT I assure you it is and it does matter. One of the biggest problems newbie screenwriters encounter is when they utilize overly long parentheticals when all they have to do is break it off and transform it into its own ACTION LINE.

If you are an experienced writer and want to share some of your tips please feel free to write them in the comments. Stay tuned for more... and again sign up and subscribe to to receive all the most updated information about our journey through Hollywood.

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