Common Script Concerns: Script vs Story

by Ann Marie Williams, © 2021

After finishing another season of screenplay competition judging (something I always enjoy, and always learn from) I thought I’d focus my next posts on some of the more common issues I see among submitted scripts.

First up: Script versus Story

Something that stood out to me this past year was that nearly every script I read had the makings of a great story.  However, there were very few great scripts.

I’d often be drawn in by a character, or intrigued by a concept, only to have neither explored their fullest (or to be lost in meandering plots, or bogged down by sluggish pacing). 

Being a writer is more than just coming up with good ideas.  Being a writer is brining those ideas together, and placing them on the page in a captivating, emotionally engaging fashion.

That means the writer has to do more than come up with the concept, plot and characters.  The writer has to hammer out the pacing, accurately utilize scene jumps, make sure the character arcs and plot beats are interwoven, write informative but natural dialogue, and ensure the stakes — whatever they may be — are important enough to the character that those stakes will be important to the audience.  

In other words: every aspect of a script matters.

Just about anything can make a great story – but the story has to be told well.


Screenplay Competitions book front cover

Screenplay Competitions has received endorsements from Professor Richard Walter (former Screenwriting Area Head, Associate and Interim Dean UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television), Professor of Film John Bernstein (Boston University, College of Communication), Matt Dy (former Director of Script Competitions at Austin Film Festival), Professor Harry M. Cheney (Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts), script editor Lucy V. Hay (www.bang2write.com), Dave Trottier (author, The Screenwriter’s Bible, www.keepwriting.com), and Emmy-wining writer Ken Levine (Hollywood and Levine).

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