It was the most beautiful chocolate cake I had ever seen. The college professor laid it gently on the table. My salivary glands were already anticipating a most excellent sensory experience.
by David Trottier
“Would you like a piece?” she asked the class.
Sitting on the front row, I was sure my chances were good. My hand shot up like a rocket. In fact, everyone raised their hand, including obnoxious Ollie sitting next to me who started screaming, “Oh, me, me, ME!”
“Okay.” It was almost a whisper, and she smiled so sweetly. And then she slapped her hand into the cake, grabbed a fistful, and dropped it into Ollie’s lap. He looked up at her helplessly.
“Go ahead and eat it,” she told him.
The big oaf just shook his head. The nasty expression on his face said it all.
And then the professor addressed the class and asked, “Is presentation important?”
She had us. Of course it was. After all, there was nothing wrong with the content of the cake, but there was a lot wrong with the format of her presentation. It seemed that no one wanted a piece after that.
And so it is with screenplays. Imagine dropping a sloppy mess into the lap of a reader. What might his or her reaction be?
Formatting is an important part of presentation. The script should look attractive to read. Part of that is writing it in the language of professionals who will read it.
Formatting affects readability, another aspect of presentation. The story should be clear and evoke emotion in the heart of the reader. The last thing you want to do is distract the reader from the most important thing in the script—the content of your wonderful story.
Does formatting have to be perfect? No. And neither does a chocolate cake. But your presentation will help make the “read” a most excellent sensory experience.
David Trottier has sold or optioned ten screenplays (three produced) and helped hundreds of writers break into the writing business.
He is an award-winning teacher and in-demand script consultant, author of The Screenwriter’s Bible, and friendly host of keepwriting.com.
Jamie Campbell is an author, screenwriter, and television addict.
Jamie is proud to be an Editor for The Story Department.
Her latest series Project Integrate is out now.