While writing a script it is easy to get carried away moving our little creations from point A to point B, and forget that they live in a world with its own concept of time.
When you are crafting your story, you have the power to choose how long it will last, as although confined in 90 - 120 pages or a few episodes, it can contain days, weeks, or even years. The latter is simple, a change of hair and make-up, a “5 years later” card, and you are set, but it is with the days that you need to be careful.
Your story has a certain pace, and you want to make sure the time within it reflects that. We must understand the passing of time with the stage directions or the dialogue so we can get a sense of what is going on in the characters' minds. For example, when writing a police show every second counts, there is a huge ticking bomb lumbering over your characters, so you have to make a choice. Are you going to solve the case within a couple of days, a month, or a year? This decision will affect the way your characters react at every turn of events.
Thinking about this also help you to set the tone. Is your show a horror or a dark thriller and therefore it happens mostly at night? Are you subverting expectations and having the tensest scenes in broad daylight?
Even within the same day, you can play with the pace, instead of constantly cutting to another DAY or NIGHT scene, use different words to create rhythm. For example, MOMENTS LATER, MORNING, EVENING, AFTERNOON…
You can also use CONTINUOUS – To connect two scenes that are happening at the same time.
INT. MAVE’S CAR. DAY
MAVE drives with one hand on the wheel. Pressing a cloth against Kelly’s bullet wound with the other. She ignores every road sign and light.
EXT. CORNER SHOP. CONTINUOUS
MALCOM opens the door for a very pregnant DOTTY, as they are about to cross the street a dashing car rushes through nearly hitting them.
As a writer, you can jump in time, and once your characters are on the screen it will be abundantly clear through a fade or some kind of transition that a few minutes or hours have passed from the previous scene, so why not paint the same picture on the page.
Think about the pace you want your script to have and use the time as a tool to tell your story.
Use different words to bring some rhythm to the script!
Author: Executive Julia Horcajo