Screenwriting : Use of Narration by Cheryl Allen

Cheryl Allen

Use of Narration

Always controversial, but when it works, it works. Have you ever used narration in any of your screenplays and how did you make the decision to do it? How did pan it out for you? Have you ever wondered if the use of narration might work for you but shied away from it because it was somewhat taboo?

Robert Rosenbaum

Though there are a few movies that use limited narration that I enjoy, but for the most part (as an audience member) I find narration to be lazy. If I wanted to be told a story I would go to a book reading. They are called movies - short for moving pictures. Narration doesn't move pictures. As far as spec scripts, I think most of the so called "rules" are bs. The few specs that get noticed are usually out-of-the-box. Screw the "rules" and be creative. I just don't feel narration is very creative.

Pablo Diablo

It's best used sparingly, like parantheticals. I use it if and only if what is shown on screen cannot be translated with just images. However, there are exceptions to the rule.

"Mean Girls[']" narration enhanced the action. "Handmaid's Tale" showrunner Bruce Miller explained in an article that his team used it to show June's true thoughts in an otherwise submissive-is-golden world.

It is important to acknowledge that while you wrote the story, there will be actor's manifesting your work on screen. So their performance could also translate any-and-all that might be said, assuming they are the narrator.

Bruce Miller Article:

Beth Fox Heisinger

Narration, in say... I, Tonya is used effectively and works very very well. The script is a fantastic read. Narration is effective in Molly’s Game as well. If narration can be used to great effect then why not use it? What’s “taboo” is bad writing. Narration is just another tool in your writer’s toolbox. Unfortunately, it’s one of the more difficult tools to wield. And hence many new, inexperienced writers tend to misuse it or use it badly, ineffectively, which has lead to blanket warnings about its use within teaching and amateur circles. It certainly can be irksome if used poorly—no doubt!—but regardless it’s a tool available for anyone to use. Me, I am considering using it for one particular idea of mine. But we’ll see. ;)

Dan MaxXx

When you see a movie with narration, it is a finished movie. Actors, camera, sound, editing, music. All crafts combined.

Here’s how to tell if your script with narration works:

When it works: script sells, gets you repped, open doors to assignments and job offers, strangers want to read more of your material.

When it doesn’t work: nobody gets back to you, doesn’t open doors, no audience, Pass.

Lisa Clemens

I love the narration in Million Dollar Baby. The twist at the end of what the narration really was (and who it was for) made it even better!

Dan Guardino

It worked pretty good in Casino and Goodfellas.

John Iannucci

Shawshank is another where it works great

Adam Harper

I like how it's used in the Big Lebowski, but I've not used narration in any of my writing yet.

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