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Understanding Underwriting in Screenwriting

Underwriting in screenwriting refers to the act of not providing enough details, depth, or important information about characters, plot development, and decision-making moments in a script.

Underwriting in screenwriting is about leaving out key pieces of a story. It’s like not putting on the page what needs to be there. This error can cause readers to lose interest and not understand the story. Underwriting can also make a script seem shallow or lacking in depth and complexity.

To effectively underwrite, we must know our characters well. We need to think about their motivations and what makes them unique so that we can leave out certain details or descriptions without making the story incomplete.

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Common Problems with Underwriting

Underwriting often leads to low word count, lack of internal thoughts and emotions, missing scenes, shallow plot development, and skipped decision processes.

Low word count

Underwriting in screenwriting can result in a low word count, meaning that important details and information are missing from the script. This can be a problem because it prevents the story from being fully developed and leaves out crucial aspects that could engage the audience.

With a low word count, scenes may feel rushed or incomplete, lacking the necessary depth and complexity to truly captivate readers. By addressing this issue and adding more substance to the screenplay, writers can enhance their storytelling and create a more compelling narrative.

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Lack of internal thoughts and emotions

When a script lacks internal thoughts and emotions, it means that the characters are not given enough depth or complexity. This is a common problem in underwriting where important information about how the characters feel or think is not conveyed to the audience.

Without internal thoughts and emotions, the story can feel shallow and unengaging. It’s crucial for writers to show what goes on inside a character’s mind through their actions, dialogue, and inner monologues.

By including internal thoughts and emotions, writers can create more relatable characters that draw audiences into the story.

Missing scenes

One common problem with underwriting in screenwriting is the absence of important scenes. These missing elements can leave gaps in the story, making it feel incomplete or confusing for the audience.

Without properly developed scenes, crucial moments that drive the plot forward may be overlooked. This can result in a lack of character developmentunresolved conflicts, and missed opportunities to engage emotionally with the viewers.

It’s important for writers to ensure that all necessary scenes are included in their scripts to create a well-rounded and satisfying storytelling experience for audiences.

Shallow plot development

Shallow plot development is a common problem in underwriting when it comes to screenwriting. This means that the story lacks depth and complexity, resulting in a flat or uninteresting narrative.

Without a strong and well-developed plot, the audience may struggle to stay engaged and invested in the story. It’s important for writers to strengthen the main plot and its conflicts, ensuring that there are enough twists, turns, and surprises to keep viewers hooked.

By adding depth to characters, incorporating internal thoughts and emotions, and including decision-making moments for the characters, writers can avoid shallow plot development and create a more compelling story.

Skipped decision processes

Skipped decision processes refer to a common problem in underwriting where crucial moments of decision-making are overlooked or not given enough attention. This can undermine the development of characters and their motivations, resulting in a lack of depth and complexity in the story.

When decision processes are skipped, it becomes challenging for readers or viewers to fully understand why the characters make certain choices or take specific actions. These gaps in the narrative can leave audiences feeling disconnected and confused, making it essential for writers to recognize and address this issue.

By ensuring that important decisions are depicted clearly and effectively in the script, writers can enhance character development, improve plot progression, and engage their audience more effectively.

Fixes for Underwriting Issues

To address underwriting issues, writers can add depth and complexity to characters, incorporate internal thoughts and emotions, ensure a balance between scenes, strengthen the main plot and its conflicts, and include decision-making moments for the characters.

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Adding depth and complexity to characters

  • Characters need to be more than just one-dimensional figures on the page.
  • Instead of simply stating their traits, show their actions and behavior that reflect those traits.
  • Give characters backstories and motivations that drive their actions throughout the story.
  • Show their internal thoughts and emotions through their dialogue and actions.
  • Create conflicts for the characters that challenge their beliefs and values.
  • Allow the characters to undergo growth and change throughout the story.
  • Avoid stereotypes and clichés by giving characters unique personalities and perspectives.
  • Use descriptive language to paint a vivid picture of the character’s appearance, mannerisms, and quirks.
  • Develop relationships between characters that add depth to their interactions with each other.

Incorporating internal thoughts and emotions

Incorporating internal thoughts and emotions is an important aspect of effective screenwriting. When characters have well-developed internal lives, it adds depth and complexity to their personalities.

This helps the audience understand their motivations, desires, and struggles more deeply. By showing characters’ internal thoughts and emotions through their actions, dialogue, or even voice-over narration, writers can create more relatable and realistic characters that resonate with viewers.

It also allows for a richer storytelling experience by conveying important information about the character’s journey and inner conflicts without relying solely on external actions or dialogue.

Ensuring a balance between scenes

Underwriting in screenwriting can lead to a lack of balance between scenes. This imbalance can result in a story that feels rushed or lacks proper development. To fix this issue, writers should:

  • Provide enough scene time for important moments to unfold and for characters to interact.
  • Find the right balance between action-driven scenes and character-driven scenes to maintain interest and engagement.
  • Avoid rushing through important plot points by giving them adequate scene time for proper development.
  • Ensure that each scene has a purpose and advances the story or develops characters in some way.

Strengthening the main plot and its conflicts

  1. Develop clear and compelling goals for your main character.
  2. Introduce strong obstacles and challenges that the main character must face.
  3. Create a sense of urgency and high stakes in the main plot.
  4. Build tension by escalating conflicts and raising the stakes throughout the story.
  5. Ensure that the conflicts are relevant to the main character’s goals and motivations.
  6. Provide opportunities for the main character to make difficult choices and face moral dilemmas.
  7. Incorporate subplots that complement and enhance the main plot, adding depth and complexity to the story.
  8. Use effective dialogue to reveal conflicts and further develop the plot.
  9. Show the consequences of actions taken by the main character, creating a cause-and-effect chain in the narrative.
  10. Resolve conflicts in a satisfying way, providing closure while leaving room for potential future stories or scenes.

Remember, strengthening the main plot and its conflicts is crucial for keeping readers engaged and invested in your story. By creating well-developed goals, obstacles, tension, and choices for your main character, you can create a compelling narrative that captivates your audience from beginning to end.

Including decision-making moments for the characters

Characters in a screenplay should face decisions that impact the story. These decision-making moments are important for building tension and driving the plot forward. When characters make choices, it reveals their motivations, values, and conflicts.

It adds depth to their development and engages the audience emotionally. Decision-making moments also create opportunities for character growth and change throughout the story. Without these moments, the script may lack conflict, direction, or a sense of purpose.

So, writers should ensure to include impactful decision points for their characters to keep the story engaging and compelling.


Underwriting in screenwriting is the failure to include important elements or details in a script. It can result in missed opportunities to emotionally connect with readers and hinder the flow and quality of a story.

To avoid underwriting, writers should focus on adding depth to characters, incorporating internal thoughts and emotions, balancing scenes, strengthening the main plot, and including decision-making moments for the characters.

By addressing these common problems with underwriting, writers can enhance their storytelling skills and create more engaging scripts.


What is underwriting in screenwriting?

Underwriting in screenwriting is the act of providing minimalistic details in a script, leaving room for interpretation.

Does financing have anything to do with underwriting in screenplays?

Financial underwriting is a completely different topic and has nothing to do with underwriting in a screenplay.

Are there any special tips to avoid underwriting when developing a script?

Remember that good writing involves showing versus telling your story while following script development techniques with increased media convergence for an engaging screenplay.