Every great movie starts with a screenplay. The screenplay is the blueprint that the director and other collaborators follow to bring a story to life.
Writing a screenplay is vastly different then writing a novel or stage play. It is the intricate task of producing the written word for a visual medium. It must be meticulously crafted to focus on the visual aspects of the scene.
The art of writing a screenplay is not a simple one. But don’t fret, you can do it. It is just a matter of following some basic guidelines and practicing and perfecting your craft.
SHOW DON’T TELL. Movies are a visual medium. Your audience wants to SEE your story. If your character is sad, don’t tell us show us; it is far more powerful. Inner conflict and interpersonal conflict can be brought out in dialogue but showing through action is more interesting then telling with dialogue. Still, you should always strive for interesting and creative dialogue.
Try this: Write a short scene using only action to show the story. Describe the scene and characters with creative prose and detail. Now, write the same scene using only dialogue to tell the story. Read both, which would you rather watch on the big screen?
STURCTURE AND STORY. Create an interesting, unique and salable story with a clear beginning, middle and end. A well crafted story is made up of twists and turns, known as turning points; structure organizes these events into a story. A screenplay ranges from 90-120 pages. In this length there are some core story points that will be reached: Hook, Catalyst, Big Event, Pinch, Crisis, Showdown, and Realization. (read more)
FORMAT. Screenplays have a very specific format that must be followed. There are three main components to its format. The first is the SCENE HEADING, which appears at the beginning of every new scene. It provides the reader with the time and place the scene is taking place. The next component is ACTION, this describes what is happening in the scene and what characters are present. The last piece is the DIALOGUE, this is the words spoken by the character. (read more)
DIALOGUE. This is the character’s speech, the words to be spoken. Avoid long ramblings by using crisp, clear and concise words. A characters personality should shine through the words that you have written for them. (read more)
CHARACTERS. They should be interesting with personalities and nuances as unique as a snowflake. Your lead character should be facing some sort of opposition or conflict, as the story continues your character will be forced to act more strongly to overcome. The conflict will give your character a chance to learn and grow, hence giving way to their character arc. As your story continues your character will be forced to act more strongly to overcome their situation. Every scene should feature a character with an intention, goal or problem that helps to move the story forward. (read more).
READ SCREENPLAYS. Read as many as you can. This is the best way to familiarize yourself with the format, structure and storytelling of a screenplay. (Check out some of the screenplays written by WR members.)
HAVE FUN. It may seem difficult and overwhelming, but what worth wild endeavor isn’t? Don’t give up.