The following article are my notes from a book titled, “Writing Your Screenplay” by Lisa Dethridge. If you find it helpful, I highly recommend buying the book here to learn more.
This is PART ONE of a 2-part series about how to write a screenplay effectively. You can find PART TWO here.
What you will learn:
- Building a compelling world
- Developing believable characters
- Creating an appealing protagonist
- Outlining the main plot that drives the story forward
- Devising challenging problems
- The importance of story time frames
In the first half of this article, we will be focusing on how to build a strong world with believable characters by understanding important screenplay format. These structures form the basis of your story that will help audiences connect with your story and maintain interest throughout your screenplay.
There are four key elements to every story structure with script writing that we call, “the four P’s”.
- Protagonist, the main character of the story must be appealing to move the
- Plot forward by dealing with a challenging
- Problem that underlines the main
- Premise that represents your passion as a writer. The heart and soul of your story.
On a side note, it’s important to develop a daily habit of writing a little bit each day. Don’t wait for the perfect time to begin writing, just start script writing, even for 20 minutes. Don’t worry if your writing is garbage, you can always revise it later. The goal is to train yourself to write consistently each day. You are more likely to achieve greater success by building this habit.
Creating Parallel Universes
Understanding Human Psychology
If you’ve ever wondered what encourages audiences to see a movie, it can be quite challenging. To answer this question, you have to gain a better understanding of human psychology. A great screenwriter is someone who can understand what motivates the human soul. By gaining this understanding, you’ll have a better idea of what makes the audience tick.
Understanding the Elements of a Great Story
If your goal is to become a successful commercial hit, your script writing must be timely. There are many ways to be write a timely screenplay to engage an audience. It may tackle current events, or refer to historical events, or dealing with timeless themes that involve war, peace, love and so on. The goal is to create some context the audience can relate to and becoming emotionally invested in.
Connecting to a global audience
A solid way of creating a powerful connection with audiences is to consider universal themes that transcend cultural or religious differences, including race or class. Creating imagery and ideas that any human being can relate to.
Creating a Screenplay Outline
Here’s an exercise you can try that will help you establish the overall outline of the story you plan to write.
- What type of characters and settings do you want to write about?
- Are there specific problems you wish to address?
- Are there human behavior or societal issues you want to examine?
- What drives you to write this story? Think about why you want to write in the first place.
- What topics do you want to communicate to your audience that are meaningful to you?
- Are you or have you experienced personal pain, frustration, fear or joy that you want to communicate?
- Is there a specific genre you’d like to write about?
- Is there an overarching theme or premise you want to address that is the main driver of your story?
- Who are they?
- What do you want to communicate with them?
- What do you believe will draw them to your story?
- Create a list of all the elements you want to incorporate in your story. People, events, locations, etc.
- Create a number of possible stories that relate to these characters, themes or events.
- Narrow down your list of stories to one or two of your favorite’s ideas that involve your main protagonist.
First Learn the Rules Before You Break Them
As a screenwriter, you must understand that your screenplay is the blueprint of the film, not the main event, which is the film the audience will see on the big screen. Consider your screenplay as a highly detailed manual that will help develop the finished product, the film.
When editing your screenplay format and removing unnecessary words from your script, it’s important you don’t remove any important information that is integral to your story. For example, when you are writing about a specific tree, you may go into detail about how the branches sway in the wind like a scarecrow. You could remove all that detail and just say, tree.
However, if that tree has some significance to the overall story or a character, you may want to leave that bit of detail or perhaps condense it down to a, “scarecrow-like tree”. With that bit of information, the art department knows they’ll have to design a specific type of tree rather than just any ol’ tree if it’s important to the story.