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Where do you begin writing a screenplay?
On the face of it writing a screenplay is much simpler than writing a novel. You are creating a sequence of events that unfold one after another.
You’ll need great dialogue as well, because without it, the screenplay would largely resemble an extended description of stage directions.
Anyone with a knowledge of the craft and a good idea can write a feature screenplay in about three months. Some people have written a good script in just 30 days!
So, all you require is an idea, and the commitment to spend some weeks or months writing one script, sticking with it to the end.
How to write a movie script step by step
Watch many movies for inspiration
It’s a great piece of advice for scriptwriters and novelists alike – read as many books and watch as many movies as you can.
Watch how the story unfolds, how the characters are introduced, what kinds of characters there are. Pay particular attention to the dialogue, and notice how it flows throughout the work.
Watch out for what makes a movie work on a visual level – good cinematography captures the essence of your story within beautiful imagery. If you’re writing a drama or a love story, then you’ll need to pay attention to how that type of movie reaches its climax.
List the main theme of your story
- What do you want your audience to take away from the movie?
- How do you want them to come away feeling?
Once you know this, you can work backwards to find the best way to begin your movie.
The theme is the message that you want to get across to your audience. It might be a moral lesson, or a deeper meaning, but you must know what your movie is trying to say.
The theme is different from the genre, which is the style of your movie. In science-fiction, the theme might be about mankind’s fear of the unknown, and how we deal with our demons.
The genre is the style in which the movie is presented – a classic example is George Lucas’s Star Wars. It was a futuristic space-opera (genre) about people’s fear of power and reliance on technology (theme).
Different genres can give the same message, it’s just transmitted in a different fashion. Romance is a good example.
A romantic comedy might convey the theme of the importance of communication in relationships, whereas a romantic tragedy might be about the power of love to destroy us all, and how important it is to understand before you get involved.
Research what Hollywood movies are in the same genre as your story
Even if you have an incredibly good idea, it pays to see what is popular in the genre. If it isn’t in vogue, then you could still get your theme (message) across by changing the genre to something which is currently popular.
To help you, use sites that will give you movie lists in different categories. If you’re writing a romantic comedy, then try www.imdb.com and select the genre for Romantic Comedy. You’ll see a list of movies that are similar to what you’re trying to write.
You’ll get a huge benefit form watching classic movies and also reading as many script as you can. Furthermore, take the time to analyse each movie in terms of the story and how the screenplay was written.
Ask yourself why a particular movie was a smash hit? If it was the dialogue, write down some of your own dialogue. If it was the characters, then make notes on the characteristics that made the characters work so well.
Movie Scrip download sites
Is it hard to write a movie script?
Write a Treatment for your screenplay
Most screenplays are written in two stages – a treatment and an actual script. The treatment is usually created during the initial stage, before you start writing the actual script.
The purpose of creating this is to gather all of your ideas, and note what happens in each scene from start to finish.
Write down your story’s main points – plot points
All stories have a plot, which is a series of events that happen to the main characters. It’s a great idea to create a plot outline of your story, which is where you write down all the events in your story from start to finish. This is an exercise that will really help you when you begin writing the screenplay itself.
A good way to do this is join screenwriting groups – this way you can exchange ideas with other people who are trying to become screenwriters too.
Write down key scenes in your movie
This is much like making a story board. It could be in the form of a flow chart or just bits of paper with notes on them that are attached to a cork board or pin board.
Paper notes pinned to a board are a fantastic idea because you can move them around depending on which direction the story is heading. Then, when you’re ready to start writing the screenplay itself, you can position them into a screenplay format.
List the characters in your movie, and how they relate to each other and the plot – add them to the board.
Make a simple list of all the main characters in your movie, and write down a short summary about them. Add their profiles to the board, plus any snappy dialogue that comes into your head.
Write down the key events, and form a story line for your movie. You will need to have your story lines and act sequences when you start writing the screenplay itself, so it’s good to get them all in place now.
Other things to add to the script planning board
Write a description of the story’s protagonist and antagonist
This part is vital – you need to know exactly what your protagonist is like, and what your antagonist wants. Character descriptions don’t have to be long or detailed. Just enough so that you know what they’re like, and the kind of motivations for their actions.
The hero must be conflicted and torn between two or more options. That’s what makes the hero interesting. He needs to change throughout the movie, correcting flaws that give him the skills or strength he needs to ultimately defeat the villain.
This is called the character arc and all major characters will have some kind of arc.
In the case of the main character, it’s good to really think about the entire arc – one or two life-changing events for them. These will be the defining moments in their life, where everything changes for them.
When you’re creating an antagonist, however, you’ll need a set of motivations – what they want and why they want it so badly.
The villain must have an opposite desire which goes against the hero, and their actions must be more extreme than the hero’s. If the two characters are in competition for something, for example, their goals need to be pushing each other towards their separate stakes in the same goal.
The villain should want something that goes against what the hero wants – and they will use whatever it takes to get it and put an end to the hero.
The villain, or antagonist, must be completely evil! This is what makes the villain so entertaining to watch. Creating a rounded, nasty and believable villain is one of the most important things you can do when writing your screenplay.
How to write character profiles
Create a list of characters that you can use for your movie (listed from most to least important)
Each character needs a written profile, which is a list of character traits that describes them.
The profile should include their:
- *Hometown and current city or town, if they’re not from your town
- *Preferred hangout spot (where they like to hang out)
- *Strengths and weaknesses – what’s good about their character?
- What are their flaws?
- What kind of person are they?
- Make a list of pros and cons for each one.
The idea is to get to know your main character so that you can write them realistically and have a good understanding of what motivates them and how they would react to certain events. Try writing down your profile on paper, or typing it up into a document.
How to write a movie script and sell it
How to write movie dialogue
Dialogue is one of the most important elements to tell a story. There’s nothing worse than watching a movie with flat or boring dialogue. The whole purpose of writing lines for your characters is to make them sound natural and realistic.
Most classic movies are made great by their dialogue. But you don’t have to be an Oscar-winning scriptwriter in order to write good dialogue. All you have to do is understand the four basic ingredients of fine writing and apply them to your movie.
The four main ingredients of good writing:
1) Dialogue must flow naturally
Dialogue must always be realistic, and realistic dialogue must flow naturally like water down a stream. There is no point in having a dialogue that jumps all over the place. That will drive your readers crazy.
2) Dialogue should be credible
Dialogue should have an obvious authenticity to it. In other words, you should never use dialogue that would not come out of the mouth of a normal person, or even from a character with heightened credibility (such as a cop).
You need to channel the basic thought process and speech patterns in order to sound authentic.
3) Dialogue should have tension and conflict
If dialogue doesn’t represent the basic elements of tension and conflict, then why bother? This is where you’ll need to start giving your characters their more explosive attributes.
Conflict is what separates your protagonist from the antagonist. When there’s fear of loss, that’s when the dialogue will have more meaning.
4) Dialogue should be clever and memorable
As long as your dialogue is pithy and clever, you can get away with some of the weaker aspects. The more memorable, the better.
- Take the time to write good dialogue for your main characters.
- Make a list of important secondary characters and plot points
- Write down a list of things that might happen inside this movie – the plot! Every scene has conflict between two or more characters
Start writing your screenplay
Once you’ve come up with a plot outline for your movie, and some notes on characters and key scenes you plan to include in the movie, it’s time to start writing.
What Makes a Good Movie Script?
The good guy or gal wins!
All films have a conflict, a force that gets in the way of your hero getting what they want. This will be resolved at the end of the story, when the good guy wins and achieves his goal.
Every single scene must have conflict, however small, between two characters. That’s how we get an interesting story with interesting characters.
The conflict in your screenplay doesn’t have to be between the hero and an antagonist, it can be between a hero and his friends or family or someone who is simply an obstacle for him.
Tension – the backbone of your story… tension is what keeps things moving. It’s energy, it’s emotion, it’s what makes people interested enough to want to read on. Without tension there is no story, only a list of events that happen.
The hero must face several challenges throughout the movie, each one a little bit more difficult than the last. This is what makes him or her stronger and more emotionally involved with the plot.
10 Possible Reasons Why Your Script Was Rejected
- Poor formatting
- Dialogue not snappy
- Too much direction
- Too much ‘telling’, not enough ‘showing’
- Bland – lack of tension
- Challenges not crafted well or hard enough
- Characters are shallow, unbelievable
- Act 2 is too long
- Poor plot, with holes and lack of continuity
- Theme/message doesn’t fit the genre
How to Write in One Sentence movie description
When pitching your script to agents or producers, you should be able to describe the whole movie in one sentence:
“The hero is a bounty hunter who goes on an adventure to save his father and finds true love.”
Follow this with one-page description. A proper script description should not be too long, because it will turn into a novel if you’re not careful! If you want to explain every single thing that happens then you will need at least twenty pages.
What is the average length of a movie script?
Between 90 to 120 pages – each page equals one minuted of screen time.
Is it possible to write a movie script in one day?
Of course, but how good will it be?
Is there any standard format for writing a feature film script?
Yes, the standard industry-accepted format should be used at all times. If not, it will be rejected out-of-hand.