Screenwriting 101 – 7 steps to write compelling stories
Writing a script is more than just putting pen to paper. It takes a lot of dedication and time to write a good screenplay. There will be multiple revisions after which you will have to send the script to studios and producers, and hope that they like it enough to invest a significant amount of money in it.
Production houses receive Thousands of original screenplays each year, out of which they buy 100 to 200 of them. Writing a story and sending it to a production firm may appear to be a simple process, but to get your script noticed and purchased it must really stand out.
Here are 7 pointers to keep in mind while writing to script to stay ahead of the game; remember though that there are no set rules and they can occur in any order or sometimes not occur at all. It entirely depends on the story and the artist.
1. Craft a longline
A longline is a one-sentence introduction to your story that gives the gist of what your story is about. It usually includes the protagonist and their goal, as well as the antagonist and their conflict. Traditionally a longline used to be printed on the front page to give the producers a sense of the story and help them decide whether or not they should read it. Nowadays the longline is either verbally communicated or included with the treatment.
2. Write a treatment:
A treatment is a longer version of a longline that includes the long line, a character list, and a synopsis. It is used for marketing purposes and should highlight the main beats and turning points of your story. Anyone reading the synopsis should feel a strong connection to the story’s characters and be eager to learn more about them. Make sure your name and contact information are included as well.
3. Develop your characters:
Think about your story and figure out what the key question is. Try developing who will have a contrasting approach to the central question and will have to undergo a significant transformation in order to find an answer. A number of character profile worksheets are available online to assist you in building character qualities. Giving characters powerful emotions will be the most crucial aspect in character development. Even the bad guy should have a story behind why he turned bad, even if it is unjustified.
4. Plot the outline:
The idea is to create a scene-by-scene outline of the story. Break your story down to its narrative arc. Writers usually use flashcards or notebooks to outline their screenplays. The more precise your outline is, the less time you will have to spend later. Remember that tension is what drives a story, so plot your scenes in a way that builds and releases tension at the right time. This will keep the audience engaged and drive the story forward.
5. Write the first draft:
Producers typically have a stack of screenplays on their table and give each screenplay ten pages to entice them. If the script succeeds in doing so, they will either continue reading it or it will be archived. Hence, a screenplay’s first ten pages are crucial. Write your script scene by scene. Remember that every word in screenwriting must be written in the present tense and described in such a way that the audience can hear and see it. Don’t be too self-critical during the first draft, just sit back and write.
6. Step back and take a break:
It’s a good idea to take a break after you’ve finished the first draft. Take your mind off the script, go for a walk or simply spend some time away from work. This helps in the recharging of your mind and also allows you to disconnect from the identity of the script’s writer or creator. You can also go a few days without looking at the draught again. Take a break for as long as you need but ensure when you return to your script you come back with a fresh pair of eyes.
Make plot modifications where required. It’s possible that you’ll have to make some big changes. If everything appears to be in order, fine-tune the action, tighten the dialogue, and cut out everything that isn’t important to the plot. When writing the final draft, it is advisable to use more white space since it makes everything look more presentable to producers who are reviewing it. To explain the situation in a simpler and cleaner manner, you can improve the scene with fewer and more definite action-defining contexts.
In general, writing a screenplay is a challenging task – one that necessitates sacrifice and commitment to the craft. It’s a satisfying process in the end, because you get to construct characters and watch them come to life as they make decisions to negotiate the obstacle course you’ve set up for them. Take some time to learn the technique, and you’ll be writing your script in no time.