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Tips on How to Write A Screenplay

Updated on July 17, 2012

The ability to write and truly enjoy it is both a gift and a curse; a gift because it is a great ability to have that really hones on an educational and fun activity and a curse because we can sometimes drive ourselves mad trying to find just the right thing to write about. No one will ever be a bigger critic than yourself because no matter how much you revise your stories, you will always think something could be better.

When I was in college, I fell in love with screenplay writing and would pull multiple all nighters to write them simply because I enjoyed it so much. Of course, it soon became very difficult to know just what to write next in the story and what the characters would say, do, and change in order to build up character development. I found though that some these methods that I tried really did help me continue writing and come up with good ideas.

The first thing that I did was that I examined the story I had created so far and the characters that were involved with it. I looked through all the scenes I made and determined if anything was lacking from the script in general. I examined everything to make sure that each character was developing in a progressive manner and that each scene added another layer to his or her character, and looked to see if each scene I made was building up to something bigger and more complex and contained the appropriate themes for my story.

In a movie, it is important that every scene you create adds something to the overall storyline or the characters that are a part of it. This is important because you want every scene to be important and memorable in its own way and build up to something so that by the time the movie reaches it's climax, it pays off beautifully and everything that was hinted at prior comes together in a satisfying fashion. Now it is almost a fact that most scenes that you create throughout your first draft will always be expanded upon and get more little details added in that will compliment the twists and turns yet to come.

So lets say you have a steady storyline, but now you are not too sure what to write next. Go back throughout the previous scenes and look to see what can be expanded upon and what can be inserted to add more layers to the story and the characters. Often times, when you do this, you will see that you can put in a few more lines of dialogues or situations that will better reinforce the theme of the movie and where it is leading up to. Your screenplay will soon get much more expansive and detailed and make it stand out much more; movies where nearly every scene is rich with details and development are what truly speaks to the audience.

Now, let's say you do the method above, and your script is much more detailed and expansive, but you are still unsure of where to go next in the story. You have the idea in your head of how the story is suppose to play out, but you are not sure how to make it unfold exactly. The answer to counteract this is to simply put yourself in the shoes of an audience member viewing this film; what would you like to see happen next and what would be logical to happen next. Remember that movies are first and foremost made to entice the viewers so it is an upmost concern to ensure that the story follows a logical progression catered to the viewers pleasure.

You simply need to think in a logical viewpoint on what would make the movie satisfying for viewers and what would be the appropriate scene to show next that will add to the movie and be in line to what was shown prior. One way I actually went about this is by thinking about what I would like to see next in this type of movie and just wrote for several minutes. I then looked at the completed product in the scenes and determined if it flowed nicely or not. If it didn't, it at least still contained factors that were good enough to be included when I made the scene more to my liking.

In order to make the perfect scene and ensure that it fits into the context of the film, also think like your characters. No one knows your characters better than you, so really start living through their eyes when you write. Start putting their own personality traits into you and imagine yourself in the scene that they are in; what would they say and what would they do? Start speaking out loud as if you were the characters and see if what they are saying makes sense and or just test run a few pieces of dialogue you are unsure of putting into the script.

This may seem like a silly idea, but what you see in your mind and on paper can sound much more different when spoken out loud. This will help you to know if it sounds correct and also better helps you become your characters and truly understand the logical courses of action they would take in certain scenes. This can also lead to some fresh, new ideas you may have never thought about before because when you finally hear your scenes come to life, you suddenly start realizing what might be missing, what might not work, or what is nearly perfect and just needs a little bit more tweaking.

One last way that I learned on how to continue writing throughout the day and night to simply take a break every hour or so and just think of something or even watch something that inspired you to write. In this case, let's say it's another movie that inspired you; watch that movie or simply think about it and remember just what it was about that movie that made it so great and inspired you to begin with.

Doing this will help you to realize what truly makes a movie great and how you may be able to incorporate some of those factors into your own screenplay. Look at a specific scene that you found engaging or amazing, realize what factors made it so great, and see if you can incorporate some of them into your own script. I'm talking about stealing story ideas or characters, but perhaps it was a sudden change it theme or character that made the scene so memorable.

Perhaps the scene contained a massive amount of symbolism or was just a beautiful, quiet seven that allowed the viewer to take a break and truly appreciate the story and the visuals of the film. You will be surprised just how quickly the inspiration will hit you again and enable you to think of incredible new scene and story ideas that can truly add to the plot of your movie and the intricate characters within it.

Writing and the ability to enjoy it is truly a gift and a curse, but it is a very addicting activity that really taps into your creativity and imagination. All writers however will suffer from writer's block or will be unsure of what direction to go in next within the screenplay. There are always methods and tactics that can be done to counteract this though and these are some of the ways I personally found to be very helpful in allowing me to continue to write for hours on end even after be stumbled. I hope that can be useful or helpful to you as well. Take care.


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