Writing a screenplay can be quite daunting for beginners. You probably have a lot of concerns on your mind: “What’s the best way to express my ideas?,” “Is there a specific format I should follow?” And more importantly, “How do I begin?”
Having a clever concept is essential, but getting something done is equally important. A lot of novices quit too soon, abandoning their script for trivial reasons – such as, not being able to communicate what they’ve imagined, getting stuck on visual cues, or not knowing the proper format. So many potentially great screenplays never see the light of day simply because their writers accept defeat right away.
If you’re a novice screenplay writer yourself, here’s an easy guide to help you get started.
A Beginner’s Guide to Writing a Screenplay
1. Use The Proper Script Format
It’s very important to write your screenplay in the standard presentation. While you can get creative in scene ideas, free-styling on the script format is a big no-no. This is because you’ll have to present your script to an agent, and no agent will take the time to decipher a confusing layout. Anything in an unusual format will end up getting rejected.
Keep this basic rule in mind: the text in a script has to be centered. All character names, place names and the time of day have to be in block letters. Action text needs to be parenthesized and placed before the dialogue. That’s the way it has always been, and it’s wise not to deviate from it.
2. Create Compelling Characters
One of the most common reasons a script is declined is because the characters aren’t engaging enough. A main character has to make a significant impression, because he or she will serve as your story’s focal point.
Always come up with remarkable characters that will keep your audience fascinated. Think of unique traits that will can evoke reactions from viewers. Flesh out their personalities with important details consistent with their nature – how they talk or dress, how they would react to situations, and so on. Conceptualize back stories for your characters to make them more believable.
3. Have a Three-Act Structure
Most successful scripts have a three-act structure:
– The setup. The beginning, where your present your main character and introduce his or her situation.
– The confrontation. The middle part, where most of the action occurs and builds up to a climax.
– The resolution. The ending, where you show how the climax affects the characters.
Each part supports the other to make a coherent whole – the end of the first act should culminate into the beginning of the second, and so on. Create “plot points”, or a series of events that put your story in motion and keep it interesting.
4. Keep The Dialogue Relevant
Any exchange between characters should be pertinent to the story. Each statement should intentionally lead up to the next and facilitate the turn of events.
Be careful not to write any unnecessary lines. After writing your first draft, go through your script again and delete as much dialogue as you can. Film allows you to communicate with images and sound, so there’s no need to use words to explain things.
Learning how to write a screenplay can be challenging, but it’s definitely rewarding – especially when you get to the point of filming. If you’d like to pursue screen writing seriously (or if you’re hoping for a career in the industry), it would benefit you to enlist in a screen writing course that will impart professional methods and equip you with valuable training.