The Secret To Screenwriting Success

How To Write A Screenplay

This eBook reveals the secrets to the best screenplays, and how to make yours better. This guide comes to you from Christian Blake, who has written such definitive screenwriting books as The Seven Moments, which are used by top screenwriters everywhere. This knowledge comes from real experience and writing practice from long, thankless hours. Now you can learn the secrets so you don't make the same mistakes that thousands of other screenwriters make. You can skip straight to the part where you write a screenplay that is professional and amazing-sounding. You can improve your script, beef up your dialogue, analyze your script and screenplay objectively, and get rid of weak scenes. You will learn how to treat screenwriting like a business, not a hobby. You will learn how to write in ways that make your audience want to keep watching, and come back for more and more of your material. You will learn everything that you will need to know to write excellent scripts, revise them to perfection. Continue reading...

Screenplay Writing Secrets Summary


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Highly Recommended

Of all books related to the topic, I love reading this e-book because of its well-planned flow of content. Even a beginner like me can easily gain huge amount of knowledge in a short period.

Overall my first impression of this book is good. I think it was sincerely written and looks to be very helpful.

Successful Screenplay Format And Style

Font - screenplays are written in 12-pt. Courier font. Upon occasion, should you need to cheat by making it look like you've got 120 pages when you really have 130, you can try to fool everyone by using Times New Roman instead of Courier. You aren't really fooling anyone but yourself, however and are better off trying to cut down on all those words. 2. Spacing - feature length screenplays are single spaced, with double space between scenes, between narrative paragraphs within scenes, and between narrative paragraphs and dialogue. 3. Margins - the approximate margins are as follows when in doubt, leave more white space. Screenwriting software sets the margins automatically, and even gives you an opportunity to cheat slightly, if you're trying to cut down on the number of pages in an overly long script. All margins are in inches, intended for 8 x 11 paper, the American standard. For those using A4 paper, just make sure there's plenty of white space. But if you can find American...

Screenwritingact And Scenes

Anything worth doing well takes hard work and unfortunately, so many people don't appreciate or respect the craft of screenwriting and how difficult it actually is. Ideas are a dime a dozen, but it's the actual execution of the ideas put into 108-120 pages of script that takes self-discipline, hard work and commitment. Writers often think of new ideas when they're stuck in Act 2 or they have problems with the Act 3 climax. Other writers get discouraged when they're beginning at Fade In and realize they have over 100 more pages to go. They usually wonder what to do, because everything seems so unwieldy and they have no idea. The thought of having over 100 pages of script from beginning to end can seem quite formidable to anyone. To make writing a screenplay more manageable you need to break down your 108-120 pages into scenes and acts. This allows your material to be easier to write and you won't lose your way in the middle of your script. Today, with the popularity of novels being...

Blueprint For Screenwriting

What is the theme of your screenplay and how do you reveal your theme in the climax 5. In the climax of your screenplay you need to find the answer to the following questions Does the main character grow and change in the climax Is the plot of my screenplay resolved in the climax Am I successful in getting my vision across in the climax If you answered yes to all these questions you are well on your way of building a solid story structure as the foundation for your screenplay.

Writing The Screenplay Finally

Whether you opted for index cards or the treatment approach, and it took you twenty-four crazed and manic hours or months of painstaking research, you've now arrived at the moment when you can actually start writing the screenplay. A shiver goes down your spine, whether from terror or excitement, you're not sure. But you are ready. And, given all of the preparatory work you've already done, you're much further along than you think. In fact, many writers feel like they've finished the screenplay when they've gotten this far - the story is done, and now all they need to do is write it down. Before you do, however, you would do well to (1) Set aside a regular writing time, preferably every day. All the good intentions in the world won't get that screenplay down on paper. You would be amazed at how much work you can get done in even an hour a day Your ease with screenplay format is one of the ways a reader will know whether you're a beginner or a working writer, so it is very important...


What you need to sell a screenplay, besides a good story, is a spec script. A spec script is not what is used to shoot a movie. That's called a shooting script and has all the technical directions for shooting the movie. It's not the best way to showcase your story. You want your story to be as readable as possible. So, you should only put in enough shooting directions to allow the reader to understand the story, and no more. If you're not a filmmaker, you shouldn't get into them, because you'll look like an amateur. If you are a filmmaker, you should know better already. Both spec and shooting scripts use the same format. Screenplays are from 90 to 120 pages long. The screenplay for Basic Instinct, bought for three million dollars, contained only dialogue, scene headings, and description. That's what we'll concentrate on here. That's all you need. There's really nothing tricky about the screenplay form. It's all perfectly logical, just another way of doing the same old thing telling...

The Elements Of A Query Letter

Either an opening sentence should be an attention-grabber, or a friendly I've just completed an original screenplay entitled (TITLE) that I would like to submit to you for your consideration Do not tell them it's your first screenplay. If there are large themes to this piece, then include a sentence as to what they are. 4. If you have a film background, or a background that makes you uniquely qualified to write this screenplay, then include a sentence or two about that.

Identify agencies willing to look at material from new writers The best way to get

The query letter is essentially your pitch, for why anyone should read your script. It should not tell the reader that they will make millions of dollars from your screenplay, or that this is a perfect role for Julia Roberts, whether it is or not. It should not tell the reader that you're broke and need the money, or how much work you did on this, or whether they will find it amusing or scary. For example, it is not effective to say My uncle was a fascinating character, and I am sure you will enjoy this script or There hasn't been a flying elephant story since Dumbo, and I think you'll find this hilarious. Only the reader gets to determine what they think of your screenplay, and they'll only know that after they read the script. The same goes for verbal pitching, by the way. In the past couple of years, a number of pitch conferences have sprung up in Los Angeles, giving new and experienced writers a chance to meet development executives directly, to pitch their...

The action or narrative paragraph that follows the slugline Example

Screenplay into a film, including the reader doing coverage, the assistants at the agencies and production companies, the development executives, producers, studio executives, the director, the actors, etc. And just in case you think that anyone who reads scripts for a living, has an imagination, think again - it's your job to make them see the film as they read your script. There is a fine line between under writing and over writing, and every reader of screenplays is finely attuned to that fine line. Some rules of thumb are 9. All narrative sections should be no longer than 3 lines. Yes, you heard me right. While you can occasionally stray to 4 or even 5 lines, two or three is the norm. Don't spend 5 lines after the slugline describing the scene. Most overwriters are in serious violation of this rule, trying to cram every possible detail of the scene into the description. Sorry if this sounds cynical, but many readers skim the narrative sections, and if they see large blocks of...

Set aside a time and place to write preferably every day

While some of you might think this is obvious, many novice writers (and some screenwriting consultants ) start straight in on the screenplay. I'm here to tell you it is very difficult to go from the idea in your head directly to the screenplay format and if you do, you run the danger of having a shapeless mass at the end of your toils, which will require endless rewrites. A more methodical approach, while time-consuming at first, will save you a lot of time later on. And it is easier to rewrite at this stage than to rewrite an entire screenplay. As you can see, both approaches begin with a synopsis. There are many misconceptions out there about what constitutes a synopsis. That confusion stems from the fact that there are two kinds of synopsis, namely, the working synopsis, and the selling synopsis. A working synopsis is a tool to help you write your screenplay, and is between you and God, or you and your writers group (or your script consultant). A...

Submitting Your Script

Congratulations You have finally finished your screenplay - but now what Should you try to get an agent, or go directly to production companies How much should you tell prospective buyers about your story, and what shouldn't you say 1. Register your script with the Writers Guild of America. This is for your protection -never, and I mean never, send out any unregistered material. In fact, never even show anyone an unregistered synopsis, treatment, or screenplay. And no, I'm not being paranoid. The registration number should appear on the script's title page. A link to the Guild's website can be found on my site, at .

Outlineindex Card Approach

Basically, this approach entails using the synopsis to outline the major scenes in your script. Sounds simple, right But what does this mean, exactly Do you have to write headings, subheadings, and sub-subheadings, using numbers, Roman numerals, and lower case letters, ad infinitum No, absolutely not. An outline for a screenplay is simply a list of scenes. Referring to the story line you just developed in your synopsis, you're going to write down a list of all the scenes you imagine are going to make up this story, in their proper order, describing in a sentence or two what happens in it. An outline usually consist of master scenes, anywhere from 30 to 70 scenes but again, this won't be a final number. There may be many changes, and the addition of numerous mini scenes, along the way. A MASTER SCENE is the largest overview of the location, with its essential elements, rather than all of the cutaways to different things happening in the scene. More on this when we actually start...

Plot Points

I say roughly because each screenplay is different, and a major reversal may occur five to ten pages earlier or later than indicated above. Suffice to say, however, that if you haven't established what this screenplay is about, who the main character is, and what direction the story might be moving in, by page 10, most agents and executives will read no further. Many will stop reading by page 2. Fortunately for you script readers, who usually read the script before it gets to the agents and executives, have no choice but to read on, since part of their job is to write a synopsis of your script. But even here, if the reader is turned off by page 10, your script is not going to get a consider, much less a recommend. Before we get started on the exercises that will help you write the synopsis to your screenplay, let's take a look at a synopsis of A ROYAL PAIN below, with plot points and act breaks highlighted. Viewing this on screen, pointing your cursor at the highlighted sections, will...

Keeping The Faith

A final word for those of you who are new writers and are feeling a little overwhelmed just about now - take heart, all good things are learned in the doing. Think about this new world of screenwriting as learning a new language. Learning a language takes practice, and full immersion in a foreign tongue. But with enough practice, at some point the new language will feel like second nature to you. If screenwriting is already second nature to you, but you're frustrated by the difficulty of breaking in to Hollywood, well, welcome to the club. Is there a magic formula No. But just because you haven't sold a script yet doesn't mean you won't. Don't question your talent. Instead, rededicate yourself to the process of becoming a better writer. Anyone can write - real writers rewrite. Over and over again. Keep your commitment to yourself and your story, figure out what you really need help with to make your script better, and go out and get that help. If you expect to write something once and...

Choosing Your Story

No one can choose your story for you, but not all stories are screen stories. There are ways, however, to decide whether a particular story has enough going for it to warrant the effort it will take to turn it into a screenplay, attract millions of dollars in financing, and, oh yeah, entertain, inform and move that all-important audience. compelled to write. Don't skip the exercise - answering these questions honestly is the first step in deciding whether or not to write your idea in the form of a screenplay. 1. What do I find compelling about this story Do I feel passionate about it What about this story beckons to me Be as specific as possible. It doesn't have to be profound, but there has to be something about this story that is going to keep you involved, passionately involved, for the weeks, months, and sometimes years, it takes to finish the screenplay. 5. Am I capable of writing this story Do I know enough about the world I'm writing about, or, if not, am I up to doing the...

Beginning Relates to the Ending

Now that you've determined where and when you'll open your story you have to know that in a well-structured screenplay the beginning should always relate to the end. What do I mean by that statement Let's suppose you want to write a murder mystery. Before you start your story you must know how it is going to end. You need to decide in advance if you'll have the murderer caught or if you'll have him escape in the end. Will he be arrested, convicted, sent to prison, flee to another country or be killed As you can see, until you know the ending you won't be able to write a single word. How can you possibly plant the necessary clues or foreshadow events to solve your story if you don't know in advance how it will end How can your characters be properly motivated to behave in a realistic manner How can you set up red herrings or twists and turns for your plot if you don't know how the mystery ends Successful screenplays have a definite structure and all the scenes lead to the climax and...

The Three Act Structure

To structure your scenes in the correct order you need to know the three act format and what elements must go into each act. Breaking your screenplay into acts will allow you to have a blueprint to follow. This permits writing the screenplay to be more manageable and broken down into sections. It is much more easy to construct than it would be by trying to write 120 pages straight through. Breaking your screenplay into a three act structure gives you a guide to follow on your writing journey.

Expressing Your Feelings Through Subtext

You can achieve the same wonderful results for your characters and write scenes which are rich in subtext. Remember, when you write your screenplay that you are the creator of your characters and their world. If you can't reach your feelings or express your emotions than you're unable to allow your characters to express them. By using subtext you'll also give your audience room to inject their own feelings into the scene. Writing subtext takes time and effort to learn. It isn't easy, but then anything of value isn't easy to achieve. Fight for writing subtext and keep trying until you're able to do it. When you've mastered it the impact of your screenwriting will be more dramatic and emotionally powerful.

The External False And Internal Real Goals

The goal you choose for your main character in the opening of your screenplay is really the action or the story structure for your screenplay. Does the character want to be a prize fighter, play soccer, climb a mountain, overcome a disease The main character's goal is what sets off your story in the opening of your screenplay as you can see from all of the above examples. The goal gives your script movement, provides your protagoist with an objective to strive for throughout the story and furnishes your screenplay with a story. In all of the above illustrations we've only dealt with the character's external goal. This is often known as the false goal. A false goal is what the character thinks he wants, only to discover in the climax that it isn't. However, there's another goal a character has in the script. This is known as the character's internal goal or real goal. All good screenplays and television movies include both the main character's external or false goal and internal or...

Writing Causal Scenes

Screenwriting is known as causal writing, because one scene causes the next scene and so until the end. All the scenes in a screenplay build upon one another to develop the plot structure. If you remove one of the scenes your entire story structure should collapse. When people write episodic scenes they can be removed and nothing changes the overall plot because they weren't connected in the first place. That's why they're considered episodic. You can compare removing scenes from a screenplay to removing beams from a building. Both would topple over if you removed an integral part from the structure. If removing a scene doesn't affect your overall screenplay then the scene is not necessary and should be eliminated. Think of your scenes as your would a house. Without the steel frames or skeleton, your house would topple over just like your screenplay. However, if you remove a scene in a cohesive screenplay your entire structure should collapse and your screenplay fail. If a scene...

Scene Connections and Progression

Since film is visual, all scenes must have movement throughout the screenplay. In the climax of a scene something must happen, just as it happens in the climax of a screenplay. The climax of your scene must be the most dramatic point and further the action Every new scene must germinate from the previous scene and lead to the scene that follows. There must be a connection between every scene so as to avoid episodic writing. Besides making your scenes connect they must lead toward the climax of your screenplay. Every scene needs to move the story to the end, making your screenplay an exciting journey.

Subtext What You Dont

The sample scene in the chapter on screenplay format is filled with subtext. The man and his wife never once mention the fact that she is dying. They talk around it, and make plans for a future trip. Neither speak about what each one fears the most. This scene between the husband and wife is much more dramatic and emotional than if either spoke about her illness and how scared they both feel. That is when you acted one way but felt another. Well, in good screenwriting that's how your characters act too. In fact in great screenplays there usually is little dialogue, but a lot of feelings beneath the words. It's important for you to use as much subtext in your character's dialogue or their actions. This allows your audience to bring their own feelings into play and enables them to identify with your characters.

Questions About Agents

When you have at least one novel manuscript or screenplay completed and an idea of what your next couple of books (or screenplays) will be. You don't need an agent to represent you on short stories or poetry. If you only want to sell the one book that you've completed and you never want to write another, you might need an agent to get the best terms for the book you've done, but you probably won't be able to get one. Agents want clients who work in profitable fields (novels, screenplays) and who will produce salable work on a regular basis.

Your Motives For Writing

As a screenwriter you're not only the creator of your screenplay, but your choice of material will either make the experience an exciting adventure or an agonizing voyage. This chapter deals with the most important element in the writing process YOU, the writer. It's important to look at your motives for wanting to write, because if they aren't strong enough you probably won't finish your screenplay. Writing is just too difficult a craft to learn ifyou aren't serious about it. So before you begin your writing journey it's necessary for you to answer the following questions Do you feel the same way he described If the answer for you is I must, then writing a screenplay is what you should do. second screenplay about discovering her real self through writing. In her screenplay her main character transforms from low self-esteem to feeling confident about herself. It is a wonderful, uplifting coming of age script. It's personal and yet professionally written from the heart.

Your Intention Is Your Theme

In the film The Insider, based on the real life scientist, Jeffrey Wigand, played by Russell Crowe, he is upset when he discovers that tobacco companies are manipulating the drug in their product to deliberately get people addicted. He decides to become a whistle blower after he discovers what harm the company is causing to people who smoke. He gets fired from B&W corporation for taking a stand. His goal is to reveal the truth of the tobacco industry against all odds, including the betrayal of the producers of the television show 60 Minutes who decided not to run the interview with him, when they're threatened with a lawsuit by Brown and Williamson. This excellent screenplay is exciting and suspenseful, but more so because of the theme of the little guy fighting a Goliath corporation and how he doesn't give up in the face of threats and betrayals.

Writing From Your Heart

You need to be in the moment when you write and not into the results. When you first begin to develop your blueprint for screen-writing, you mustn't block yourself with criticisms and judgments before you get your ideas down on the page. If you do, you will stop yourself too soon in the writing process and not finish writing your script. It's important to suspend your judgment until after you've written down your ideas, your story, or your concept. Otherwise, you will not be able to start writing your screenplay let alone complete it. When you begin to develop your screenplay, concentrate on the writing process itself and not on the technique. Write down your ideas without worrying whether or not they're good enough. By writing in the moment you'll lose your past and future and your ideas will flow. This way of writing from your heart is the first burst of creative imagination that comes to you in a moment of insight or a burst of inspiration.

Writing From The Heart Writing From The Head

The only thing you should be concerned with at the beginning of your writing journey is to get your words down on the page. Just get out of the way of your creative self and trust the process. Successful writers have an openness to themselves and their writing. Trust the process without being self-conscious and you will end up rich with imagination, spontaneity, and creativity, all the ingredients you need for screenwriting success. When you are able to write from the inside out, your writing is more honest and has greater feeling, because you aren't forcing it or trying to be brilliant. I always tell writers when they first begin a screenplay It doesn't have to be right, just WRITE it

Transforming Personal Stories To Powerful Scripts

Screenplay about your recent divorce or latest love affair back in your drawer. Instead write a story that will be a positive experience for you and one which will evoke strong emotional responses from your audience, who will identify with your characters and your story.

The Spine of Your Story

Imagine an old fashioned clothesline which you're hanging your clothes on so they'll dry. Now visualize every scene you write as being attached to the spine of your story like each item of clothing is attached to a clothesline. Without the spine or structure you have no story, just unconnected scenes which become episodic. You need to understand the importance of finding the spine of your screenplay. It is the foundation of your well-structured writing. Here is an example of a logline from a recently completed screenplay that I co-wrote with Brenda Krantz.

The Six Most Important Scenes

To help make your screenplay manageable it's important to understand and be familiar with these major scenes. Another important scene in your screenplay is known as the midpoint. It is in Act II and at the middle of your script, around page 60. In a romantic comedy the midpoint is where the great romance, which was going along smoothly suddenly changes because of obstacles and problems. This is known as the midpoint of the script because it's actually halfway through the screenplay.

The Main Characters Journey

Well, the same is also true for your main character. You can only follow one character's journey in your screenplay at one time. Of course, you may have many characters in your screenplay, but you only have one main character to follow in your screenplay. If you try to follow more than one character's point-of-view, your screenplay will become unfocused and confusing. Many beginning writers start their screenplay without knowing who the main character is and their writing isn't focused because of that reason. However, there are several ways to determine your main character. Ask yourself these following questions to discover who your main character will be in your screenplay. To get better acquainted with your characters you need to delve into their past, just like you did with yourself, to discover how they became who they are in your screenplay. Since a character's actions must develop from the kind of person he is, you really can't begin your story until your have a thorough...

The Characters Emotional Transformation

In fact, if a character doesn't change in the climax your screenplay still could work only if you make your character struggle and remain active throughout the script. That's how William Shakespeare's tragedies worked, because Othello, King Lear and How people act, respond, react, and most important FEEL is what makes good drama. It is how characters behave with one another and how they react and interact in friendship or love that makes for strong emotional writing. It is the emotional story people pay to see. They want to be moved, to feel and to care. By concentrating on the character's emotional transformation of your story you will be laying down complex characters who experience a transformational arc and will make your screenplay successful and riveting.

Starting With a Topic or an Issue

It really doesn't matter how you get your idea for a screenplay. What does matter is that you care about what you write. For me, the most successful stories are those small personal ones about the average man or woman. Stories about people who want what you and I want, who feel what you and I feel, are the ones with whom your audience can identify. As you think about your writing take the raw materials buried inside you and start to mine them. Discover the human element of your story and make it personal. By doing this your writing will become universal and everyone who sees your screenplay will be emotionally involved.

Keep It Short And Simple

Don't slow down your screenplay by writing dialogue that is filled with directions. Avoid adjectives and adverbs like (happily), (sadly), (angrily), (fearfully), except when there is uncertainty of your intention. Otherwise, let the director or actor decide how to say their lines. Don't play director and try to tell the actor how to say a line of dialogue. It is an insult to the professional actor and a sure sign that you're a novice. The shorter your dialogue the better. Use short speeches and crisp dialogue. Pace your short speeches with longer speeches. Use interruptions and pauses interspersed throughout your dialogue. The biggest mistake beginning screenwriters make is having the characters give long-winded speeches that end up sounding like monologues.

From Fade In to Fade

It's important to decide what type of screenplay you plan to write and then layout the blueprint and the framework from Fade In to Fade Out. The opening and the ending are your parameters to follow so you won't turn a comedy into a tragedy half-way through your screenplay. When you write without a blueprint your screenplay doesn't have a solid structure. do this You do this by knowing how your screenplay ends and then working backwards to find the opening for it. The Fade In that starts your script and the Fade Out that ends your script is your framework. Knowing your ending gives you destination to follow and your characters a path to reach. Can you imagine trying to get from Los Angeles to Manhattan or Seattle without a road map Well, that's what you do when you write without a blueprint. It's like taking a trip without a map and leads nowhere except to a dead end. If you don't have a direction for your characters or you don't know how you're going to resolve your story, you will be...

Creativity And Imagination

So how do you get ideas for your screenplay Where do ideas for your screenplay come from Well, it has to do with your own imagination and from your creativity. What is creativity Creativity is free-flowing energy and when you are connected to your own inner world, where your creativity resides, you will find a myriad of ideas for your screenplays. To be a productive and successful screenwriter you must write from both your heart and from your head, the basis of all great writing. Writing from your heart enables you to increase your creative output and allows you to reveal who you truly are and put it in your writing. When you write from your heart the writing is passionate, original, and honest. It has greater intensity and depth of emotions, which enables your audience to identify with your screenplay.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

In fact, this is how your characters should behave in your script. When you write subtext in your screenplay you may either involve both characters who know what's really going on, but neither is being honest. You could say they both are playing a role to avoid being hurt. A good example of this could be when you're writing about a romantic relationship which is about to end. It isn't you, it's me, is a great line of subtext, when the one who's breaking up tries not to hurt the other.

Act IIIThe Resolution

Act III is known as the act of Resolution. It is the shortest act in the screenplay. It has approximately 30 pages or even less (90 120). All that has gone on before is heading to the highest point of dramatic conflict the climax. The climax is the end of your screenplay. In Act III the problems you set-up in the opening must be resolved your main character must experience a change and your theme must be revealed. In Act III your main character makes a discovery about himself. He sees the light so to speak, and learns something about himself he didn't know throughout your screenplay. As he gains new insight about himself, your audience will feel satisfied. All of the preceding scenes of your screenplay have been leading up to this climactic one. If the action escalates in the second act, by Act III the action explodes in the climax. When the climax is over, your story is over. Nothing else can happen. If you continue your screenplay after the climax, it will be considered...

Psychology Of A Character A Case Study

For you as a screenwriter it is not enough just to deal with these issues. You must know the effects of different abuses on the victim and her family. What happens to the wife and children of an alcoholic What are the long term effects of sexual molestation How does a child behave who is a victim of child abuse What happens to the survivors of a suicide victim How are adult children of alcoholics affected by their parents drinking What are the characteristics of a co-dependent couple How do people cope after divorce A year ago, I worked with a woman who was writing a screenplay about adoption. After she completed her script she came to see me, She eventually was able to get in touch with those painful memories and then was freed up emotionally to put her real feelings into her female character. Suddenly, she was behaving in a realistic and credible manner, because the screenwriter was able to put the truth of her own emotions into her character. She added layers to her and made her...

Balance Between Personal and Professional

What do I mean by this Well, there are some writers who are so obsessed with writing their personal story that they can't get the objective distance to make their screenplay work. These writers were just too personally involved in the story to be able to look at it with the necessary objectivity of a professional writer's eye. It's important to have distance from your subject matter in order to make the necessary changes and revisions to make your screenplay a great one. Jack had a lot of problems trying to write his story and couldn't get a handle on it. I spoke with him and soon discovered that he was too close to the story, because he was actually going through the pains of his wife's recent death. Every time he'd write a particular scene he'd begin to re-experience his pain all over again. Since he wasn't detached and couldn't get enough distance to look at his screenplay objectively he couldn't write it. In reality, Jack was writing his actual life story as he was living it. This...

Dont Try To Be Commercial

There's really no way to compete with the big conglomerates about current hot topics in the news. These companies even have writers on the payroll who have already started scripts about worldwide hot topics that are seen on the news programs day and night. The writers are just waiting for the actual ending of the real life story, so they are able to complete their screenplay with the correct facts. Hopefully, you can now understand why it doesn't pay to try to be commercial when you write your screenplay. You'll just be wasting your time. You'll never sell the overdone, cliched work you're sure will be commercial, because it's been done over and over again. But you'll always be commercial when you write something new, fresh and original something that comes from your life experiences, from your heart. Recently, I conducted a workshop at Screenwriting Expo in Los Angeles. It was called, The Inside Story Writing What Hollywood Wants. It was a full house because I'm certain everybody...

Book Dissection

Here's another interesting exercise to do. Take a book that was made into a film and compare the two. For example, The Great Santini by Pat Conroy. If you read the book, then watch the movie, you will notice several subplots are missing from the movie version that are in the book. How did the screenwriter do this yet maintain the original idea and story of the book Did these subplots add or take away from the book I was talking to producer Dan Curtis (Winds of War) and he told me how he works on taking a novel and turning it into a screenplay. First he breaks the novel down into a list of one or two sentences summaries of every major scene or action. Then he writes the screenplay off that list. Then he breaks the screenplay down into a list of one or two sentence summaries and sees how that compares to the one he did for the novel.

The Essed Syndrome

Every character wants something in a script, and each character is there to move the main character's story along to the climax. A character shouldn't be in the story, unless he or she helps move the main character's story. The more desperately a character wants something the more exciting your screenplay.

Emotional Dialogue

Today in the entertainment industry, writers are more concerned with their screenplay being a good read more than they were in the past. This means the rules aren't quite as rigid and much of their exposition is more personal. In fact, in a recent screenplay that was bought for over a million dollars, the writer refers to a love scene as being so hot that it would shock my mother.

Stage Play

Just like the screenplay form, the stage play form is totally logical. It's even simpler, since you can't get distracted worrying about camera angles, etc. Use white, 81 2 x 11 paper. You can't go wrong with twelve-point Courier type. Use a solid-color cover and bind it with a sturdy binder. Left margin is 11 2 inches. Right margin is 1 inch. Stage plays are eighty to one hundred pages long. You copyright a play the same way as you do a screenplay (see above).

Stage and Screen

This chapter may seem too short to cover both screenwriting and playwriting. But it's not, because the story form (conflict, action, resolution) is identical whether it's on the page, stage, or screen. There is no difference. So, what you've learned about story up to here has given you everything you need to create a story for the screen or stage. Also, because stories for stage or screen don't get into the mind the way the written story does, they're actually easier to write. It's important to realize that books and courses on writing screenplays or stage plays are 95 percent story and 5 percent format. That tells us two things. One, story is the all-important ingredient. Two, there isn't that much to the format. What you get in this chapter is all you need to sell your play or screenplay if you have a strong story. Have I said it often enough It's the story, the whole story, and nothing but the story. I don't recommend any stage play or screenplay books (or any other books) on story...


The Rule of Threes should be applied until all of the primary characters are played against each other to see what sparks are flying. Once we get the picture, it is time to dismiss the company. Dismissals can be as simple as a death or as complex as an open-ended indication of the future for a particular character. When all else fails, just before the ending crawl a series of cards can be shown Janey Schmird went on to become a New Age messiah while holding a day job as a screenplay writer.

By Syd Field

First off, let me say that not all writing books are for all writers, and this is one of those books that will only appeal to some. It is not, however, only appropriate for screenwriters and screenwriting hopefuls. I hold the firm opinion that the smart writer will look outside books aimed only at his specialty if he wants to learn - and if you want to write novels, and if you're having problems with plotting them, this book will give you superb tools you can use to plot your novel. The key element in Screenplay that makes it such a terrific reference is what Field refers to as the paradigm. He can call it a paradigm. You can call it a plot diagram. Either way, if you follow his advice and create one, you'll find that all the stupid, trite, overused, predictable things you were putting into your novel and hating will fall away, leaving you with something that is fresh, and new, and surprising. You'll need to do a bit of basic arithmetic to change the screenplay paradigm into a novel...

The Treatment

Visual images into descriptive words. Sometimes writers are asked to develop a treatment, before they write a script. It is often on the strength of your treatment that you'll sell or not sell your screenplay. Don't let it be filled with weak verbs, adjectives or adverbs. Make your story come alive

The Time Lock

In another example, let's say your main character's goal is to get a job immediately, because she has to pay the rent. If she only has one week to find work, you'll create must more pressure on her than if she had a month. So a time limit is a wonderful devise to create more tension, conflict and suspense in your screenplay. In fact, the closer you set the opening of your screenplay to the ending or climax the more tension you have due to the shorter amount of time. It's always better to start your screenplay as close to the end as you possibly can.

The Synopsis

These pages of prose, when perfected, will be known as your synopsis for your screenplay. A synopsis should be not less than one page and not more than five pages. It should tell your complete story in prose from beginning to end. Many times a production company, studio or network will only ask for a synopsis before they decide if they want to read your entire script. 88 Here is an example of a synopsis of a recent screenplay that I wrote with Brenda Krantz my collaborator. Stingers is a horror script and this is our synopsis.

The Specific Goal

Acter active in your story Give him a specific goal which he desperately wants to reach throughout the screenplay and you'll make your main character ACTIVE. The goal determines the action. The desperation determines the momentum and tension. This goal will give him the proper motivation to change in the climax. Each one has a goal which becomes the driving force that gives the screenplay movement, energy and a purpose. The important thing to remember about your character's goal is that it must be specific. It can't be abstract. You can't just say your character wants love, power or money. These are all abstractions and are too vague a goal. If your character wants love it must be the love of a certain person. You want to determine the person who your main character desperately wants to love and focus on that specific person. Your character doesn't want just love, she wants the love of a specific man. too broad a goal and once again is too abstract. But if your main character wants to...

The Outline

The Step Outline is essential to establish the direction of your script and the sequence of your scenes. It really creates the basis of your blueprint for screenwriting, which is vital when structuring your script. With your outline completed, it is an easy task to write your script. It is developing your outline that takes hard work. I require all my students to create the Step Outline before they put a single word down in script format. This outline is really the most important aspect of story development for the screenwriter. Until your outline works in a tight, straight line, you won't have a blueprint for writing to follow and you won't have a script. Don't try short cuts. Developing an outline in the beginning will save you blood, sweat and tears, plus months of hard work in finding where you are in the story.

The Climax

With this in mind, let's talk about the climax of your story. The climax is the highest point of drama in your structure. It is where all of the scenes must lead throughout your story. Finding the ending of your story is the first thing to do. The ending of your screenplay is known as the climax. After the climax your story should be finished and can't go any further. Your screenplay is complete and if you keep writing then your writing becomes anticlimactic, which means you've written too much and you have no resolution for your screenplay. Your audience should leave your movie feeling emotionally satisfied. If your audience doesn't have a sense of closure in the climax your script is a failure. I can't stress the importance of finding the right climax. You'll probably have to change your climax many times before it works. Some writers have written an entire screenplay before they discovered the climax wasn't working and it had to be written over again. This is not uncommon, so don't...

Causal Writing

As I said earlier, the biggest problem I have found with the beginning writer, and even with the most experienced professional, is that the writing is usually episodic. This means that the scenes don't relate to one another and the screenplay doesn't have the underlying story structure that sets off the story and keeps it moving until the resolution or end. From fade in to fade out your structure must not collapse in the middle or your entire script won't work. The beginning of your story should relate to the end in a causal manner. What I mean is, there has to be a connection between the beginning scene right through to the final scene of your screenplay. If there is no connection then there is no structure, and you are only writing episodic writing. Episodic writing is not connected by a structure, and each scene usually has no relationship to the next one. In an anthology the stories aren't connected. In Arabian Nights, the stories are episodic and not connected to one another. In...

Action Is Character

These are questions many beginning writers ask when they first start their screenplay. However, there isn't really an answer because you don't develop either one first and the other second. Story and character develop from each other. They are synergistic and each one emanates from the other. Why Each one is dependent on the In all of the above examples you had a particular person in mind, someone you knew, liked or feared. If you decided to write about any one of these people you would end up with a character, but you wouldn't have a plot. It would then be your job to take the character and put him in an exciting story. As you would get to know your character you'd begin to create the proper environment, problems and conflicts for him or her. Your story would develop as your character would develop. You would lay out your plot according to your character's choices, his or her decisions, actions and reactions. In other words the person your character is and what he or she does...

Act II he Exposition

In Act I you also introduce the main and major characters of your film. This problem will take the rest of the movie to solve. The audience must immediately know what your movie is about or they will lose interest. They should understand what's going on and care about the problem confronting the main character. I always tell my students to ask themselves when they open their screenplay Why is this day in the life of my character different from any other day in his life We live in an age of I want it now, with fast food deliveries, instant microwave dinners, and drive through restaurants. Just push a button and you can buy anything you want on the Home Shopping Channel, get money from the ATM machine and instantly interact with video and computer games. So it's understandable that more screenwriters try to hook the viewers in the first three minutes, and less than ten minutes. Longer than this period of time will make your viewer bored and perhaps ask for his money back from...

Hooking the Audience

In motion pictures you want to hold your audience's attention from the opening credits until The End flashes on the screen. You want to keep them in the theater, so they won't leave, or worse yet, ask for their money back. One way of accomplishing this goal is to ask yourself when you open your screenplay the following question Why is this day different from any other day What happens at the onset of my story that is going to set-off the entire action of my structure Now that you've learned the importance of constructing the framework of your story, you are well on your way to developing the rest of your Blueprint for Screenwriting. You have the ending that gives your story its direction, and the opening that sets off your screenplay. You're now on the road to steer your story in the right direction, create a complex character with a goal, and develop a blueprint to follow so you'll know where you're going, how to get there and when you've arrived.

Idea is not story

I was watching Biography on TV last night and they were covering Clint Eastwood. He would talk about one movie or another and say, The thing I liked about this screenplay was And he would sum it up in a sentence or two. He didn't go on and on saying, boy I really liked the great scene on page 28, and the twist on page 43, and I find many writers get too caught up in the minutiae of their story and lose sight of the big picture.

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