Screenwriting

How To Write A Screenplay

February 5, 2018
How To Write A Screenplay

Don’t know how to write a screenplay? here is the step by step guide to how to write a screenplay.Every human being will have a story to tell. Many individuals have story ideas, but many of them don’t know how to narrate the idea into an interesting movie screenplay. Many think that writing a movie script is a gift, yes, it is true in some rare cases like Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino. But, the real truth is that storytelling is an art form. It demands special skills to do so. This article guides you to write your screenplay writing from raw idea to a full-fledged script. This article breaks down each and every stage of scriptwriting and the steps involved in script format. These steps are not the benchmarks but these easy steps help you to build your screenplay smoothly.Remember, before going deep into the article, this concept doesn’t teach anything related to the screenplay structure or format. It simply elevates the parts involved in your writing process.

How To Write A Screenplay Phase 1: Preparation

Table Of Contents: Phase One Preparation
1. Focus On Your Genre
2. Read Number Of Screenplays
3. Get few books on screenwriting
4. Watch your favorite movies
5. Create Your Own Work Space
6. Becoming a screenwriter is not easy, it’s a stressful job. Psychologically make yourself believe that you are a screenwriter.
7. Get a professional screenwriting software, if you can’t afford one go to Celtx.

1. Focus On One Genre

There are a number of movie genres like comedy, romance, suspense, thrillers etc., initially just find it out what fascinates you the most. For example, when I just started screenwriting long back in early 2000’s I was very much inclined to the romance genre. So, I mostly focused on writing pure romance. So, likewise find your taste. This is very important this very fascination drives you to write. Select one genre of expertise.

2. Read Number Of Screenplays

Download as many numbers of screenplays as possible in your favorite genre. Read them. You have many resources to download screenplays like SimplyScripts. For Telugu and South Indian people it’s a bit hard to get a copy of a screenplay. Nowadays, they are releasing few copies on sites like Amazon India etc., else try to download some well known Hollywood movie screenplays.

3. Get Few Books On Screenwriting

It is not necessary to go to a film institute, but it is very handy to get a clear picture of what we are doing before getting into it. That is where these screenwriting books come handy. There are plenty of books available on screenwriting. But when purchasing them buy them carefully according to their usability. Some books throw light on screenplay structure, some on dialogue writing, some on treatment etc., It’s good to have at least one tool ( book) in each of the category. You never know in a screenwriters life what comes next. Books help for both reference and research. You can buy online I have plenty of them but remember these books are very costly in Indian currency 🙂 I have brought them in seconds and I have few gems with me now. Which are unavailable online now. So, try to buy one book per month.

4. Watch Your Favorite Movies

Watch As many numbers of movies as possible in your favorite genre. Try to sketch out the outline of the script. If it is possible to write the step outline for the movie you are watching. A step outline is nothing but the sequence of scenes which forms the screenplay. In normal terms, you can call it as scene order. While doing this exercise, you can mute the television. This helps you to focus more and understand more. Always remember, a movie is a visual medium.

5. Create Your Own Work Space

As a wannabe screenwriter, it’s very important to have a separate workplace dedicated to it. It should be calm and rejuvenating. Ambience plays a vital role in writing. So, choose a calm and clean place for writing away from all distractions. If possible decorate your workplace with the items that reflect your current script, it gives you tremendous energy and helps your creative juices flowing.

6. Dee Stress Urself

As I said already, it’s tough to be a screenwriter. If you are working keep the balance between your regular job and your writing timings. Having fixed timings can fix a lot of problems. Don’t quit your regular job until you get a certain amount of exposure and financial independence through writing. Avoid people with negative energy. Talk to the ones who can help you when you feel stressed.

7. Believe That You Are A Screenwriter

Yes, this happened to me. And may had happened with so many. I was very skeptical about myself about being a good storyteller. But believe me, storytelling is a gift to some humans, but rest of the bunch relies on practice and tools. So, just believe that you can also become a good storyteller with dedication and practice. If needed tell yourself that I am a ” Screenwriter “.  This point seems to be small, but at the end of the day, it counts.

8. Get a Professional Screenwriting Software

Formatting a screenplay manually is a tedious job. There are some alternative ways of adding some add-ons to MS- Word etc., but still, it’s very laborious. You can’t focus on creative things if you start focusing on this kind of stuff. So, better get a screenwriting software like final draft, movie magic if you can’t afford this professional software then you can use Celtx and WriterDuet these are completely free but online based.

How To Write A Screenplay Phase 2: Brainstorm Your Ideas

Table Of Contents: Phase Two Brainstorm Your Ideas
1. Ask a question ” What if this happens? “
2.Write Bunch Of Ideas As Many As Possible.
3.Create Your Logline
4.Refine Your Story Ideas And Loglines Until Reaching Next Level.
5.Again, Pick your Screenplays, read them as many times as possible. Just To check your initial concept.
6.Once you are sure with a screenplay concept. Stick On With It.

1. Ask A Question ” What If This Happens? “

Every story idea starts with this very question. Yes, Steven Spielberg questioned like this, what happens if monstrous dinosaurs cut loose into human civilization? And the result is Jurassic Park.

Example Two: Screenwriter Alan Ball questioned like this: What if a sexually distressed, frustrated in his mid-life man falls in love with his daughter’s friend? And the result is American Beauty.

Looks simple right, try it. Try as many as possible. As meaningful as possible. Then go to the next step.

2. Write As Many Ideas As Possible

As I told you, keep on working on your story ideas. Initially, you will find it difficult. You will find all the recent stuff you watched that month. But still, keep working. If you feel stressed just get this book Developing Story Ideas. But don’t quit. Sum up as many ideas as possible since it’s only a preparation to your screenplay.

3. Create Your Logline

A logline is nothing but a small synopsis of your concept in 2 or sentences. Which reveals about your protagonist, his struggle with the antagonist and the death stakes. I will write a detailed article about loglines in my upcoming articles. But create effective loglines. Work on your logline. Make your logline meaningful. Because many screenwriters fail at this very point. If you can effectively tell your story in logline you can move forward, if not keep working. Because technically you will be investing few months in writing your script.

4. Refine Your Ideas And Loglines

As a beginner, it’s very easy to get carried away with the concepts. Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time. Now, after writing so many story ideas and loglines you have a bunch of them with you. Refine them until you find no loopholes in them. If you narrate the story concept to someone they should ask you Wow!!! what next? make these ideas to reach that level.

5. Read Your Screenplay To Get Hold Of Phase One Outline Of Your Script

Now, download few bunch of screenplays and start reading them. Watch the same movies to know the ACT-1 in and out of the movie. Outline the movie structures. This helps you to understand the Act-1 basics. Most of the screenwriters fail to impress in the Act-1.

6. Make Sure You Love The Concept

Just be double sure about your concept before moving forward. Remember, you need to invest a hell lot of time and you need to travel with the chosen concept for months. So, be very sure that your concept rocks. If you loose passion towards your concept in the middle of the script, it won’t help in any way. So, double check your concept.

Now it’s time to jump into the next phase 🙂

How To Write A Screenplay Phase 3: Outlining Your Idea

Table Of Contents: Phase Three Outline Your Story Idea
1. Get your theme right.
2. Create Interesting Conflict Between Your Lead Characters.
3. Sketch Out Three Act Structure or Six Act Structure.
4. List Out All The Plot Points In Your Script
5. Write Short Synopsys of ACT-1, ACT-2, AND ACT-3
6. Now, Write The Treatment (10-20 pages in length)
7. Pitch It Your Family And Friends Ask For A Geniein Feedback.
8. Sketch Out Step Outline.
9. Search For The Flaws In Your Concept, Because Sometimes It May Completely Change Once You Start Writing.

1. Get Your Theme Right

Always make sure you to get your theme right. A theme is nothing but your perception of a subject. It can be anything.Be clear about what you want to convey through your writing. Remember, a movie is a visual medium.  You can convey your theme through characters, actors a dialogue, expression or an object. You can get more information about screenplay theme here.

2. Create Interesting Conflict Between Your Lead Characters

Create an interesting protagonist, and antagonist. Design major characters which are necessary for the script. Create a conflict between protagonist and antagonist and your major characters. It’s called a c conflict triangle. To know more conflict go here.

3. Sketch Out Three Act Structure 

Three act structure is a famous concept in scriptwriting. As the name suggests it contains three ACTS. ACT-1, ACT-2 and ACT-3. ACT-1 is always said to be the beginning which consists of an inciting incident which turns the life of your protagonist entirely. ACT-1 lasts for a maximum number of 30 pages.I will write a detailed post on the three-act structure in my upcoming posts. Likewise, ACT-2 and ACT-3. Sketch in detail about your plot points and major turning points.


4. List Out All The Plot Points

Always make your begging count, then list out major plot points like inciting incident, plot point number one, Mid-point, plot point number two, pre-climax, and climax. Write them in detail.

5. Write a Short Prose Version Of All The Three Acts

Now, write a short prose version of your three acts. Write two paragraphs for ACT-1, Three paragraphs for ACT-2 and one paragraph for ACT-3.  You can call it as the short synopsis of all the three acts.

6. Write Seven Sequences From Your Script

Write a list of seven sequences in your story. Story sequencing is a huge topic. It needs time to. Buy this book to know more about sequencing. Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach. Break your Act one into two sequences, act two into four sequences and one sequence for ACT three.

7. Write Your Treatment

In step five, you wrote a short version of your three acts. Now, expand it more. Make it a long prose version of three acts. Maybe 30 pages in length. This is called as a treatment.

8. Pitch It To Your Family And Friends

Now, its time to get some feedback from your friends and family. Ask them to be honest. If they can’t judge your script take the help of some industry people or else ask someone to read your synopsis who belong to a script department. Because at this stage hiring a script reader may be a burden.

9. Sketch Out Step Outline

A step outline is nothing but arranging scenes in an order or a sequence to form a meaning story. You can detail what will happen in each and every scene in a sentence or else you can storyboard it with the help of storyboarding tools. Make index cards for your convenience.

10. Search For The Flaws And Loopholes

Don’t be surprised, after going through all this process there are many possibilities to wind up the concept into the trash. In some cases, the begging will be good, but it will be hard to build the second act. You might not find the logic for few things etc., So, do cross check your concept again and again. Because now you are going to step into a real form of writing!!

How To Write A Screenplay Phase 4: Writing And Rewriting

Table Of Contents: Phase Four Writing And Rewriting
1. Write Your First Draft
2. Take Rest, Don’t Write Anything For some time. Give “Time” Some “time”.
3. Rewrite Your First Draft.
4. Now, again take some time off from your Script
5. Live Like Your Characters, Create Character Arcs.
6. Speak Like Your Characters, Write a Perfect Dialogue.
7. Move The Scenes Too And Fro.
8. Do Description Pass.
9. Take A Week Off
10. Rewrite
11. Again, Repeat In Step No: 5
12. After Completing Your Screenplay, Consult A Script Reader or A Production House.

1. Write Your First Draft

Now is the time to write your first draft. Just try to vomit your first draft. Don’t think about writing good scenes and bad scenes, and dialogues etc., Just go with the flow. Anyway, it’s going to change altogether in your rewriting process. So, try to write it down on a piece of paper that comes to your mind. That’s it.

2. Take Rest

Take some rest, reset everything. Maybe your perception towards your script may change in this gap. This worked for me. After writing your first draft keep away from writing for some time. It will help you in so many ways. It’s my personal experience. I will do this exercise for each and every rewrite session. Believe me, this helps!!

3. Rewrite

Writing is all about rewriting. Sometimes you may altogether want to change the theme itself after completion of your first draft. That is what writing is all about. Don’t get frustrated. Many budding writers have so many doubts when it comes to rewriting. This book on rewriting really helps Rewrite by Paul Chitlik. If you don’t know where to start rewriting your screenplay? then skim through this book, you will get an idea of where to start.

4. Live Like Your Characters

Yes, if you want to craft your characters well. Then you as a writer has to feel their feelings and emotions to make them feel real. One technique I follow is just behaving like your character. Yes, that is what I do when I script.

5. Speak Like Your Character For A Perfect Dialogue

Like as I said, write your character details and traits. Every minor detail about your characters. Behave like them. Talk exactly like them. Take help of your friends for the other major characters. Pen down the resulting reactions. The resulting dialogue should be very natural. Make it a habit to observe people around you and their habits and behaviors. It does help when you create a character and when you pen down a dialogue.

6. Move The Scenes Too And Fro

Move the scenes front and back. Draw meaning from each and every scene. If you find a scene which is unnecessary cut it down. A scene should always smoothly carry a story meaningfully with full of surprises. If any scene lags cut it down mercilessly.

7. Do Descriptive Pass

A scene description should always be script and to the point. Do a description pass. Just check the action lines are clear and crisp.

8 Rewrite

Again,  Rewrite your second draft and make necessary changes to the script. If it necessary take a break and work again. Check for the loopholes in the concept and fix them.

9. Consult A Script Reader Or A Production House

If you strongly feel that now if your script is completely ready for a production house. Then you can give it a shot. You can contact a script consultant. Here in our Telugu film industry you never know who will steal your screenplay so better register your script at Telugu Writers Association. If you have a solid script with you, you may contact reputed production houses like Geetha Arts.

This is how to write a screenplay. If you have any questions are queries feel free to comment. If you like this article please share and support and keep us motivated.

6 Comments

  • Reply Vicky kangra February 7, 2018 at 12:32 am

    Good article sir. this article give me harmful knowledge for pen done on papers.thankas guide I hope you will give up more technical guidens.

    • Reply Vivekanand February 7, 2018 at 8:01 am

      Thank you much for reading this article and for giving your valuable feedback 🙂 We will do our best to help our readers to grow in their screenwriting department 🙂

  • Reply RAJASEKHAR February 8, 2018 at 6:15 am

    Nice

    • Reply Vivekanand February 10, 2018 at 8:14 am

      Thank you Rajasekhar for your feedback!!

  • Reply SSS SRINIVAS VEMURI February 10, 2018 at 1:21 am

    Excellent Vivek. Very nice presentation. I like it very much. You wrote it like a professional. Kudos

    • Reply Vivekanand February 10, 2018 at 8:08 am

      Thank you so much for your valuable feedback!!!

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