How I Write Screenplays

Hello!

I thought it would be fun to share my writing process for screenplays, because I have noticed it’s a little different than my writing process for say, a short story or novel. This is definitely because when writing a screenplay, you should only be writing one because it is a story that has to be enjoyed on a screen, not on pages.

Here is my process and some helpful tips on how I write screenplays!

Part One – The Conflict

For me, the main conflict is what comes to me first, or is what I try to search for first. It has to be a conflict that once again, can only be acted out live rather than in words. It has to be complex and fleshed out enough in order for me to connect it with the right characters and the right plot line.

WHAT MAKES GOOD CONFLICT?

  • There’s a Reason for It – Sometimes, we have conflict that seems to arise from nowhere. Make sure there is a reason and cause for your conflict because otherwise, it won’t be believable.
  • It’s Interesting – This seems obvious, but it’s true! Make sure your conflict is entertaining and exciting otherwise with the rest of the story will fall flat. Ensure there are multiple sides to the conflict and ways it can go wrong that create tension for your story and characters.
  • It Can’t Be Solved in One Minute – A common problem related to conflict is having your conflict solved TOO easily. One character stabs the villain and then BOOM, it is over, done, sealed, solved. No, conflict should include a journey to solve and should have a believable solution when that finally occurs.

Part Two – The Rest of the Story

Before characters, I like to come up with the rest of the story because I like to fit the characters into it. Kind of like a puzzle.

I also use the three act structure like I do with my short stories and novels. It is a way of dividing up the story that works for me, because it doesn’t separate it too much.

Here is how I make use of each act:

Act I – The Beginning: introductions to characters + the world, introduced to conflict, goals are created

Act II – The Middle: goals are being sought after, story deepens, realizations occur, journey begins

Act III – The End: achievement of goals is in sight, story lines come together, a solution is made evident and is coming, tension

That is how I structure my act I, II, and III, and looking back, it looks a little all over the place, but hitting these key points within each act helps me create a fleshed out story.

Again, it is exactly how I structure my short stories and novels, but one thing I try to focus more on in my screenplays is action, action, action. What is happening that keeps up the story’s pace? How can I keep up tension, suspense, interest, etc? My goals while screenwriting is making sure things are happening and moving forward in a way that makes sense, and in a way that keeps people interested.

Part Three – The Characters

Now comes for another essential part to any story: the characters. Some people don’t like to do characters last, but I do because I like to figure out how my characters fit into the story, and how they contribute to it.

Questions to Ask Your Characters:

  • What is your goal? Is it the same as most of the characters, or different?
  • Are you trying to stop someone or something?
  • Are you trying to help someone or something?
  • Is there anything that would stop you from achieving your goal(s)?
  • What would help you achieve your goal(s)?

Again, very action related. What drives them? What stops them? Screenplays in my head are always go, go, go. You aren’t concerning yourself with too much exposition or fluff, it’s dialogue and action which is one thing I really do enjoy writing!

The formatting of screenplays is the only thing I don’t enjoy doing, which is why I use templates! You can Google a screenplay template, or if you have Scrivener, they have an awesome screenplay template on there which is what I used for my writing class last year.

Hopefully you got some good tips for writing a screenplay, especially if you never have attempted one before! I really recommend it because while I prefer short stories and novels, learning the process of writing a screenplay has definitely made me a better writer overall.

 

That is all for this blog post and I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to check out my last blog post as well as my social media accounts which are all linked down below. Thanks for reading 🙂

Last Blog Post: Biannual Bibliothon TBR

 

@zoermathers

 

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@zoematherswrites

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