Screenplay writing might sound fancy but in reality, it is a daunting task that calls for firm self-discipline and adherence to the standards and writing conventions. However, before you become consumed by screenplay writing, let us make sure you understand what a screenplay actually is.
The task to write a script is different from any other written assignment and not only because it requires a great deal of creativity. Knowing how to write a script as well other related fundamentals will help you achieve the maximum productivity, so let us see how it should be done.
Script Writing – What Is It?
Script (or screen) writing is the process during which you create stories for screenplay. This includes everything from the description of movement and actions to dialogues and characters. Screenwriting is entirely different from composing a novel, essay, or poem. Therefore, if you are only familiar with the methods of writing novels, you will have to learn the techniques for expressing yourself in a way suitable for subsequent visual representation. A screenwriter is someone who writes for films, TV series, video games, etc. If you hope to sell your screenplay or get hired but need help with screenwriting, you can find a professional who will provide you with the required assistance.
Typical Screenplay Format
Although screenplay is relatively simple, it might be a bit daunting for someone who does not know how to write a script.The basic screenplay format looks like this:
- 12 pt. (Courier)
- 1.5 inch margins
- Approx. 55 lines on each page
- The dialogue blocks are located 2.5 inches from the left of the page
- Use uppercase for character names and position the letters 3.7 inches from the left side of the page
- Page numbers are on the top right; 0.5 inch margin for page numbers; no page number on the 1st page
So what are the secrets to writing a powerful script? Here are some helpful and practical directives for a dummy who want to learn how to write a script.
- Step 1: Write a logline and develop the characters
Creating a logline is a great way to start because it helps you mobilize all the potential in you and summarize the main idea of the story in a manner that intrigues the readers. After that, proceed to character development. Come up with their backstories and refine their personalities. What makes them tick? Which goal are they trying to achieve? The stakes should be high should the characters fail to attain them. This approach will guarantee an intriguing story that will keep the readers / viewers on the edge. However, the goals should not be lofty – simply try to make them authentic. You can go anywhere from the end of the world to the end of a relationship of the character fails. Characters with a purpose are always interesting, while flat characters will be detrimental to your script. It does not matter how nerve-wrecking your plot might be or how unique your concept is – just one boring character will ruin it. You will be surprised to find out where your story can take you if you write it with your characters’ goals in mind.
- Step 2: Write a Rough Outline
An outline, often referred to as a ‘beat sheet’ briefly summarizes your entire story. You should fit the story on up to two pages. Use broad strokes. It might help to think of the outline as of a definition of your script, where the plot is revealed bit by bit. At this point, you should already start thinking over the story structure. You might choose to stick to the conventional storytelling, which is typically comprised of three acts. Although this format is not original, this exactly what readers expect of your story. The fundamentals are easy to grasp but if you would like to master them, you can derive knowledge from a variety of books on the topic. On average, a screenplay is between 90-100 pages long, and if you divide them by three, you will know how long each act should be. So the 1st act introduces your characters and sets the story background as well as features an incident that gets the ball rolling. In the 2nd act, the story escalates into a crisis and the characters face obstacles. The climax (either victory or defeat) is discussed in the last act. Even though the structure might appear pretty rigid at first glance, there is actually plenty of room for experimentation.
- Step 3: Write a treatment
Now this is when you start pumping your prose muscles and demonstrate your own style. Treatment is like an advanced version of the outline, so you can approach it by expanding on the outline scene by scene. Feel free to experiment with the dialogues or at least make a brief overview of what the characters are going to say. Develop the settings and include more detailed descriptions. This part of the screenplay is where you can build the world in which the story is unfolding. A typical treatment is around 30 pages but the length really depends on the kind of story you are telling.
- Step 4: Write the script
Now that your characters are developed and the plot has been structured, you can start writing. Remember to use present tense. Another thing you should never forget is brevity. Keep in mind that showing and not telling is the priority in screenwriting. Experts recommend writing in a script editor, such as Celtx Studio. Good luck and godspeed. See in in step 5!
- Step 5: Write your script again
You were wondering how to write a script for a movie but writing the 1st draft is just a beginning. Even if you think that the 1st draft is flawless, it is not and there is still much room for improvement. You have to get back to the beginning and remove unnecessary stuff and add stuff that will make the script better. It is always a good idea to get other people read it, especially if they have some experience is screenwriting. Try to be open to justifiable criticism.
The answer to the question, ‘How do I write a script that sells?’ is simple - it all comes with practice. And it goes without saying that you should be devoted to your story; otherwise, it is not even worth trying. So get some inspiration and patience, surround yourself with good ideas and get to work!