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HOW TO GET STARTED ON WRITING YOUR SCREENPLAY!


By L. Saber


Before you sit down and attempt to write a screenplay or any other story format, think about your approach to the story and your attitude about telling it. I’m not talking about format, yet, or how to approach character development. I’m talking about that gut feeling you get, the goose bumps you may experience when you imagine what you’d like to write and I’m talking about the words that are about to burst out of you.


WAIT A MINUTE; you’re not feeling it? You don’t feel like you’re about to explode if you don’t start pouring out the words? Are you thinking that you’d like to be a writer, but would rather have someone else do the typing for you? That’s okay too. Maybe you’re simply the type of writer that has the ideas and you need a partner that can lay it all out in the proper format, because you’re more creative than technical when it comes to writing. Am I right?


Be honest with yourself; if your answer is yes, please allow me to save you a lot of time, a lot of grief, a lot of trouble and heartache. If nobody had the courage to tell you yet, let me be the first to say you’re not a writer, so you might as well stop wasting your time reading this article and click on the development section of this website where you can find articles on developing and producing.


The bottom line is WRITERS WRITE! Writers have a passion for writing, they have a need to paint pictures with words, to create characters and spend hours, days, weeks, months and years agonizing over all the details that make it a pretty picture. Calling yourself a writer simply by telling a true writer your thoughts and ideas would be the same as telling a painter what colors to use and where to place them on the canvas. Would that make a good painting? No. What makes a good painting is the brush strokes and the special composition of colors on the pallet and in more layman’s terms, that special skill and touch the painter brings to the painting.


Producers have a special set of skills as well. Recognizing a good story, knowing what works and what doesn’t work in a screenplay are some of the skills of a good producer, but that doesn’t make him or her a writer. That’s why producers have ideas or acquire options to stories and hire writers to write the screenplay. But why would anybody with producer skills want to be a writer anyway? You get less respect and certainly less money.


Now, for those of you still reading, let’s move along to getting the words, the feelings, the images down on paper as quickly and as often as possible. When the idea comes to mind, start writing. Don’t procrastinate or try to perfect your story before you start developing it. The tweaks and changes will come later in revisions and rewrites. Don’t worry about not knowing format or structure at this point, just write your PREMISE, your LOG LINE, in other words, a brief description of your story.


That information will be the core of your story. Once you start writing and you ever feel like you’re getting off track, revisit your premise and remind yourself what the story’s about.


If the story’s about: an unemployed, single mother of three that bullies her way into a job and ends up bringing down big insurance companies; but you end up with a scene about alien space ships landing in Manhattan, then you know you’re no longer on the right track.


See how simple that log line was? Write yours down and then start thinking about more detail. Have a log line for your beginning, one for the middle of the story and one for the end. Once you have the core of beginning, middle and end, you’re set up to do an outline for your first, second and third act.


By now, I’m sure you’re full of ideas and you’re already imagining camera set-ups and actor blocking. You know what your main character’s dialogue is and you’re dying to write it down, but do yourself a favor and hold off. Let that information and creativity stew for a little longer. Instead, write a one page description of your first, second and third act. Then take each individual act and break it down into more detail with a skeleton outline. Again, be brief in your description. Don’t commit to any details just yet. You’ll be surprised at the changes that will take place in your story.


Once you have your premise, outline and synopsis written in broad strokes, take a dive into your lead character. What makes this character tick? What makes this character function? Who is the anti-main-character or the antagonist? What are some obstacles that the protagonist will encounter? Take some time deciding on all of these factors and keep in mind the overall premise of the story. Stay within that context.


Once you understand your main character and a few other characters that populate your story, go back to your synopsis and outline and rewrite based on that information. See what happens. See what, if anything changes in the thought process about your story. When you’re happy with the new version, then you move on to…. §


TO BE CONTINUED


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