Screenwriting can be a complicated, mind-boggling beast at times. We’ve all been there, overthinking the protagonist’s next move. Will he? Won’t she? Where next? Is this boring? Sometimes you need a refresher – a quick bit of info to spark a thought. We thought we would breakdown some of the key
(sometimes forgotten) screenwriting tips.
7 Screenwriting tips for beginners
1. Plan the protagonist’s journey
Make sure you know where your hero/protagonist is heading. From Act 1 to Act 3. Know their movements, the twists and turns. Sometimes we start to write with no real plan for the protagonist – this ends up leaving your screenplay flat with no direction at all. Will your protagonist recover from their misery, will it be happy or will they fall again? Make sure you know exactly where they will be. You can then develop the scenes around them and build a structure to your script from this.
READ MORE: How to create a compelling character arc
2. The outline of the story
You must plan the outline of the story first. You need that structure there. This is one of the best screenwriting tips you can be offered.
It helps stop writers’ block as often caused by disorganised minds. The outline gives you a focal point to each scene and each Act. it is a substantial plan for you to follow as you bulk out each scene. You know the direction and you can use all of your brainpower on creating tantalising scenes for the audience.
You can keep this relatively simple. Or, detailed – include key pieces of dialogue or even write up the first draft of your keys scenes.
To create the outline of the story, read our article: How to NAIL your film treatment
3. Keep the action moving
It can be quite easy to get caught up on over-explaining certain aspects of the character that leave you with a few lateral scenes that are just there. These are the key scenes to cut, or if you keep it make the scene go somewhere. Where is the conversation heading?
“Why’s the protagonist asking when dinners ready?” – You’re not too sure? <— CUT IT.
Remember that famous screenwriting quote:
“Arrive to the party late. Then leave the party early”
… Unless it’s your best friends 30th then maybe reconsider. For screenwriting this is important, especially to keep the audience captivated.
READ MORE: How to get your film funded
4. Trim it
Beard? Hair? NO. The story. Unfortunately a lot of the time the scenes we write are not that relevant. You want every scene to mean something and sometimes they really don’t need to be there. This means you may cut your screenplay from 140 pages down to 90. Yes, it will be 40minutes shorter but it will be far more exciting for the reader and the audience. They don’t want to read about two people making irrelevant small talk in a coffee shop for 5 pages. AND… An audience would switch off. Every scene counts. As stated in point 3: the action and story need to continue to progress.
5. Make the opening distinctive
MAKE. IT. COUNT.
We’re sorry for screaming – we really don’t want you to miss out on that perfect beginning.
Why? The first scene is what captures your audience, it captivates the reader. It’s important for both capturing the audience viewing it as well as the production company/agent who’s reading it. You need them to be encapsulated by that opening scene. Create curiosity, excitement and they’ll stay around… we promise.
6. Make the Protagonist likeable
They don’t have to be an absolute saint. But at least give them a couple of redeeming features – something for the audience to root for. For example – Dexter wasn’t perfect…
If the Protagonist has some flaws or is a bit of a dick – maybe throw in some vulnerability. Make them relatable to the audience. The audience needs to be able to relate to your hero character in some way for them to stay invested.
The protagonist may be a cruel person but when we break the character down it’s built on them being defensive as they are insecure about themselves – we see them develop and grow into a better person. The audience will relate to those insecurities. We all have them, they differ but we all have those insecurities.
TLDR: MAKE THEM HUMAN EVEN IF THEY ARE A MAD MUTANT CYBORG CREATURE THINGY
7. BONUS TIP…
Well… You all know this. But sometimes we really do forget it.
Make sure to ENJOY screenwriting. Take breaks, go for a walk. Refresh your mind, take inspiration from the outside. Writer’s block can be annoying and the best way to get over it is by taking a well-earned break.
READ MORE: Essential Tips for an Indie Filmmaker
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