Big-budget blockbusters have a lot of moving parts. From huge ensemble casts, overpowering visual effects, big set pieces, and crazy action sequences, watching can often be an immersive and overwhelming experience.
Now, imagine the process of writing it.
We all have a story on the same scale as an Avengers, Avatar, or Pirates of the Caribbean movie. And while jotting down notes and ideas is a good idea, when writing your first script, you want to think smaller. Much smaller.
How much smaller? Let’s talk about it.
Back to Basics
Your first journey into screenwriting should be something less than a 140-page epic. Think short film. Three to five pages. One setting. Two characters. Character A has a goal or plan, but character B opposes them. Now there’s conflict in your story. These two people are at odds in one location.
But before you sit in front of your laptop and write, you’ll want to plan and outline your story from start to finish. What are the story beats? How does the conflict progress? Who are these people? Where are they located?
Give yourself the creative freedom to play around with multiple ideas before deciding on one to take to the next step of becoming a short film script.
K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Screenwriter)
Once you’ve nailed down your story, setting, and character, you can begin the script’s drafting phase.
This allows you to practice writing descriptions, character intros, and dialogue on a basic scale in the screenplay format. You’ll notice how fast a page can fly by as you write due to the formatting. When you rewrite, how can you trim things down to keep the script between three and five pages and still have a coherent story?
Show, Don’t Tell
Film, as you know, is a visual medium, and the audience is meant to be shown things that help inform the story. The last thing you want to do is tell your audience something you could show them instead.
If your script has a married couple, how can you convey that through visuals? If they are a parent and an adult child, how can you clarify their relationship before someone says “Mom” or “Son”?
Fun with Dialogue
Once you’ve written your dialogue for both characters, read it out loud. Can you revise it to make it sound more natural? Can you cut it down and make the pacing faster without losing the context of what’s being said?
Remember, real people speak in fragments. They often trail off or even change subjects halfway through an answer. Unlike dialogue in a novel, script dialogue is intended to be performed by an actor, so it should be easy to speak.
The best advice I can give you is: Have Fun. Create. Experiment. Outline. Write. Rewrite. Play around and enjoy the process. As you get used to the basics, you can move on, writing another scene that adds to the story, adds to the conflict, and keeps things moving.
Happy Screenwriting, and I’ll see you next time!