How to write a screenplay

January 19, 2016

All screenplays must include structure. When writing a screenplay you must keep in mind your target audience and meet their expectations, otherwise your screenplay will not succeed.  The blueprint for a screenplay is structured using: acts, sequences and plot points – this is used in almost every movie. This structural foundation is very important, although it is also essential to write in an original voice and have a powerful concept which is interesting and engaging. Take note on how to write a screenplay with these 5 main sections:

Character

The characters are one of the main parts of screenplay. You must know them inside out and imagine them in different situations. You will need to look at the details of your character from their culture and occupation to their attitudes and values. It is best to go into details when creating your character, you may need to consider for example, how they cook dinner or their petty likes and dislikes. Anything small and trivial could leave your audience relating better to your character. The story is only as good as the character within them.

Story

Screen writing is about telling exciting stories through different characters. The elements of a good story are listed below:

  1. The story is about somebody with whom we have some empathy
  2. They want something very badly
  3. This goal is difficult, but possible to do, get, or achieve
  4. The story accomplishes maximum emotional impact and audience connection
  5. The story comes to a satisfactory ending, which may not necessarily be a happy one.

The formula that many screenplay authors use is: (Character + Want) x Obstacles = Story
You will need to take into consideration the main areas of the story such as location, population and situation. Your aim is to create a well-developed and plausible situation.

Structure

Screenwriting can be split into two parts. These include: the actual writing and the dramaturgy. The artist when writing does not have any rules to follow, which is why all screenplays are unique in themselves.
Dramaturgy is the theoretical, cerebral, rational, and scientific part of the play. The screenwriter uses practical strategies and time-tested models to help develop and design a solid blueprint for the composition of the screenplay.

“In the first act, it’s who are the people and what is the situation of this whole story. The second act is the progression of that situation to a high point of conflict and great problems. And the third act is how the conflicts and problems are resolved.” – Ernest Lehman

Voice

All good screenwriting have a distinctive voice. A story with the same objectives can be completed with equal quality; however the voice of the script may be very different. The way you describe the action is the core of the play and is the artist’s choice. You will then be able to lead your audience into becoming active participants in the story. The voice of a character is their distinct way of speaking for example: cadence, dialect, accent and vocabulary

Form

Just creating engaging characters who are struggling to obtain a goal in an amazing memorable world with an original voice, still isn’t enough to write a screenplay. Form needs to be considered and it cannot be ignored. Screenplays must be written in present tense and should include what the audience should see and hear. The three C’s should also be used: clear, concise and creative. When writing a screenplay you only have between 90 and 120 minutes to tell the story – that’s not a lot of time at all!
If you would like to write a screenplay or want to find out more then enrol on our Screen and Script Writing Skills Level 3
Take a look at our Screen and Script Writing Skills Level 3 course >>

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Sharnie Carter

Passionate about marketing and education. Currently studying a CIM Level 6 Diploma in Professional Marketing via distance learning. When I'm not working or studying, I'm spending time with my young son and husband or hinching!

How to write a screenplay
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