Screenwriting is one of the most difficult writing genres out there and it can also be one of the most rewarding, both in terms of creativity, as well as financially. While there are countless courses available to help the new screenwriters, there are some broad areas that can be explored.
While some screenwriters write best when they create “by the seat of their pants,” one of the most helpful tips for many screenwriters is the importance of outlining a project. Unlike the outlines found back in high school, the outlines for a screenplay are totally individual. Some screenwriters like to work from an incredibly in-depth outline and others just highlight the important elements of each scene and go from there.
There are two reasons for creating an outline at the beginning.
First and foremost, it allows the writer to determine whether or not the entire idea is going to work from a logistical point of view. If the screenwriter discovers an element isn’t going to work, it can be eliminated early on in the creation rather than hours (or days) into the project.
Secondly, it greatly speeds up the entire screenwriting process. When the screenwriter knows what each scene is going to be before even sitting down behind the keyboard, it frees the writer to concentrate on the best scene possible, rather than trying to determine “what comes next.”
The Hero’s Journey
George Lucas’ incredible STAR WARS movie is literally a science fiction retelling of John Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.” Every screenwriter needs to understand how that journey works and to have the main character undertake that journey. At the end of the screenplay, there should be significant chance from where your main character began to where that main character ended.
While movies are a visual medium, it’s important to remember how vital dialogue is to create a property that a studio is going to want to purchase. In screenplays, knowing how to “show and not tell” is what distinguishes a professional from an amateur. In some cases, information needs to be provided that cannot be readily shown. When that takes place, screenwriters will often use a secondary character to give both the audience and the main character the needed details.
Every character needs to have a unique voice. Good writers will be able to have a character able to be identified simply by what is said and how it’s said. Having dialogue where all the characters sound the same is boring — and the cardinal rule of screenwriting is to never bore the audience.
As mentioned earlier, screenwriting can be extremely challenging and difficult — but when someone creates a compelling screenplay, the rewards can be inestimable.