GREAT! YOU'RE FINALLY WRITING YOUR SCRIPT!
When you write your screen story ideas, your book ideas or song lyrics down...it's been said, to first "write" each idea that comes to mind and do not edit in this first phase.
You never know what can come from putting two ideas together! What can happen is, you have one way you see a scene playing out. Then...you see another way that it can be played out, with the conflict...THEN, you see a way to merge both ideas and it's an awesome combination. As well, there are times where one scene will play out better than the other. These ideas can be the foundation for many successes for you!
EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US HAVE DIFFERENT THINGS THAT INSPIRE US OR VARIOUS IDEAS/TOPICS, ETC. WHICH MAKE EACH OF US TICK...
ONCE YOU WRITE YOUR KEY IDEAS DOWN, WHAT'S KEY, WHAT'S KEY, WHAT'S KEY...IS THAT IT IS IN THE PROPER FORMAT BEFORE YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT TELLING ANY PROFESSIONALS IN THE INDUSTRY THAT THEY SHOULD CONSIDER IT! Many good stories have been declined simply because they were not in the proper format. Yes. It does happen.
You may be the only child of multiple time academy award winners, BUT STILL, you must give even your family the proper respect and have it in the correct form when they show it to their professional friends to produce!
ARE YOU READY? LET'S SCROLL ON DOWN!
IDEA...for Your Storyline
Most of us have a story we want to tell and a way we want to express it. Whether your story is a drama, sci-fi, comedy, reality, horror, dramedy, etc. etc. EACH GENRE MUST INCLUDE A FIVE-WORD PHRASE IN YOUR STORY WHICH IS QUITE CLEAR TO SEE:
A PERSON WITH A PROBLEM!
WITH THIS, YOU ARE DESTINED TO HAVE CONTINUAL CONFLICT IN VIRTUALLY EVERY SCENE OF YOUR STORY! AND THAT'S HOW IT SHOULD BE IN WRITING!
THIS MUST BE KNOWN BY YOU, AS A WRITER, BEFORE YOU CREATE THE FIRST CHARACTER OR BRING YOUR STORY TO LIFE.
Now, your story description can use more or less words. For example, "Sally wants to find the killer of her husband and bring that swine to justice if she doesn't kill him first!"
With her husband murdered just before she's due to deliver their first and only child in the upcoming week, has totally taken Sally out of her comfort zone. With a pregnancy due very very soon, this causes more of a challenge to her to progress than in another phase of her life where she could literally move around easier. Who's to say that the killer will not make Sally the next target? And say, that, Sally has been placed on bed rest and the doctor expresses that she must stay home and rest as much as possible because she and/or the baby can potentially die, if she does not rest and stay in bed? Is this a ploy to make Sally an easy target or does the doctor truly have Sally and her baby's best interest at heart? It can seem one way and totally turn out a different way entirely than any of us had ever imagined!
With a dangerous disruption in her normal daily activities, Sally has to find the killer and have him taken care of before he murders the child she will deliver soon (as the note on their door implied) once she delivers. She has to go against her health issues and the doctor's wishes for her husband's seed to live on! This is a serious problem for Sally. She has to be a trooper all the way! With this, once we see things that Sally has already done, like rescue a child from a car just before it catches fire or trying to resuscitate her husband but, he still dies. We see some backstory on how they met. He may have saved her in the past and she swore she would return the favor one day, but didn't get this chance. We, as an audience, with these dynamics, want to root for Sally to reach her goal and most likely take this evil person to justice in one form or another. With this type of rooting for Sally, we want to read this story on the screen pages or see it on the screen all the way through until the end! Each scene in this story should capture our attention with the conflicts as often as possible and have us on edge until the end of the story.
You see...an idea can DEVELOP AND EXPAND SO MUCH MORE CLEARLY FROM just a few words IN YOUR DESCRIPTION, like mentioned above. There are numerous conflicting layers you can have fun in creating that will also capture many people's attention! This way, you will have much fun and enjoyment during the whole writing process; the crew will have fun making the production; and the audiences will go to the theater and/or turn on their TVs or set their recorders in a flash to see your enticing SCREEN creation! It all STARTS with your captivating idea and developing it from there!
(CONTINUE READING FOR YOUR SUCCESS!)
YES! SCROLL DOWN A BIT!!! THANKS!!!
Once you've determined your screen writing idea and which type of characters you will incorporate in your storyline, start jotting this information down. In case you forget, take a moment to write the key idea down, where you can see it. Ideas will fly away at times. Make sure it doesn't happen to you!!!
Your main character has a specific goal or destination to reach in the story. They want to SOLVE THIS PROBLEM IN SPITE OF ANYTHING THAT COMES AGAINST THEM! This must be SHOWN IN A VISUAL MANNER IN YOUR STORY, not simply discussed. REMEMBER THIS TERM...SHOW IT, DON'T TELL IT! The goal has to be something that your main character, your “star” (Protagonist/Good Guy/Gal) wants deeply and 150% and will not turn back until their goal is reached.
As well, the antagonist/bad guy or gal is set on stopping the protagonist from reaching his/her goal. Your characters don’t have leisure time in your screen/stage stories. Every scene is set up to where your main character gets closer and closer to his/her goal until he/she reaches it at the end of the story!
There are things that will cause your main character--as we humans typically do--to reconsider or pause for a moment when your writing prompts major conflicts or “road blocks,” in the midst of the protagonist taking steps to carry out his/her goals, but this main character must continue on regardless of the odds coming against him/her. This can be listed in their backstory (which you will see discussed on this site) and included in a scene (or more) in the story.
Example: Christ, just before they captured Him to crucify Him, He was deeply praying to the Father to take the 'cup' (option) away from Him, so he wouldn’t be crucified. We see this in "The Passion of the Christ" as well as scripture. Jesus later saw the benefit of reaching His goal of being the perfect Sacrifice for us and then said to God, “...not My will, but Thine, be done” and soon, he got right back on track to reach His goal, to be the perfect sacrifice for us human beings.
ALSO, CONFLICT: To keep the drama heightened, there should always be conflict between characters and in the story overall. Is it spiritual? Is it racial? Is it educational? Is it socioeconomic? Is it values based? Is it beliefs? Is it familial? Is it environmental?...
It’s stated that some type of conflict must be in each and every scene in one way or another. Yes, even in comedies. For example, in a movie let's say, where Steve Martin plays in, a conflict in a scene could be him having the toughest time keeping his tie on strait, while he's at the dinner table, talking to the Queen of England, trying to keep himself from getting arrested! Though this can be visibly hilarious, it can be quite easily A MAJOR CONFLICT FOR HIS CHARACTER! And Steve Martin is an actor who does his roles ever so wonderfully well! This makes the story interesting and engages us as viewers.
Conflict can be summarized in four following ways:
A) Conflict with Self
B) Conflict with Others
C) Conflict with Nature
D) Conflict with the Supernatural
Some basic Genres your story can fall into includes:
YOU'RE GETTING THERE. KEEP SCROLLING...
After you've fleshed out your key notes, who the good and bad guys are...the order in the story, etc., THEN, you summarize it in each Act here (or the beginning, middle and end of the story).
This can help you further flesh out how your scenes develop from one Act to the Next.
This four-sentence description summarizes your story.
1st sentence: Summarizes your overall story
2nd sentence: Summarizes your introduction
3rd sentence: Summarizes your middle
4th sentence: Summarizes your ending
It can be written in paragraph form or simply four sentences.
EXAMPLE OF A PREMISE
"THE WISDOM OF DESTINY"
(In a Sentence Listing)
1) Joseph, a young man searches for years to learn of his true identity after he's been left for dead by jealous siblings.
2) With a new face and amnesia after a boating explosion, he gets adopted.
3) He's haunted by nightmares that seem to be from his past...as he tries to live a new safe life.
4) His 'new' friend is later found to be the conniving brother who initially caused Joseph's misery with his birth family in the past and now in his future with his adoptive parents...each of the guys dealing in their own turmoil.
(In a Paragraph Format)
Joseph, a young man searches for years to learn of his true identity after he's been left for dead by jealous siblings. With a new face and amnesia after a boating explosion, he gets adopted. He's haunted by nightmares that seem to be from his past...as he tries to live a new safe life. His 'new' friend is later found to be the conniving brother who initially caused Joseph's misery with his birth family in the past and now in his future with his adoptive parents...each of the guys dealing in their own turmoil.
LET'S FURTHER DEVELOP YOUR AWARD-WINNING PIECE!
Backstory for the Main Characters
Have a blast as you create some unique, loveable or defying characters. If they are just like you and me then we as an audience will get bored with them really fast and turn the channel or not recommend that others go see that movie. Once your storyline has some form to it, create clearly definable characters who will keep our attention because of their unique or clearly identifiable quarks. Most stories have numerous characters, but in the midst of all the faces, there are at least TWO main characters in each story. These include:
THE PROTAGONIST (GOOD GUY): This character is the one who "saves the day", "finds the cure that will save the world", "takes the bad guy out," "saves a planet"...etc. etc.
THE ANTAGONIST (BAD GUY): This character's job is to stop the protagonist from reaching his/her goal at all costs.
These two main characters who are in opposition do not have to wear all white and all black clothing in the story. They could be: husband and wife (Sleeping with the Enemy); sister and brother; parent and child; friend and friend; co-workers; twins; etc., etc.
Even more cleverly, a person with a split personality...where one of his personalities wants to take out the other side of him/her or one personality gets his business deals and/or relationships and his other personality demolishes these very same arrangements/operations. Are you all getting any ideas as you read this? If so, great! Say the Protagonist has a set amount of time to get married, to earn his father's inheritance. On the other side of this, he can't keep a job nor a roof over his head. There is a gal that he loves deeply, at least one of his characters does, but the other personality in him wants to kill her. Do you see how one character alone can have many conflicts within himself/herself and this can transfer to others and other environments in the storyline? Have fun with it but still be safe for real!
On the other hand, the more clever, unique and "identifiable" your characters' traits are...with us as viewers/readers, etc...whether in personality, characteristics, struggles in life, etc., then the more we as an audience will empathize or sympathize with your characters and cling more to the story you've created.
Truly, Unique/Colorful characters stand out more than a quiet next door neighbor that never talks to anyone or takes any kind of adventurous trips.
In your BACKSTORY the MAIN "CHARACTER'S" TRAITS, CHARACTERISTICS, AS WELL AS HISTORICAL EVENTS that have taken place in their direct lives BEFORE the story begins is what you write in each backstory/character history! This was hilariously created in Forrest Gump! Let the character traits dictate what the character will do, not do, like or not like, etc. This will help you as a writer to "know"/"determine" what type of things/situations make your characters "tick." For example, you as a writer may personally love chocolate, but, is one of your characters allergic to chocolate? Is there a scene in the story where they get lost in a chocolate factory and go ballistic and it tries to interrupt them from reaching their goal? Their backstory that you create before you write the script and can update things in the midst of your script writing, gives you knowledge on how your character will react to things and people and behave the way their character traits will behave in certain situations in your story.
Though some backstories are short in length, the typical length for the major characters are 5-10 pages EACH, double-spaced on the page. This also includes some (but is not limited to) the main elements below:
NAME (PREFERABLY FIRST AND LAST), AGE, or YEAR BORN, RACE, ETC.
Unique characteristics such as...Where were they born? Do they have parents? Both parents? Adopted? Foster child? Parents deceased? How did this affect them personally? Did the character kill their own parents...watch their parents die or get killed? What? How old was the protagonist or antagonist at the time? How was his/her relationship with his/her family members...in general or in particular? "Were" or "are" they rich? Poor? Educated? Uneducated?
Are they honest? Sneaky? Why? Are they selfish? Giving? Why? What caused them to do or not do such in life? BE CREATIVE WITH THESE TRAITS AND BACKGROUND STORIES!
Did someone very close to them "cross" them at some point in life? Was there ever an attempt for someone to take their life or vice versa? Did they have a major surgery, health problems, etc.? Do they presently have health issues? How does this cause conflict in their everyday life operations or in the operations of reaching their goal?
Make up a backstory that shapes your characters and make it really easy to understand audibly/verbally how they speak, how they react to numerous situations, why they avoid certain things, etc. in your story. Use traits from people you already know or have come across in life, even a few of your own traits from yourself directly...that are considered "unique". Mix and match traits with people whom you know or have come across in life. Be totally creative and have fun with it!
Make IMPERFECT characters/people or your characters will lose your audience’s interest. Make your characters individuals that we, the audience, will love (protagonist) or hate (antagonist)!
An example of unique characters includes: Forest Gump, Monk and Dr. House. This movie and these TV dramas have done very well because the characters are vividly unique from the average individual.
KEY SUPPORTING CHARACTERS can be neighbors, spouses, friends, co-workers, teachers, students, other hostages with your main protagonist(s) in a hold up, etc. etc.
THEN THE NEXT PHASE...
Your Treatment is a visual...word-picture in paragraph form...for each scene in your movie/TV show, play, etc...
This is the written step just before you begin writing the actual dialogue and action in the script formatting phase.
An Outline lists the main bullet points/actions in your story.
This Treatment describes the main actions and key elements which take place in the actual scenes in your script.
The scenes are written in the present tense (as if they are happening NOW...) right before our very eyes, even when it flashes back to 50 years in the past. (Example: Jody sits on the couch and falls asleep as her sister, Tammy tips past her while wearing Jody’s favorite shoes that she just bought. Tammy quietly exits outside with a sneaky smile on her face.)
Each scene is written in its own paragraph. The main Protagonist is striving to reach his/her goal in one way or another. At the same time, whether in the background or directly, the Antagonist continues to strive to stop the main good character from reaching his/her goal. There will be obstacles that are difficult and could, for a brief moment, stop the protagonist, but the protagonist has to overcome each and every obstacle in one way or the other and get right back on course to reach his/her main goal! This is a must!
Whether your script is:
A Play: 2 Acts (approximately 2 – 2 1/2 hours)
A TV Drama: 4 Acts (one-hour show)
A Situation Comedy: 2 Acts (half-our show)
A Feature Movie: 3 Acts (90 minutes – 3 hours)...
A Film Short: (Anywhere from 1 minute to approximately 30 minutes, on the average)...
You still want to follow the basic rule in the acts of the storyline:
(A) After a "typical" day happens, a drastic problem occurs in a person or a group of peoples' lives...
(B) it gets worse...
(C) it worsens deeper (depending on the number of acts, more worse and even more worse...) then...the major obstacle and some minor obstacles get resolved with much effort being utilized and keeping the audience’s interest all the way up to the climax and then the denouement (the resolve) in the last act within the story.
You want to end EACH act with a cliffhanger to keep the audience interested in what’s going to happen next!
Dialogue typically is not written in the treatment unless it is crucial to state key specific information that are trigger points or trigger words (maybe a line or two at that time).
PAGE LENGTHS FOR TREATMENTS
Film: 10 Double-Spaced Pages
Film Short: Approximately 5 Double-Spaced Pages
TV Show/Pilot: 8 – 10 Double-Spaced Pages
Remaining Formats: 5 – 10 Double-Spaced Pages
WAIT! Note some key info before you format your script! I've heard Writing Agents, Readers for agencies, Producers, Etc. who will express that they will toss your script if it is not formatted correctly! Offices/Companies talk amongst each other, too!
LET'S CONTINUE AND MAKE THIS MATERIAL! SCROLL ON DOWN!
A NOTE TO WRITERS:
REGARDING DIALOGUE AND ACTION, VIRTUALLY THE TWO MAIN THINGS LISTED ON THE SCRIPT PAGES...
IN YOUR SCRIPTS, WRITE HOW WE AS PEOPLE TRULY "TALK", NOT JUST WHAT Verbiage "LOOKS OR READS WELL" ON PAPER.
"DARLING, YOU MESMERIZE ME EVER SO ELOQUENTLY WHENEVER I SEE YOU" ... MAY SOUND EVER SO INVITING IN A NOVEL. BUT, IF WE HEAR THIS ON THE SCREEN, NO WAY!
IT WOULD BE MORE REALISTIC FOR THE CHARACTERS ON SCREEN TO SAY, INSTEAD,
"DARLING, YOU LOOK HOT!" OR
"YOU'RE GORGEOUS" OR SOMETHING LIKE,
"CAN WE SKIP DINNER TONIGHT?"
These lines just above sound more natural...don't they? When an actor's facial expressions and voice tones fluctuate as they say the lines, it reveals clearly to the audience what is intended with the words spoken, or unspoken!
This is how dialogue should be on the screen. And it's not difficult to "contrive" when you create it! Have fun with it! Also, if you have an idea of what you want the character to say or do, but do not have the specific words yet, write what's on your mind at the time. You can always go back later and change the verbiage to what sounds best. There was a saying that I've heard many times during some writing workshops over the years..."The Essence of writing is re-writing." Even the most noted writers write at least a second or third or further...drafts!
If you're not sure what sounds more natural in speaking, just simply listen to how people "talk" while you're out in public...LISTEN to their "word choices" spoken during, for example, your family dinners, lunches with co-workers and friends, work breaks, etc. If you work in a restaurant, store, market, etc...see HOW customers, co-workers Speak, etc. etc.
Consider how educated people speak.
Listen how illiterate people talk.
Now this gets tricky. There are illiterate people who have worked their way into being college professors (in real life, not just in the movies) and they speak ever so eloquently, but there may be some type of tactic they're using or have issues with or are struggling with...to get their job done, for real. They may have a Teacher's Assistant whom they get to read and proof work for them as they verbally list their needs for the T.A. to check over/refer to. They may act like they want to "hear" how the words sound aloud, from an author, as they relax and see if they've captured the essence of what he/she wants to be presented to the students. See, there are so many avenues you can take to "Contrive" realistic results with your character's realistic results with your character's actions/creations. Also, regarding your character's physical actions written for the screen...
"He glided ever so eloquently across the red carpet as she sashayed to meet up with him. They then lovingly hold each other."--Sounds like a Novel! If you want to write like this, write a book!
In our descriptions/actions, write this in as simple a language as possible. You want to write where your message is clearly understood by those who may never see your face or hear you speak as a person or writer. Your Script is a diagram for the cast and crew to follow ever so smoothly.
For action sake in the script...for example...you can write things like the following, instead.
"He sees her in the crowd and heads her direction. She looks over and sees him as he smiles at her. She stops what she's doing and runs toward him. They embrace each other as people walk past and watch them in awe."
ONE MORE 'GIN (THIS IS LIKE "DIALOGUE", TOO!) CONTINUE ON DOWN THE ROAD--OH, THE SCREEN...
AND AGAIN...MORE SCRIPT NOTES BEFORE DRAFTING THE PAGES:
REMEMBER...ONLY what is SEEN and WHAT IS HEARD are the only things that are written on the script pages.
If any type of "thoughts" from you arise, write them on some note pages. DO NOT WRITE THEM AS SUCH ON THE SCRIPT PAGES. Also, you can put them in the form of Voice Over, Dialogue to be spoken, or a Visual to be seen within the story as an option.
This step can take a varying amount of drafts before you are ready to present it or have it performed. Some writers have the experience where they can do such in two drafts while some other experienced as well as novice writers may write more drafts than they ever want to confess. YOU WILL PERSONALLY KNOW when it's ready for presentation. This is when you have your trusted fellows review and make notes on your creation who may see things that you may have overlooked or overdid. The ones who are honest and frank, with experience in writing, speaking, people's behaviors as well as those who observe many individuals are helpful in their views. Remember, they are views that you can take or leave. Use your judgment in determining what will improve and what will impede on progress. You're more gifted than you realize. No overkill.
There should always be more than one layer to your story. Of course, it is to entertain, but it must also have Spirit, creativity, whit, pizazz, personality, etc. etc. Don't ever assume your audience is lame, unless you know you're writing for a lame audience (big smile here).
Though correct formatting and spelling alone will not make your script chosen to be produced, it can cause a great story to be tossed in the trash if it is not presented in the correct typed format. After you have combed through your drafts, please make sure, and have others check, with fresh eyes on the project, in whom you are comfortable with, to check for errors which may not be obvious to you. It happens. It happens, even to the most cautious individuals.
If there is something that you feel you have to explain to the reader, SHOW IT IN AN ACTION OR HAVE IT VERBALIZED BY ONE OR MORE OF THE CHARACTERS LITERALLY IN THE STORY!
Each paragraph you have written in your treatment is generally a full scene in your script. Some scenes may amount to two or more locations (for example: ...stepping from the living room to the kitchen, from inside to outside a building, etc., etc.)
HALLELUJAH! THE SCRIPT! NOW, LET'S MOVE ON, TO THE BASIC FORMAT FOR YOUR SCRIPT PAGES:
TYPE YOUR SCRIPT IN COURIER OR COURIER NEW FONT, 12-PT (FOR PROPER TIMING ON EACH PAGE TO AMOUNT TO ONE-MINUTE PER PAGE IN REAL TIME)...
In black text throughout, the script begins with FADE IN: at the very beginning, on the left side of the page. After this, EACH SCENE, along with the ACTION done and DIALOGUE spoken should follow.
Whether the scenes take place in the day, night, morning, whenever, every scene needs to have ITS HEADING IN ALL CAPS AND STATE WHICH TIME OF DAY IT TAKES PLACE AT THE END OF THE LINE:
INT. GROCERY STORE – DAY
There should be a space between the scene header above and the action paragraph or line underneath it, like this paragraph here. Some formats have upper and lower case letters and some have ALL CAPS IN THE SECTION.
The action paragraph describes what's happening visually in the particular scene location and lists anything specific that needs to be brought to light in the location when it’s brought to a physical production reality. Whichever character is in the scene and what they are doing or what is going on needs to be specified here—but only what their physical activity is—or if a person is laying dormant (in this “action” paragraph/section).
You also want to break up the paragraphs if the action paragraph is getting a bit long. For example, JOEY may be at the stove searching for his favorite snack and goes through an ordeal to find it.
In the same location and scene, MARY may be at the stove, making her favorite stir-fry. Be concise, still. If you have numerous actions in the same location, for example, an office, you don’t need to give a description of how it looks every time you use this scene, unless it has a different decoration or theme for a particular reason or day or event within your story. List “who” or “what” is in the scene, how they interact in the scene, with the...
CHARACTER NAME IN ALL CAPS
And their dialogue spoken is placed just under their
name, like this here. Have your characters talk/speak
like we normally do as human beings. Dialogue should
be written imperfectly, like we naturally speak.
They turn with their eyes widened.
CHARACTER NAME IN ALL CAPS (CONT'D)
Talking as if they are reading speeches or talking like authors
in an eloquent novel or essay is not necessary here.
Action and dialogue can be alternated on the page, but a common saying is expressed, again, “Show it, don’t tell it.” The action section here lists what is seen and physically taking place and/or any type of sound that is heard within the location or somewhere nearby.
Yes. We speak improperly and in fragments...Not always in perfect
sentences. Like this dialogue here.
EXT. CITY STREET – EVENING
Of course, your characters will be in numerous locations.
EXT. = Exterior (outside) shots/locations and
INT. = Interior (inside) shots/locations.
Yes, what is seen...
A THIRD CHARACTER
And what is heard...whether a person, a machine, thunder,
an animal, etc., is what goes on the script pages.
No thoughts are written in this phase, unless it WILL BE heard in V.O., also known as “voice-over”.
Voice-over is written underneath, just to the left,
underneath the character’s name above that particular
dialogue. And it is placed inside the parenthesis, like such,
Give your audience something they weren’t expecting! Wrap your story up with a bang, a surprise, a new way of seeing things. Make it truly unique, but also where others can relate and it’s a story you won’t mind spending time on. This means...”rewriting”, which is inevitable, even with award winners. At the end of the last scene, the story will…