Screenwriting can be daunting, especially when staring at an empty screen with the constant flicker of the cursor. How do you write a good script? As writers, we place extensive pressure on ourselves to write a good story. However, it is important to note that what makes a script "good" can be subjective, as different people have varying preferences. In order to begin, let’s break the writing process down into eleven simple steps.
Step one, start with a compelling concept. A unique concept will grab the attention of your audience, drawing them into your story. Some questions to ask yourself are: what makes your story special, why would people want to watch it, and what distinctive perspective can you bring to this story?
Step two, outline your story. In order to make the writing process as smooth as possible you must understand the major plot points, character arcs, and key scenes, before you ever begin writing. This outline will help you maintain a clear and easy to follow structure throughout the script.
Step three, develop your characters. As the writer you should understand each character inside and out. It is your job to write well-rounded and relatable characters with distinct personalities, goals, and conflicts. It is also important to give each character their own unique voice. Take a moment the next time you are around others and listen to them talk. Notice the individuality in each voice and include those observations in each character’s dialogue.
Step four, focus on structure. It is recommended to follow a three-act structure when writing your script. Using this structure you establish your character and conflict in act one, build tension in the development of the conflict throughout act two, and resolve the conflict in act three. While this may seem overly simple, it allows the audience to follow the story. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that a majority of your favorite stories also follow this simple structure.
Step five, write engaging dialogue. This may be one of the most challenging aspects when writing a screenplay. Dialogue should be natural while serving a purpose. This purpose could be to reveal information, advance the plot, or deepen the understanding of the characters. When writing you should aim for realistic and engaging conversations, yet avoid excessive exposition, which leads us to the following step.
Step six, show, don’t tell. Filmmaking is a form of visual storytelling. We use images to convey information and evoke emotion. Instead of relying on lengthy descriptions or excessive dialogue, show the actions, expressions, and reactions. Let the audience figure out what is happening, rather than telling them. This will make your story more engaging and as a result more entertaining.
Step seven, pace your script. In order to maintain the audience’s interest, it is necessary to balance the pacing of your script. This could be done by alternating between intense and quiet moments or by including comedic relief. In other words, give your characters and audience a break from one constant emotion.
Step eight, edit and revise. This may be one of the most important steps when writing a “good” story. Take the time to revise and edit your story. Look for areas of improvement and straighten out any inconsistencies. Find plot holes that can be resolved and moments that may not be necessary. Remember, your first draft isn’t meant to be your final draft.
Step nine, seek feedback. The editing and revisions do not stop with you; share your script with others. You are looking for constructive feedback and fresh perspectives to identify areas for improvement. Additionally, it is recommended to look outside your immediate friends and family for feedback because you need someone who will tell you how it is. The more honest they are, the better your story will become.
Step ten, read and watch scripts. Take the time to research successful movies in the genre you are writing. Watch with a critical eye and pay attention to how they effectively use the steps listed above. This will allow you to gain insights into valuable storytelling techniques that you might be able to include in your story.
Step eleven, remember that writing a script takes time and practice. Stay dedicated, enjoy the creative process, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Remind yourself that the more you write, the better your writing will become.
Now that you have these eleven steps, you are ready to start writing. As you begin, remember to focus on a theme, emotional impact, cohesion, visual storytelling, engaging conflict, authentic dialogue, and originality. With this in mind you can greatly enhance the quality and appeal of your script.