The very first thing a reader notices about your script is the formatting. If a script is professionally formatted and easy to read, the executive’s first impression is that you are a writer who knows the proper rules of screenplay execution and you want to make his job easier. This article provides an in-depth overview of the basics of a correctly formatted scripts and offers advice on honing your expertise to handle those tricky formatting situations that arise in every screenplay.
You’ve just been struck by an amazing idea for a screenplay that will launch your career. You cannot wait to get to your computer, fire up Final Draft, and type FADE IN:. Not so fast! A screenplay is a long journey and like any serious undertaking, planning will save you much pain along the way. Learn several approaches to planning your script and the many ways that Final Draft can help you structure your masterpiece before you even write the first scene.
FADE OUT. A screenwriter knows no sweeter words. But just reaching the end of your story doesn’t mean you have completed the job of writing a screenplay. Rewriting is almost as involved as writing the first draft, and knowing how to approach a rewrite can save you hours of frustration. Professional script reader Ray Morton details the elements you’ll want to address in each draft of your script, from overall structure and story elements to formatting and grammar.
What every screenwriter wants is a chance to get his or her script in the hands of someone who can get the story on the big (or small) screen. But as you get deeper into the industry you’ll hear terms like logline, synopsis, treatment, and query letter. Former manager Michael Ferris breaks down these important tools, explains how and when to use them, and how best to craft them … all while teaching you to never ever TELL the story: SELL the story!
You may think that writing your screenplay is the bulk of your work as a screenwriter, but the truth is the other half of your job is to convince an industry executive to read and champion your script. And you as the writer have to create the opportunities with the right people because they won’t come to you. So where do you start? The answer is different for almost every writer but this time-tested advice will get you started on the path to writing for a living.
Your dialogue may rival Aaron Sorkin’s but if your description bogs down the reader your script is already sunk. Screenplays are blueprints for movies where things happen. The first step in better description is to remember you aren’t describing THINGS, you are describing THINGS HAPPENING. Writing succinct and engaging action description is the hallmark of an accomplished screenwriter, and a skill you need to hone from day one.
Characters are the readers’ way into your story, the lens through which they experience your script. Your characters must be authentic, believable, and engage the emotions of your audience so that they hang on until the end to root for your protagonist. But creating unforgettable characters is no small task, and sometimes preparation and research is needed to develop roles that actors will clamor to play. The legendary Syd Field offers his tried and true suggestions for creating characters that practically pop off the page.
Dialogue is the “music” of movies. The lines we quote long after a film is released. The quips, rants, and witty retorts that have left an indelible mark on our culture. But how do you raise dialogue to professional level? What kinds of lines attract actors to play the characters we create? Working screenwriter and novelist Staton Rabin offers insight into making your dialogue shine on every page.
The goal of structure – the goal of your entire screenplay, in fact – is to elicit emotion in the reader and audience. But how do you accomplish this goal? How do you make what is happening inherently more interesting than what just happened with every scene? And do all of these things within the constructs of good dramatic structure? Well it isn’t easy but here are 10 proven techniques that can help you build a plot that engages the reader from beginning to end.
Opening scenes, hooks, inciting incidents - these things and more happen in the beginning of your screenplay and they must grab the reader and pull him along for the ride until the very end. How do you plan a successful first 10 pages with so much at stake? Reader engagement, emotional connection, and the central dramatic question are just a few of the tools you can use in these crucial scenes to keep your script from getting an early “Pass.”
There are many forms that the story in your head can take and lucky for you, Final Draft can accommodate almost every one! But what are the fundamental differences between these main dramatic formats - Screenplay, Teleplay, Stage Play - and which one is right for the story you are writing now.
The essential component of all successful movies is the hero’s pursuit of a compelling desire. Is your hero’s desire strong enough? Does the audience care if he or she accomplishes this goal? What is at stake? Without giving your hero some real goal to pursue, your story will have no forward movement, your audience will have nothing to root for, and your reader will have no reason to keep turning the pages of your script.
© 2014 Final Draft, Inc. All rights reserved.