Category Archives: Script Writing Classes

Comedy Script Writing

Comedy Writing

When you write for comedy, you should never try to be funny. Trying too hard is always visible, and in comedy, it might make the jokes and the characters unbelievable. The “funny” stuff should arise from the situations, the characters, and the story itself. In this post, I’m going to teach you how to sharpen up your comedy abilities. If you’ll want to learn more about comedy script writing, check the scriptwriting course at WritersStore Sale Items.

Find your own taste in comedy

To be good at comedy writing you need to find your own writing voice and your type of favorite comedy. There are many types of comedies out there. There are:

  • Goofy comedies like Office Space or Old School
  • Romantic comedies like Chasing Amy and the classic When Harry Met Sally
  • Dramatic comedies like Harold and Maude and The King of comedy
  • Action comedy such as Beverly Hills Cop and Pineapple express

There are also Slapstick, parody or spoof film, Black comedies, Gross-out films And screwball comedies so find out what are the ones that you want to do.

I recommend reading my post on finding your own voice, but there is another fun exercise you can do to find your own type of humor:

Listen to your favorite comedians and watch your favorite comedy films, listen to the jokes and write down those that really makes you fall down from your chair. Now, look at these jokes and find out what they all got in common. Start to become aware of what makes you laugh.

Even in comedy writing – Build a good story

When you have a good story the jokes won’t be forced. Writing a good story is essential for comedy.  Pay attention to the 3 act structure of the story and to the characters. If you are having problems with writing a good story, find a writing partner that is good at this and work with him.

Writing with a partner will work also when you write a good story, but having trouble making it funny.

Build funny characters

Even in comedy writing. good funny characters are 3D characters. I recommend reading my post on writing a good character, but also check out comedy films from different countries. You will find out that every country has its own character type that works best for them. For example, the British love dumb characters, while the Americans like a protagonist that keep on fighting in a crazy world.

You will find out that every country has its own character type that works best for them. For example, the British love dumb characters, while the Americans like a protagonist that keep on fighting in a crazy world.

Also, notice the job of every character in a joke. Some characters are there to comment on the protagonist’s actions. Sometimes a joke might won’t work without a good reaction from a secondary character.

In this scene from the Love Guru, Steven Colbert explains the Five hole trape. The scene wouldn’t be as funny without the reactions of Jim Gaffigan

 

Know your audience

Who are your audience and what are they expecting. It is very important to know your audience and to find a way you can reach them. You may like writing American humor, but if that kind of humor doesn’t work in your country, you need to find a way to make it work for them.

Writing the punchline

Many writers have problems with the punchline or funny ending for a sketch or a scene. Many writers try to start from the punchline and develop the funny situation out of it. Others like to start with a specific setup and then to try 10 different punchlines. You should do what works best for you, but I recommend starting from what is important. If it’s the setup then start with the setup and if it’s the punchline then start with it.

Surprise the audience

The element of surprise is a very basic element  in comedy. Taking the audience expectations and turning them around is what makes every punchline work. The characters should share the audience expectations too. The bigger the gap is between the character’s expectations and the true result of the situation, the funnier it will be. Also, make sure your jokes haven’t been done a thousand times before.Be original!

Find locations with potential to be funny

If you find a good location, jokes will come with them. Go through your script and see which scenes can be done in a more interesting location and think about all the funny situations you can draw out from it. Also, think about the props that every location can offer and what you can do with them.

being creative

Your first tool as a comedy writer is your imagination. Being creative is important if you want to surprise your audience. You have to create as many jokes as possible with the characters, props, and locations you have. Look at the objects around you and train your mind to find funny situations that relate to them. Observe really interesting people that you think might be great to build characters from. Maybe it is one element about them that interest you. Write everything down in a little notebook. Observe and ask yourself what would happen if…?

Bob Newhart once said that a comedian can never have a vacation because he is always observing at everything around him. That is basically the comedian’s job and the same for the comedy writer.

That is basically the comedian’s job and the same for the comedy writer.

Writing with a partner

When you’ll look at the credits in most of the comedy films out there, you will see that most comedies has a few script writers. Writing with a partner is not always easy and fun as it may sound, but in comedy writing it is very recommended. When you write with others, you get to see live reactions for your ideas and jokes. When working with a partner on comedy, it is recommended to find someone with the expertises you are missing, so he’ll complete you and won’t go against you. As in love & marriage, when you find your partner, make sure it will be someone you will love to work with and that it will be easy to divorce from if needed.

Fixing the script

Mel Brooks once said that writing is all about re-writing. When you work on the second draft of a scene or a full script, read the dialogue out loud and see how they sound. With comedy, the text is not enough, they should be acted funny as well. Pay attention to the rhythm of the lines. Sometimes simply moving an adverb can make all the work or simply changing one word (Is Pepsy is funnier word than Cola?)Read it also to others and see their reaction.

Film Script Format

Write Your Story in a Screenplay Format

Now you have your story structured and characters well developed, You need to write your story in a professional film script format. This is where all the creative work kind of stops, since professional film script format  has very strict rules, so be careful.

Now:

Many writers use  a script writing software to write in script format even if you plan to use a screenwriting software, you should go through the rules mentioned here, so you can make sure that everything is in place. It may sound complicated at the start, but, trust me, once you’ll understand the basic, it will come easily to you.

I am going to walk you through the basic format rules and if you want to deepen your knowledge on the subject, I recommend reading the book The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style.

Film Script Format’s First Page

The first page needs to have the title on about line 25, on the page center in quotes and in caps letters.

Four lines under the title should be the “Written by” (also centered) and 2-3 lines after that should be the name of the writer.

I also like to write my contact information at the bottom of the page.

Writing The Scenes

The important thing to remember is that every scene needs to start with the details of who, what, where and when. The script should be written is present tense since revealing to us on the paper as we read it, as if we are watching the film.

The Slugline

The first line that describes the scene called slugline, which is the headline of the scene. Each time your character moves from one location to another, it’s a new scene and you’ll need a new headline. The slugline reveals to us the number of the scene, is it shot inside or outside (writing as INT/EXT), the location of the scene and the time of day (day or night).

The order here is very important.

It should all be in capital letters, so it should look like this:

      12.INT.LIOR’S ROOM.NIGHT

The reason for being strict about the slugline is so the producer/cinematographer/sound man and all other crew members can go through the script quickly and get the general idea about the production.

For example, they can learn how many scenes in the film need lighting (those that are shot inside) and how many are going to use sunlight (those that are shot outside at daytime). If you’ll read the lesson about Script Breakdown, you will understand why this is very important when working on the budget

This is why many directors and producers ask for the script in a Final Draft format because it makes it easy for them to divide the scenes like that.

The Scene Description

After writing the slugline, you should write the scene description. The scene description is built from a few short sentences and should give us a clear image of what we are going to see on screen.It should be written two spaces below the slugline and between the margins.  Every scene will start with a scene description, but it can be written during the scene every time something happens that is not a dialogue.
When a character is introduced for the first time, you should write her name in capital letters and add a short description of her.

Remember! You can only write what we see. You can’t write stuff like “Leroy is sad”, you should show us he is sad. You have to remember that the audience is not going to read the script. You can sometimes use metaphors to set the mood, but be careful there.

So it what we have now will look like this:

      12.INT.LIOR’S ROOM.NIGHT

      Leroy, a fat, 40 years old man, is sitting with a small dog next to him. Leroy is           crying while looking at pictures and the dog is licking him.

Notice I didn’t write “sitting with HIS dog”. If I want the audience to understand that the dog belongs to Leroy, I need to find away show it.

Writing The Dialogues

The talking character’s name should be written 3 lines below the description and about 4 inches from the edge in capital letters. The character’s lines will be 1 line below and about 3 inches from the edge.

The whole thing should lool like this:

      12.INT.LEROY’S ROOM.NIGHT

     Leroy, a – 40 years old man, is sitting with a small dog next to him. Leroy is              crying while looking at pictures and the dog is licking him.

DOG

                                         Hey Leroy, are you OK?

LEROY

                                         No. I miss my girl

Adding action lines

Now, Leroy wants to get up in the middle of the conversation. This is how we write it:

      12.INT.LEROY’S ROOM.NIGHT

      Leroy, a – 40 years old man, is sitting with a small dog next to him. Leroy is crying while
looking at pictures and the dog is licking him.

DOG

                                         Hey Leroy, are you OK?

LEROY

                                         No. I miss my girl

DOG

                                         Why?                                                                                            

          Leroy gets up without looking at him

LEROY

                                        I don’t want to talk about it!

There are much more and if you want to get perfect in it,

You can also get Screenplay template from this link

Exposition of A Story

Writing An Exposition of A Story

If you want to learn the exposition of a story definition, I wrote about it  in my Story Structure post, but since it is kind of an important element of a story, I’m going to go deep into the exposition part of a story and to explain what happens during the exposition of a story and give you some exposition of a story examples.

First, rule about scripts expositions

In film school they will always tell you that the exposition of a story is one of  the most important elements of a story and that is kind of true (That’s why I’m writing this post), but the real truth is that the middle is important too and also the ending, So before you start worrying about the opening, make sure you got your story right. Start working on the exposition only after you wrote the first draft.

Narrative exposition definition

It’s kind of hard to define exposition of a story because it has lots of elements. Generally speaking, the exposition needs to explain us everything that is needed to understand the plot. The exposition (or set up or the first act) needs to introduce us to the characters and their relationships with each other too, the location and time of the story, the social environment and everything else that in important to the story.
The first act will end when the turning point that changes our main character life will arrive. The great trick in exposition is to deliver the information without the audience noticing that he is being informed. You do that by telling the exposition through cause and effect. This will guarantee that the opening will be believable.

Meeting the characters in the exposition

The exposition is introducing us to the main character. We get to know her in her “normal world” before everything is going bad, but the exposition has another job too – it needs to make us care about the characters and fast. Here are some tips for introducing the characters in the narrative exposition:

  • When you introduced new characters, don’t overload with information. See if you can delay the information about them. Sometimes it works even to delay some information about a character to the second act.
  • This is the time to create the first impression of your character, and one of the important things you need to create about her is credibility. We have to believe her. If she is believable, we’ll agree to let her walk us through the story. The way to make her more believable is by actions. You should always ask yourself if there is a fast way to show through behavior what the character is telling us. If I want the audience to know my hero is an angry man, does he have to say it or can I show it through his actions.
  • Start with an action. An action is always interesting and gets the audience’s attention quick, but you have to remember that everything you do in the exposition is saying something about your movie especially the beginning, so think about that when you write the opening of the film.
  • Your characters background. In an exposition of a story,  the viewer needs to understand the context of your script, what has happened just before the movie started that put all the characters where they are now. Of course, you don’t need to give all of the characters histories, but you do need to bring the information that is important for the story. The background of the characters is what started to grow the character’s motivation (You can read about Character’s motivation on the post about Developing Characters). This is the hard part because you need to do it quick and in a creative way (try not to simply let the character tell her story). In the opening of the movie Pulp fiction, we can see right from the conversation that the couple is tired from rubbering liquor store and that’s why they want to rubber the dinner.

Setting up the mood

Another goal of an exposition of a story, especially in the opening sequence, is to set the mood and to tell us what kind of movie it is going to be. One way of doing that is through emotions. If it’s a comedy, start telling jokes, if it’s a horror film, start creating a scary atmosphere.
A good exposition example is In the movie Pulp Fiction. In Pulp fiction, we can understand right from the start, that this movie is going to take a funny look at gangsters.

Instead, of showing the gangsters meeting in a dark alley at night and talk about rubbing, they do that right in a dinner in daylight with regular clothes. In the dialogue, the husband is telling the story about a new kind of gangsters that use their phone to pretend it’s a gun. That’s what Tarantino is saying about his film – I’m going to create a new kind of gangsters for the cinema.
The opening of Donnie Darko starts with a dark lighting that tells us it’s going to be a dark film. We see a young boy lying on a mountain that seems to be in the middle of nowhere. The boy starts laughing and we can understand that this is a weird film about a weird boy. The boy rides back home to his normal family.

Starting with the turning point

A lot of movies start right away with the turning point. This is a good trick to get the audience excited right at the start, but it also send the message, that this movie is going to be intense and with lots of action and/or suspense. If you can deliver that kind of promise, you are welcome to do that. This takes me to the next tip about exposition. When you finish writing the first act, try to see what kind of promises it delivers about the film and can you fulfill these promises.

Using dialog as an exposition

Now, The Pulp Fiction opening can be accused of a bad way to start the exposition, because it’s just “talking heads” and nothing happens and when something already happen we cut to the title, but this is all point of the film and Tarantino, being a skillful writer, can pull it off easily. One of the reasons he is pulling it off is the next law about dialogue in act 1: If you are going to use dialogue to deliver information at the exposition, make sure you have something that is powerful to compensate. In Pulp Fiction, it’s the fact that we hear two gangsters talk about expanding their rubbery “business” and they don’t follow any of the genres rules about gangsters in films. Another good lesson you can learn from this opening is that if you decide to introduce us to your characters by making them talk, make sure they have something interesting to talk about and if possible – a conflict.

The #1 Software for Screenwriters & Filmmakers

Final Draft 9

I’ve  decided to write a review for the Final Draft 9 software because it’s a software that solved me a lot of writing problems and I think, it’s a “must tool” for every aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker.

This software has been developed by an aspiring screenwriter that got tired of keeping his scripts in the Hollywood format standards. He started working on this word processor and within 5 years from the software launch, it has become an industry standard for working with production companies. The Final Draft screenwriting software has been around for the last 24 years and it has become a status symbol for the industry filmmakers. Whatever work you do in the filmmaking industry, I can promise you – the Final Draft software will make your job easier.

So why Final Draft 9 worked for me?

When it comes to writing. For me, nothing beats the pen and paper way of writing. It took me a long time to work with a Wordprocessor (There was a time when I even used Emails as a word  processor). My biggest wish was to have enough money to pay someone that will copy my scripts to a Wordprocessor in the right script format, so I can keep on focusing on the story.

Well, Final Draft 9 does just that and more. the Final Draft software automatically formats your story into the industry standards and that was the main reason I decided to try it.

Have a personal script writing guide

Working with the Final Draft  9 is like having a personal script writing guide throughout your script writing process. The Final Draft 9 software has more than 100 templates that guide you through the structure of the script. Again, you can focus on the story and stop pounding your head about script structure.

The Cool Features

The Final draft also has tabs next to the script that allows you to create 3 important tools for every screenwriter and every filmmaker that needs to break down a script:

  • a scene list,
  • a card index,
  • and character list

These are important tools you must have by your side during the screenwriting process. The cool thing with Final Draft 9 is you can move around them simultaneously while you are writing your script or even print it if it’s more comfortable.

The scene list

The scenes list is a list of your scenes, that you can take a look at very easily while you are working on the script itself. The scene list feature will make you work a lot faster than others.


Let us go into detail as to more things you can do with the scene list of Final Draft 9:

  • Insert new scenes very easily and add it to your script simply by double click on it.
  • You can also highlight the important information in them, categorize each scene with a different color for each category. For example, you can have a category for scenes that move forward the storyline, the characters, the conflict and more. Many producers and film directors use the Final Draft software to categorize the scenes by locations, time of day, characters and more. A cinematographer can use it to categorize scenes by indoor and outdoor scenes.
  • It is also an important tool when working with other crew members as it helps you reach each scene very easily.

The Characters List Tab

Every script has its characters list. Nothing special here, but it’s a known fact that the problem most writers have is to keep up with the small changes they are doing to their characters. The characters list is a productive and easy way to keep up with the changes you make to your characters. You can also highlight the characters in the script so you can find them easily. This is an important tool also for directors, producers, art designers and more.

The Script Notes Tab

This is one of the coolest features in the software. You can write the script notes and then stick them into the script in a way that it is still hidden if you don’t want to see them. On the current version of Final Draft 9,  they are much easier to use than in the previous versions and  you can categorize them too.

Evaluation

I think the most important advantage of this software is the time this software can save you. It also helps you to focus on your story and leaving out all the technical stuff that make many screenwriters quit. In this product review, I’ve only mentioned the big features of the software, but there are a lot more. Let me know if you have any more questions. I know a lot of filmmakers (not only writers) in Hollywood, Broadway and even outside of USA countries are using it and I know it helped a lot of writers that were not able to deal with all the formal script writing demands.

Developing Characters With Great Characters Examples

 

How To Develop Your Story Characters

Every movie is driven by its character. The plot never does anything by itself.
I’m going to teach you how to develop your characters while keeping your character reliable and interesting.

Developing characters is all about making your characters complex, ambiguous with good and bad qualities. Your character can be stupid if you want it to be, but it has to have an inner logic that it is loyal to it. Her actions in the movie should go by her personality and not out of nowhere.

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Creating a character that the audience will want to meet

Think about what makes you relate to a character. Is it when she reminds you a little bit of you or someone you like? Or maybe she reminds you of who you want to be. Indiana Jones is a great character because he is a tough dude that many of us, men, wish to be. He is also full of adventure spirit we wish to have.

Look at all the characters you like in films and in novels. What is it about them that reminds you of you? What is it that make you like them?

In the movie Inside out, the writers had to deal with the happiness of the Joy character. The problem was she was happy all the time and no one can relate to that. The writers did a good job with the character by creating two elements: first is when Riely started to get sad. Joy try to fight the sad feelings and this is when Joy appears to us as vulnerable. The second thing that the writers did is that they made it clear that Joy is happy all the time because she cares about Riely and want her to be happy and not from selfish reasons. This is also something we can relate to.

You should also think if the characters you write are ones that the audience would like to hang out with? Are they interesting enough? Are they funny or smart? What is it about them that makes you want to meet them?

Developing The Characters Goals & Motivations

  • The characters are moving the plot with their choices. The protagonist  (The main character) is the leading voice in the story and there for his goal will be the most important one, but all the characters should have goals too.
    Why is that so important?
    The audience wants to see a character that makes things happen. We like the character just for the fact that she is trying to change her world (which means she doesn’t have to succeed). As long as the drive and goals of your characters are clear to the audience, you are in a good place. Find out what each character wants to get from the story.
  • You also need to know why the characters want to get these goals. What is their motivation? Remember! All of the decisions she’ll make in the story will come from that motivations and goals.
  • Sometimes the motivations might come out of fears. Find out what is your character fear or darkest side and where is it coming from.

Quick Tip!
You should watch out for passive characters. Don’t get me wrong. There are many successful films with passive characters like Big Lebowski, but you have to be a skillful writer to pull it off. If you are using a passive character, something is got to happen to pull her out from her passiveness.

  • The character will usually go through a road of obstacles until she’ll get to where she wanted to be at the beginning of the film.

Look for the emotion

You need to really investigate your character’s leading emotion. What is the one emotion that keeps following her throughout the script. Is it her obstacle in the film that needs to be changed in the end or is it what’s motivate her? Or maybe even both? The character’s emotion is something that should be changed throughout the film. For example, the emotion that leads Batman is anger or repressed anger. This feeling makes him walk a thin line between helping people and hurting them.

Developing a 3- Dimensional Characters

Your characters need to be believable and you will get that by making 3-dimensional characters and you will create that by knowing their back story.

  • Another important thing to remember is that your character had a life before the story begun (unless she is born into the world in the story). Many beginner writers forget that and they get a very shallow character. You should start by writing her biography. A complete resume of her life from birth until the story started. You have to know your characters like you know your best friend.
  • These are the things you need to know about your characters:
    Physical: how do they look? What is their weight, height and age? Do they have any distinguishing features? Is he strong? Is he tall? How does she talk?That may not be important to the story, but you need to know it for yourself.
    Sociological: Where did she grow up and where does she live now? What kind of family did he come from? What were his earlier jobs before he got to where he is now? Were there any important events in his childhood that changed him?
    Psychological: How does your character talk? What kind of person is he? What are his greatest fears? What are his greatest desires? Is he a perfectionist? Is he a slob? The important thing here is to understand her point of view on life.
  • Writing the background of the character is important to understand the mood and style of the story you are going to tell.
  • The more you’ll make your character look and feel real, the audience will love her more. The more specific you’ll be in her biography – the better.
    Don’t write general things like James is a dog with a fear of abandonment and every time his owners are going out he is going mad.
    Write: When James started to get used to his new house and owners, the wife didn’t feel good and both she and her husband went to the hospital and didn’t come back for two days. Ever since he is suffering from a fear of abandonment. Think about 5 characters you like from films, TV or literature and think what it is about them that you can identify with. That will help you understand the idea better.
  • Put yourself in her shoes and stop to think about her actions and relationships. Look at all the actions she is doing and make her start thinking about them. Make her ask questions like, Why am I doing this? Am I sure this is the right thing to do? Why do I hate this person so much?
  • Don’t be afraid to take details from other people you know. Start carrying a notebook and start writing interesting details about people you meet.
  • Use Psychological websites. There are many sites with psychological tests that you can run your character through. Try that. it’s fun and you can learn great things about your characters

Even if you find the bad guy generally repulsive, you need to be able to put yourself so thoroughly into his shoes while you’re writing him that, just for those moments, you almost believe his slant yourself.
K.M. Weiland, quote from Maybe Your Bad Guy Is RIGHT!

The Protagonist – Our Main Character

  • The audience should get to know the main character as much as possible and as fast as possible. The main character in the story is the person that from his point of view the audience will see the story. He doesn’t have to be the one who tells the story. In the Disney movie Aladin, we know Aladin is the main character, but the one who tells the story is the old Arab at the beginning of the film (which some claim it’s the Genie).
  • The protagonist also has to change during that road. If we said earlier that the goal of the main character is the fuel that drives the movie forward – the change is the resolving of the story. It is the premise which is the reason the story is presented to us. After all, the real job of your main character is to deliver your premise. A good example is Han Solo from the Star Wars series. Han Solo starts as a cynical character that only cares about himself (therefore the name Solo). Throughout the three films, Hans become a friend of Luke, the leader of the rebellion and in a romantic relationship with princess Leia.
  • There is usually one protagonist, but sometimes there might be two or more that will complete each other (as if they are one). When you have a few characters as one protagonist, I Recommend that in the beginning of the writing process, you’ll write more characters than you plan to have. For example, if your story has 5 characters as the protagonist right at the beginning as if you have 8 and see which one of them work best.
  • Don’t make your Character perfect – Perfect people are not interesting and they are hard to relate to. You always need to give your main character one flaw and usually the flaw will be related to his passion. It should be the same about your antagonist. Your antagonist can’t do bad things just because he is pure evil. There should be some complex feelings that drive him to do what he does. A good example for that is the protagonist od the movie Deadpool. Deadpool is more of an anti-hero than a hero- he is insecure, he hate himself and he deals with a big tragedy in his life.
  • Remember! Nothing is final. Your character will continue to grow while you are working on the script. Your characters may even surprise you during the writing
  • All these rules should be applied to te Antagonist as well.

ScreenWritersUniversity.com

The Format of Writing a Character in a Script

  • The first time you mention a character in the script, you should write it with capitalizing letters. After the name will come a very short description of the character. That’s why the first time, we write her name is with capital letters- so if the reader will forget who that character is, he can find her description very easy. The next time you will mention her name will be ןמ the standard first letter with capital. So, the first time a character is mentioned should look like this:
    “JAMES, a small brown dog with 3 legs is crawling after his master”
  • Remember! You can’t write emotion and thoughts when you describe a character or her actions. For example, you can’t write, “James is sitting on his bone so no one will be able to take it”. You can only describe what the character is thinking through actions or dialog (through actions is better). You also can’t sneak in information about the character- “James, Lior’s dog, is a small brown dog”.
  • Make sure the spelling of the character’s name is consistent throughout the script.

Remember! Your goal is to make the readers care about your characters, so they will more emotionally invest in the story.

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The Story Structure

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The Story Structure

Story structure is one of the basic tools to play with in storytelling. The goal of the structure to organize the events in the story so they will be clear to the audience and also to built tension and a rising emotion in the script.  In this article, I will explain more about it and give you some story structure examples, but before we get deep into the classic structure of films, there are a few things you should know:

When to start working with the 3 acts rule?

When you are working on the first draft of your script, you should  have the film structure in mind, but personally, I recommend getting deep into the story structure only in the second draft so you won’t end up with a very formulaic script. I also recommend working with story structure only after you really understand your characters and the change they are going through.

Now:

as I said, script structure is a very basic tool and when you’ll start to analyze films, you’ll see that most of them if not all of them are using this structure.

The beat

To understand story structure, we have to understand the beat. If you read Robert McKee’s

Now:If you read Robert McKee’s

If you read Robert McKee’s book,Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, then you’ve heard about this story element. For these of you who haven’t read it, it is a small change that happens inside a scene. Every scene should have at least one beat in it. When working on the story’s structure I would recommend starting with writing a list of all the beats in the script.

Timing each part of the story structure

Most script writing guides and lessons will also tell you how much time each part should have. I’m really against that kind of teaching. I don’t believe that there should be a fixed time limit to each part and this kind of thing depends on your film. Another thing about timing the acts is that those guides do not fit to short films. For example, they will tell you that you need to give about 12 minutes to the opening or at least 10 percent of all film, but in a short story, you don’t have time for that. In a short script, the opening shouldn’t take more than 1 page.

The 3 acts of a good story structure

A good story is generally divided into 3 major part: The opening, The middle and ending. Also known as act 1, act 2 and act 3. The important thing to remember is that all acts should arise from the protagonist’s desire. The one thing he wants should be your guide through these acts. I suggest writing down on a piece of paper the protagonist’s goal and keep looking at it while going through the acts. You can read about working with the protagonist’s desires in my Developing Characters post. It is also important to remember that the structure is not only for the plot but also for the internal journey that the hero is going through.

The opening- Act 1

The opening is the most important part. If it’s not working, you have a problem and I wouldn’t continue on until it is working. That is why I’ve also written an entire post about the opening of your film. The opening or the exposition is where we build the setup of the story. We get to know where the story is set and who are the main characters.

Quick Tip!
The opening is also where the writer should introduce the theme of the story or the general question of the theme. This theme will drive the rest of the story

The opening will end with a turning point (also known as the catalyst). We will have a few of this turning point and this is the first one. This turning point is something that happens to the hero and changes his life completely. It will bring our main character a conflict and an opportunity to solve it. The turning point should also introduce us to the theme of the movie.  In the movie Back To The Future, this is where doc brown show Marty his new experiment. The turning point is when the Libyan terrorists are trying to kill him. Marty is forced to run away in the Delorean and accidently fly into the past.

Things to be careful in act 1:

Don’t start the story too soon. If nothing happens for a long time, that might be a problem. Don’t waste your audience’s time with too many explanations. See if there are explanations you can delete or move to act 2. Also, make sure that we know the protagonist enough to feel empathy for him.

Act 2- Rising Action

This is the hardest act to write in the script. This act will tell us the consequences of the turning point and how the hero is going to deal with them. All of  the hero’s world has changed and now he will have to fix it by the time the film ends. The hero shouldn’t go right away to fix the problem.He will start by learning how to adjust to the new life first, understand what’s just happened. Only after he dealt with the problem, he can start taking action.

Quick Tip!
The second act is also the place where you should develop the relationships that were introduced to us in the first act. The act can also introduce to us other conflicts and sub-plots.

Things to be careful in act 2:

Sometimes we get to attached to the protagonist and try to much to think like him. It is a good idea to start thinking from the antagonist a little bit, especially in this act. The antagonist is as important as the protagonist.

The second turning point

This is still the second act. By now, our hero knows what he is doing. He has a plan and he is working on it, but something just went wrong and his plans need to be changed. This stage takes most of the second act and it will include mostly obstacles to the protagonist.

The third turning point

This is where the story really gets complicated and it looks like everything the hero have worked for is going down the drain. At this point, he has to make the biggest choice of his life so far. In a short film, this point should be the second turning point.
This is a very important moment because now we really get to know him.
A great third turning point is In the movie “Who framed Roger Rabbit”, this is where Edi understand he has to go inside toon town, the place where his brother got killed in if he wants to solve the case. For him, this is his biggest fear and while deciding that he also decides to stop drinking.

Quick tip on writing turning point:

When writing turning points always ask yourself if they are believable enough. There is a tendency with new writers to bring a turning point out of nowhere. Always do what you can to make them more believable.

The Climax

This is where the hero faces the consequences of his last big choice. He has no choice but to face his biggest challenge. He has no way of turning back and he has to face it all. Again in movie “Who framed Roger Rabbit” (spoiler alert!!!!) this is where Edi meets the cartoonish character that killed his brother.

It’s nice to have a twist in the plot when you get to the climax. Think of all the possible situation your hero can get to at this point and try to eliminate the obvious ones. The more the conflict get complicated at the climax stage, the more your protagonist solution needs to be. When you are writing a climax with a big twist in the plot, make sure you’ve put enough clues to it throughout the story and that you used them wisely. When I say “used them wisely” I mean putting them in a way the audience will not notice at the time. Putting them in the high point of an action scene is a good example.

The ending

Now we have to see how our main character’s life has changed. The main conflict and the sub-conflicts should be solved by now.

These are the 3 acts story structure. When you are working on the second draft, you should make sure that there is a clear distinguish between all 3 acts. Especially when you feel something is not working in your story.

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The Story Conflict

Script writing class-S
The Story Conflict

 story conflict definition

A story conflict is a gap between what someone wants or needs and the forces that prevent him from getting it. To build a story conflict, you need two forces that will work one against each other. It’s an elementary tool in every story that creates tension. The conflict will result at the end of the movie.

Why do we need the story conflict?

This is the most important part in writing a script. The conflict is the tool you use to help your main characters face their fears and all other emotional issues. By seeing how they react to the conflicts, we learn more about them and get to know them better. If a conflict reveals other sides of the characters that we didn’t know before, then our character is a good 3 dimensional one. It is also a tool that will help us to understand our story’s premise better

Types of story conflicts

There are 3 levels of conflicts you can use in your movie:

Inner conflict – Thew hero has a problem with himself and his morality. For example, the protagonist doesn’t want to rob a bank, but, on the other hand, he doesn’t have any money to feed his family. Fear and guilt can be good obstacles. Other good examples of inner conflicts can be sexual, religious, cultural and etc.
Inner conflict is considered to be the most powerful one. It helps us to feel empathy towards him.
Personal Conflict – This is an external conflict between the protagonist and a different character (or characters). The other character will be the antagonist.
Universal/social – Protagonist is against something very big like a hurricane, the government, etc.

Sometimes the universal and personal conflicts will represent an inner conflict. Basically, what you need to remember is that a conflict is whatever that try to stop the protagonist from getting what he wants.

Finding out your story conflict and strengthening it

Identifying the main conflict in a movie can sometimes be a little tricky, but you have to do it or you won’t be able to get very far.
The main conflict should be summarized in one sentence: “The main conflict is between ___ and ____ (the opposing forces). If You have trouble to do that, then you need to investigate it.

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These are questions that will help you to strengthen your story conflict:

  • Who is our main character and what is her goal? The main character’s goal is really the first part of the conflict. What is it she is trying to achieve? You have to find what is the one thing they just have to get. This is going to be the fuel of your film so put some thoughts into it. It has to be something very strong. It has to be something that agrees with her beliefs and ideologies. Try to think even bigger and answer what is their goal for after the film end. What do they want to have 30 years from now?
  • The next question will be, what is stopping her from getting what she wants or need? There is a force that fights her. What is the motivation of this antagonist? Being a pure evil guy is not a good motive and if you are using an inner conflict and the antagonist is the protagonist’s fear of talking to strangers, it can’t be just because that’s the way she is. It has to have some kind of reason. Understanding that force will help you understand the obstacles that the protagonist need to go through. Make sure that this antagonist is equal in power to the protagonist. Nobody wants to see a fight between a lion and an ant- We know who will win right at the start.

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  • The third question is: What is at stake? If the protagonist won’t get what he wants, is there something he might lose? Is it something worth fighting for? Understanding what’s at stake is the answer to the question, why is it that our hero doesn’t give up?

Building a conflict up to the climax

We now agree that every good story needs a conflict, but your conflict needs to grow and develop throughout the film. The sooner you’ll bring in the conflict (as a very small one at the start), the better it will be for your movie. If you don’t want to start the conflict right at the beginning, it can also be good to insert some subtle clues and hints to the upcoming conflict. The conflict will grow with obstacles that get harder and harder to overcome into a point where everything that gained might be lost if the protagonist won’t win this last obstacle. That point is called Climax. The climax usually will reveal to us in what way the hero has changed.

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Use conflict everywhere you can

Every scene needs to have a conflict in it and every time you show a conflict in a scene you need the audience to care about the outcome. After you set the goal of your character, try to see what is it she wants to achieve in every action she acts, in every scene. She may say to her daughter not to go to the party because it’s dangerous, but what she really wants might be for her daughter not to grow up so she will not feel the she is getting old. Look for the main character goal in everything she does and says and then look for what is the force that works against this small goal.

10 Tips for Synopsis Writing

 

How To Write A Synopsis

In this article, I am going to talk about a very important tool to help you through your script writing process. Synopsis is also one of the ways you sell your film to producers and agents, so it’s important not only to understand what it is, but also how to write a great one.

A good synopsis is the first step of funding your film. I am not going to get into the synopsis format or give any synopsis sample because it pretty much changes, but the tips I’m going to give you here will make your synopsis much more interesting and easier to read.
So for those of you who don’t know what synopsis is, we’ll start with the synopsis definition:

synopsis definition

A synopsis is a short description of the most important information of your script or story.


Here are a few great tips to help you built that tool:

  • The synopsis is usually written in the present tense, Third person. The reader should read the story as it is. Without any complicated gimmicks.
  • If it’s relevant, start the synopsis with a description of the place and the time of the story
  • It is important that the story will have the structure of the 3 acts: beginning, middle and closure and this is why it will usually be written in 3 paragraphs- one for each act.
  • The synopsis should present the general premise of the film and the general atmosphere (is it drama, comedy…?)
  • When you introduce new and important characters, write a short description of them.
  • Write the first draft of your synopsis by memory as much as you can, but make sure you write the names of the characters and the locations correctly.
  • If there is a second plot, you don’t have to put it in yet, unless you feel it is important to the complete story.
  • Try as much as you can to deliver the emotion and the drama of the story, whenever it is possible.
  • Make it no longer than one page. Remember! The synopsis in an overview. Do not get into too many details.
  • Let someone who already read your script to summarize the story and what are the things he considers important

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The Synopsis of Gone Girl a synopsis example

If we are going to write the synopsis of Gone Girl it will be something like:

On the fifth wedding anniversary Nick Dunne, a young man in the mid of his 30’s, discover his wife has disappeared.

You can see I didn’t start with a description of a year and the time period (like I mentioned in one of the tips). That is because that’s not that important to the story. I did write, though, about the time period for them, which is their fifth anniversary.  I also wrote his general age.  Now, even though the story will be told from his point of view, I’m not going to write it like Nick is the one who tells it (even though it would be cooler like that) I have to write it in the third person.

Conclusion and Homework

Writing a full script in one page is not an easy job at all. It may take you a few weeks to get there. You will need a lot of practicings and I would suggest starting practicing now. Write synopsis to films you see on TV. After you feel you get the hang of it, write a synopsis to your story. I do recommend to start working on the synopsis even before you start working on the script. Just as basic guidelines. You will be allowed to change it while you are writing.

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Working With Script a Writing Partner and Survive

How To Write Screen Play With A Partner

Writing with a partner can have many advantages, but if you won’t find the right one, you might not enjoy them.

How to start looking for the perfect script writing partner?

The first recommended step is to find someone you know. Most known scriptwriting couples knew each other before they started writing together. If you don’t know anyone that can write with you should start looking. There are many ways to find your scriptwriting partner. The best one is to simply put wanted ads, but there are more ways: you can start a creative writing group or join to one yourself. There are also many forums for scriptwriting where you can talk to a lot of writers like you.

What to look in the perfect script writing partner?

When looking for a script-writing partner the first thing you need to look is if he has your emotional point of view. Have him go through the Find you own voice article if needed.  Once you find your twin, the next thing is to check his availability. Can he work the same hours you can? Is there a place that is comfortable for you both to meet?

How to work with a script writing partner?

One you find your writing partner, you should decide how you are going to work together. If your partner can work only in the evening and you can only work in the morning (which means you didn’t listen to me in the first paragraph), then maybe there is a middle point you can agree on. I wouldn’t recommend at this stage, to decide how to write the script. There are many ways for script writing partners to write and I’m sure, you will find yours during the process itself. You might figure out that it’s better for each one alone and then meeting going through the scenes together in each meeting.

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When your writing partner joins in the middle of work

When your writing partner joins you after you’ve written a few drafts already, it is a great tool to get some new perspective. That is why it is not recommended to let him see the old drafts. At least not right at the start.  You can pitch him the idea and the story, where you want to take the script to and you can also talk about the characters, but let him give his ideas before you show him what you did.

Dealing with disputes

When writing in couples you should expect a lot of disputes. You should both find a constructive way to deal with them. You should both decide that your relationship should come first, write it on a piece of paper and shake on it. Leaving your ego at home is a very hard thing to do, but it’s a must. You should decide right at the beginning the responsibility of each one.  Make sure you both know what you are expected to give to the script writing process.
The best way to end dispute is to see who is more passionate. If your partner is really passionate about an idea he had, maybe it is worth listening to it. If you really insist on an idea you have and your partner isn’t listening. Instead of telling the scene, write it down for him and let him see how it looks like.

Don’t take things personally

Leaving your ego at home is a very hard thing to do, but it’s a must. Script writers are not easy people to work with. The key here is to simply make sure the disputes stays within the limits of the writing and don’t go to personal areas.

Eventually, you should remember that it’s all about negotiation. You have to give a little to take a little. As long as you take things under proportions, I’m sure you will do just fine.

Your Story Premise

 

Make A Strong Story With A Good Story Premise

The story premise is actually the leading force behind what we do in real life. In storytelling, the premise the concept that leads the plot and the characters in the story.

The biggest advantage of the story premise is that it helps you understand your story and your main character a lot better- Why is your main character acting the way it is? Why doesn’t it give up? What’s it desires? What’s the source of its obstacles? and Why does he having a hard time overcoming them?
Once you’ll answer those questions you will know the core of your story better.

How do I know if the premise is good?

It is important to understand that a good premise is not judged by the idea itself. We have plenty of ideas. The premise is judged by the way the director translate the idea to film. The premise has to enter the viewer mind without him noticing it.

All good premises are built from 3 essential parts:  An ambitious character, a conflict, and a closure. I will talk about these 3 things later on in my blog, but for now, you need to know that your premise will dictate those 3 elements. Once you find your premise, your characters are not free anymore, they need to serve that premise. Everything in the story- the characters, the conflicts and the actions should arise with the screenwriter’s premise.

Now:

Usually, you should be able to sum your premise up in 2 or 3 sentences. If you can’t, then it’s probably not accurate enough. Ask yourself what your story tell us that we have to know, what’s the point of this story? At first, you can start by formulating it as a question- for example- “Doe’s love wins it all?”
On the other hand, you have to make sure your premise is not too obvious. We still want to entertain them.


The 4th element of a good premise

There is another important element to consider, when writing the premise and it is the script writer’s point of view. It may sound like a not important thing to deal with, but trust me- it is! First of all, If you don’t have anything you want to say, why do you want to work on this art form? There are many other better ways to make money. But more important, your unique point of view is what can make your movie an original one. I recommend reading the find your own voice article to understand how to find your own point of view.
The theme doesn’t always has to be a very important one about mankind, it depends on your way of seeing the world, but every story has to have one. In my opinion, a movie should never be judged by his premise but, by the way, he proves his premise in the movie.


When do I start thinking about my premise?

The premise is usually the next step after the idea, although sometimes it becomes clearer after writing a few drafts. Although it will be easier for you to develop your story with a clear premise.
Once you find your premise I recommend writing it in a small piece of paper and putting it somewhere in front o
f you while you are writing the story.

How to deliver the premise in the film – 2 examples

In the movie A Clockwork Orange, the story premise is “Can we define goodness and evil with esthetics?” The answer according to the movie is NO. We see it best in this scene:

 

In this scene, the hooligans are breaking into the old couple’s house, beat the husband and rape his wife. For me, This is one of the most violent scenes in cinema’s history. Kubrick plays an evil game with us. He wants us to feel ambivalent about this scene.
So how does he do that? With colors!
The scene before has very gray colors. When we get use to the gray, blue cold and dead colors, we move on to the next scene. Now, we are in a house with lots of warm lights, the camera is very stable. We feel good about this scene. We are set to start the ambivalent feeling.

another good example will be the movie Rumble Fish. This is the most important scene in the film. Can you guess why?

So how does Francis Ford Coppola tells us to pay attention to the scene? First of all the name of the film is Rumble fish and Rusty’s brother is talking about rumble fish, but also, this is the only scene with some color in it. In this scene, Rusty James meets his biker brother in front of an aquarium in the local pet store. Rusty asks if everything is alright and his brother tells him to look at the fish. He explains to Rusty that the two tanks are separated because if they will be together they will fight themselves. The brother tells the officer that the fish belong in the river – “I don’t think they’ll fight if they will be in the river.” and this is the big question of the film- the great story premise, “Will they fight if they are free?”. The film premise is “Are we, humans,  evil by nature or does society makes us that way?”

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 Homework

Your homework now is to take a look at some of your favorite movies (choose at least 5) and find out what the story premise is. Not only you need to find it out, you will also need to prove it through the film. How does the film project this premise? I really recommend doing this homework and if you want to send it to me I’ll be glad to read it