Every screenwriter has a dream project that they would love to make. For some, it might be a science fiction film. For others, it could be a rom-com. For even more, it could be a crime thriller or an action-adventure movie.
For many of us, the process of bringing our screenplays to life can be difficult. You spend weeks, months, and in some cases, even years crafting the perfect screenplay.
If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, then you might want to read this article. It will tell you everything you need to know about story maps and how to write the perfect screenplay.
Know What You Need
The first step to writing a great screenplay is knowing what you need. Do you need an action sequence? Do you need a character arc? Do you need a particular setting? These are just some of the questions you will need to ask yourself before you even start writing.
If you’re not sure what you need, then why not write a short story first? You might not be able to fit everything you need into a single screenplay, but if you can write a short story that highlights the elements you wish to use in the longer version, then that’s a good starting point.
Your short story doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should at least give you an idea of whether or not you’re capable of writing the screenplay you desire. From there, you can expand upon that idea and create something amazing.
The Anatomy Of A Great Screenplay
The anatomy of a great screenplay is similar to the skeleton of a great novel, and that’s because both can be defined by their structural elements.
In the case of a screenplay, these elements are known as beats. A beat is equivalent to a scene or a chapter in a novel. Just as there are different types of scenes in a play, there are different types of beats in a screenplay. Some are longer and more developed than others, but each one serves a purpose and contributes to the overall story.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re writing a science fiction film and you decide that your protagonist will need to visit a planet several light years away. Your story could start with a space travel sequence where he leaves earth and eventually makes the voyage to the distant planet. This would be a good opportunity to use an interplanetary travel device known as a “space ship.”
As your audience members are transported to the distant planet, they will interact with your characters and experience the story from a new perspective. This sequence of events would contain multiple beats. Your first beat would be the spaceship launching. Your second beat would be the planet coming into view. Your third beat would be the journey to the planet, and your final beat would be the characters disembarking and exploring the new world. The first two beats are probably longer than the others, but you need all three in order to tell the entire story. Why? Space ships are tricky to write. They require a lot of work, so you don’t want to give them up until you’ve used them at least once or twice in your story.
The 6-Step Process
Once you’ve got your story sketched out, it’s time to move onto the next step and begin the process of developing your script. The first step is to write a detailed outline of the story, following the structure of your short story. This will help you to keep the narrative flow of your story, and it will also serve as a guide for selecting which scenes to include in your final draft.
The second step is to divide your story into acts. An act is a unit of dramatic narrative. It can consist of a series of scenes or of a lengthy dramatic piece. In some cases, a single act can span multiple pages in your script. When breaking down your screenplay into acts, bear in mind the structural elements you’ve developed as well as the objective of your drama. Whether you’re writing for the stage or you’re just trying to bring your story to life, a series of acts will help you to construct an ordered sequence of events. As with most things in life, it’s not what happens in the movie that counts. It’s how you tell the story that will matter.
Make It The Most Powerful Statement
Your first draft is nowhere near finished, so there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The third step of the process is to go back to the first draft you’ve written and rework it. Take out every bit of superfluous language and cut down on the repetition. Once you’ve got your story tight, go back and add more details or elaborate upon details you’ve already given. Rewriting is always an important stage of the process, and it can be fun to go back and add more life to your work. Every scene you’ve written should be, in some way, surprising or unexpected. That’s the whole point of writing in the first place. To create something new that wasn’t in your mind when you began the process.
The Final Step
Congratulations! You’ve made it all the way through the process and now you are ready to tackle the final step. The final step of the process is to go back and follow the outline you’ve previously written and to polish your script. This isn’t an easy step, but it’s a necessary one. You’ve written a draft, you’ve gone through several rewrites, and now you’re finally ready to send it to your publisher or screenwriter’s guild for review.
Your script is now complete and you can sit back and relax. You’ve done all you can and it’s time to let the professionals do their thing. Good luck out there.