Writing a script of any caliber is a monumental task for any writer to accomplish, with many scriptwriters not knowing where they should begin. Like any other field, the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it, but where should you begin while writing your first short script or script in general?
Advice is out there for a reason, and one of the most significant advantages of being in today’s society is the ability to go out and digest a multitude of information related to whatever topic you’re interested in. Still, the amount of information available doesn’t take away from the level of achievement someone feels after completing their first short script.
Nevertheless, are you interested in learning a few tips on writing your first short script? If so, look no further, as we’ll discuss a few simple and straightforward tips that’ll allow you to begin your journey into the screenplay world. Let’s take a look!
Still from 'Stutterer'. Photo credit: The Film Stage
Create a Treatment
If you’ve ever taken a class that’s even somewhat related to screenwriting, you more than likely have heard the phrase treatment uttered at some point. For those who don’t know, a treatment is a document that outlines your entire story before actually writing it.
The specific in-depth details aren’t necessarily involved in a treatment, but a good layout of what happens in each scene and act is a good place to start. Plus, you may find you have too many or too few ideas for your short script, allowing you to add or edit depending on where you fall.
Create Character Sketches
Besides the treatment, the other part of writing a script that should happen before actually writing is your character sketches. Sketches don’t mean you have to draw out your characters physically, but instead is regarding questions and information related to each of your characters that should be worth outlining.
A good rule of thumb is to write around 30 to 40 questions for each of your primary characters and answer them. Essential questions can be regarding their name, age, physical description, marital status, childhood, job history, etc. Whereas more complicated questions can about their flaws, goals, their mentor, what they’re missing in their life, etc.
Know the Main Points of Your Story
Some might argue that the main point of your story can be found in your treatment, but the question as a whole may have a deeper meaning behind it. Truly ask yourself what the point of your story is, and not just in the sense of what the story is about.
Answers to this question can be about your story’s theme, what it teaches, how it’s told, and how characters change. Once you get a rough idea of the main points of your story, you’ll be able to tell scenes and dialogue in a way that identifies and help the main points, whether it’s in an obvious or subtle way.
Constant Conflict (Small or Large)
Conflict goes a long way in scripts, short or long, so make sure your script is filled with it. Obviously, you don’t have to have a Saving Private Ryan level war scene in every ounce of the script. Still, understand what conflict is and how it can be implemented, internally or externally.
For example, if you have two characters going to a grocery store, make sure they disagree on something. Whether it’s what they should get from the grocery store, conflict with someone happens in the store, and so on. Telling a store without constant conflict makes it fall flat and not seem like an appealing story.
Let the Characters Tell the Story
Many professionals involved in screenwriting will tell you the importance of allowing your characters to tell the story, rather than the plot. In fact, some may argue that characters can save a bad plot, whereas bad characters can’t save a good plot. Basically, people look for the characters themselves and their relatability before anything else.
So, do what you can to ensure your characters are the ones telling the story. Don’t have a massive log of backstory or descriptive language to tell the story, let dialogue and your characters’ actions do it. Obviously, some stories are more subtle and abstract when it comes to characters. However, the characters are still the main driving force behind the story.
Stay Consistent with Your Tone
Tonal consistency is arguably the biggest issue with novice screenwriters. Screenwriters of all calibers tend to have a challenging time developing their tone and sticking with it. Some critics are extremely critical of even popular films for not being consistent enough with their tone.
Still, don’t be afraid to jump around with your genre, but make sure the audience knows enough of what they’re reading. People going into a Star Wars film don’t want to see a horror picture, and the same goes vice versa. Don’t be so apparent that it gives away plot points, but know what you’re delivering.