“The meaning of things lies not in the things themselves but in our attitude towards them.” ~ Antoine De Saint-Exupery
When we wake up one day realizing that we want to become screenwriters the first things we mostly do (talking from experience here) is research on it and write. We are excited about it. After all, we are going to write for movies and win Oscars and, and! But once we pass that stage of excitement we come to realize that there’s more to it because writing screenplays is no walk in the park.
Which is why as writers we are always seeking guidance.
Here is when we buy the books and we read the scripts. Lots of them (I hope this is something we all do, beginners or experience screenwriters). One of the reasons we do this is so we can get a feel for what we need to do.
For example, if we want to write children picture books, fantasy novels, and Ya books we go to a bookstore, browse, and purchase a few books to study them. So screenwriting should follow the same process for the most part: Read the script and watch the movie — to see the finish product of course and have a better understanding.
However, the difference between manuscripts and screenplays is that screenplays are limited to 120 pages. Unless of course your Christopher Nolan and Fran Walsh, so you better get crakin’.
Oh, yeah. There’s one little thing… A screenplay, for it to be at least read in hollywood, needs to follow a paradigm:
- Introduction – Who are the players?
- Inciting Incident – This here is what I call the dominoes effect.
- Plot Point I – The real story should begin here.
- First Half – Here is the beginning of the action, mystery, frustration, or suspense.
- Midpoint – We know things are either going good or extremely terrible.
- Second Half – We are getting to the answer.
- Plot Point II – We found the answer.
- Resolution – It changes the protagonist for better or worse.
If you’re familiar with Syd Field then the paradigm I just mentioned should look familiar. It is his paradigm after all. And this of course is the one I go by. You have to remember, we writers have mentors and by mentors I don’t always mean someone you personally know.
Plus this paradigm to me makes a lot of sense.
One way I like to review the writing process is by writing the steps down, which is why I always write about them and share them with my fellow writers.
After all, we all need a refreshing course and this is mine.