Screenwriting tips 1

Hello! Hope your new year is going well, so far. This January, I’m taking an intro to screenwriting class, and I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned!

The three act story. While I’m not actually going to write a full three-act screenplay, the structure of one is actually rather important. It looks something like this:

My rough rendition of what the professor drew for us in class

In my class, we’re focusing on how to write the set up, which is the first ten minutes of the screenplay – or about ten minutes of actual movie. After the set up, the first act is heading to the pivot point: when the main character makes a decision that causes the rest of the movie to happen. The second act shows the character struggling to deal with the repercussions of their decision, and the third act is the resolution.

Enter scenes late, and leave them early. This is actually a good rule for prose fiction as well, since there isn’t a need to show every single little thing your characters do and say. In fact, by omitting certain actions, you can create suspense.

In a movie, there’s only so much time to tell the story, so all the audience really needs to see are the important things. Everything that’s shown on the screen is significant to the story, whether it’s setting up for something farther down the road, or moving the conflict along.

For example, if your characters are going somewhere by car, you can show them get into the car and then cut to where they’ve arrived at the new location. The car ride is unimportant – unless something significant happens on that car ride. But even then, showing the entire car ride is unnecessary.

The story is told through the characters’ actions. Usually, there’s no internal monologue in movies. The audience can’t hear the characters’ thoughts. So everything has to be shown on screen, through the characters’ actions.

That part, I think, is the biggest difference from writing prose – aside from the actual formatting of the screenplay. But I’ll discuss formatting later, as I become more comfortable with it.

Hope this was as interesting to you as it was to me, and have a lovely week!

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