How To Write A Screen Play

How To Write A Screen Play

Maggie Hamand, novelist, journalist and author of "Creative Writing for Dummies", provides us with a few of her insights into the fundamentals of screenwriting.

When you're writing your screenplay, you don't need to put in a lot of information about camera angles, descriptions of places or descriptions of characters. You'll probably have a brief summary of your characters at the beginning of the screenplay. You just need to say whether it's interior or exterior, and you need a simple thing about the location, like library, a busy city street, a blasted heath.

Then you put the name of the character who's speaking, a colon, and you put their lines of dialogue, which should be very short. If you look at a screenplay, you'll see that the characters really don't say very much. Finally, you will put in some short things if you need to show, for instance, that the character is speaking ironically, or that they laugh, or that they walk to the window, or that they avoid the other character's eyes.

Those gestures that are really important you put in, but you leave everything else out for the director. Screenplays are probably the most structured form of fiction that there is. It's really important that you understand the three act structure.

Three act structure is basically the setup which is where you introduce the character, introduce the conflict, maybe have some dramatic event which catapults your main character into the story, and sets the scene, and the tone, and maybe the mood as well. The second act of your story, the middle bit, is the most difficult to write. That's where there are complications, there are red herrings, there are increasing obstacles for your character, so your character's really got to fight to get what it is that they want, and as your character moves through the story, and they become more and more deeply engaged in the story, then the obstacles get harder and the risks get higher.

The end of the third act probably moves fairly quickly towards your climax. That's the moment where everything happens, where the characters meet, where the decision is made, where there's the shoot-out, where the discovery is made about where the treasure is, where he declares that he loves her after all. That's the climax of your story.

And you want to stay with the story for a little bit after your climax, because you want to enjoy the consequences of that and see what they are on the characters. It's important to think in a screenplay also about other ways in which you can approach the task, because a screenplay is about film and film is a visual medium. So, some people like to do what's called storyboarding; they draw what could be cartoon figures if you like, it doesn't have to be very sophisticated, but they draw up the main scenes, so that they can actually think about where the characters are, what they're doing, how many people would be there, and what action's going to be.

And that's how to write a screenplay. .