Screenplay—Who’s Your Audience?

May 20, 2010

What a productive story session that was last night!  I had my weekly meeting at a local coffee shop with fellow writer Jeff Schnaufer that, as usual and appropriate, was focused on the screenplay he and I are collaborating on.  But because he had recently started reading my step outline quasi-treatment for Men of Gray III (the inspiration for MoG-Blog), we went off course on a 10-minute tangent to discuss the step outline for Men of Gray III.

The tangent—Who is the screenplay’s audience?

…and how does that knowledge of the who the intended reader is affect the way you write a screenplay compare to, say, how you would write the same story as a novel?  Because, while most literary forms are written to be read by the consumer, not so the screenplay.  I’d guess that more than 99.9% of those who saw the movie Titanic, for instance, probably have not read the screenplay, and probably never will.

So the audience for a screenplay is who, if not the viewing public?  I discuss that at length in this blog about The Princess Bride screenplay, so just the short answer here: the first draft is likely for a producer or investor.

And that was got us on our MOG3 tangent last night.  In Jeff’s notes to me about the step outline, he mentioned that he had sniffed out the suspected mole in lead character Joe Cameron’s drug squad in the first scene.  He was thinking it should be less obvious.

My question back to him: But how obtuse should the screenplay be about a character’s truth, considering that the target reader is a potential producer?  In other words—

How much do you reveal in a screenplay . . . and when?

While you may want a movie viewer to catch on to who the bad guys are, for example, at the moment you introduce them into the story, you might want the producer to know—to understand that this character or that character, though barely noticed here, becomes central to the story later on.  Because the producer is not just reading the screenplay as a story, but as a blueprint for making a movie.

Jeff disagreed on the grounds that, if there is a way for the writer to make the screenplay a compelling read without revealing to the producer that a significant story element or character is significant—effectively saying “so pay attention here”—then all the better.

I think Jeff’s point is valid.  Of course, I can also think of examples from William Goldman screenplays in which he literally tells the reader things to the extent of, “We don’t know who this is yet, but that’s okay, because we soon will.”  i.e., he is literally telling the reader what he wants the viewer to know or think at this point in the story.

And who am I to say that William Goldman’s style is invalid?

But the inspiring moment of the coffee shop discussion with Jeff last night was in the practical application of his—I still say valid—assertion.  In other words, while a Bill Goldman technique for calling out a characters significance will do, if a better way presents itself, take it. 

For the MOG3 screenplay, he felt that there is indeed no need to reveal this particular character’s truth early in the screenplay, because there’s a better way to do so later in the story.  When we analyzed why it was bugging Jeff that he knew a certain cop was the mole, it had more to do with the fact that:

  1. The action that tipped him off seemed extraneous, so it felt like a plant.
  2. It would be easy to be more subtle in the first scene by capitalizing on an opportunity in an upcoming scene to begin revealing the mole’s true character.

That, ultimately, was the motivational part of our talk—that the most minor of tweaks to an upcoming scene would let me easily reveal to the reader what the viewer will start to sniff out at the same time—that I can keep the police squad’s mole disguised in the opening moments without harming the producer’s or investor’s reading.

And so I shall.

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Movie Watching: The Obsession

December 12, 2009

As you can imagine, watching movies is a uniquely immersive, engrossing experience for a filmmaker. Even when I’m not in the midst of a writing or directing project, every movie is more than mere entertainment; it’s also an opportunity to study, to learn, to grow … either looking at the movies critically (i.e., “What I would domovie-reel differently is…”) or to admire them (i.e., “Wow, that really worked!”).

Fortunately though, I am still able to turn off the analytical processes of my brain and just participate mentally as an audience member. In fact, I always try to do that on my first viewing—to just enjoy the movie as a viewer. If I cannot “suspend disbelief” and get fully into it for those 90 minutes or so, it’s usually an indication of a flawed movie: an insufficiently engrossing story, overtly flashy directing or lighting or camera choices that draw attention to themselves, weak or unbelievable acting, or other production shortcomings.  But if the movie is good, I’m a pure viewer on the first viewing. 

Beyond that first viewing though…

If the movie is good, I’ll often watch it several times to see what I can learn from it. What I look for depends on the movie and what I liked about it technically. I might watch it once to observe how the writer structurally crafted the story, and then watch it again to study the dialogue or how the characters interacted and affected the plot or how the writer designed the scene transitions.

If the directing was the magic of the movie, I will watch it repeatedly to observe how the director covered the scene (wide vs. tight, angles, lens choices, camera movement vs. actor movement, etc.) and then to study what they did with the actors (pacing, rhythm, intensity, gestures, props, relative positioning, or character-specific camera choices) or what they chose to do with the scene and production mechanics (lighting, sound, transitional devices, lenses, stage pieces, color, design, mood, etc. ) to help them tell the story in the most engaging, beautiful way.

Movies: the cornerstone of my continuing education program

Since leaving USC’s film production program several eons ago, and between working on professional productions, I have informally continued my filmmaking education, believing that no one has ever “arrived,” so to speak, as a completely learned pupil of screenwriting or directing. After all, the medium continues to evolve as viewer expectations change, as technology evolves, and as creative up-and-coming directors and writers bump up the game to new heights. So my knowledge of the craft must evolve too.

Besides, I figure that any writer or director can up his game by not only deepening his knowledge of those challenging crafts, but also by broadening his knowledge into the related crafts of the business that are so critical to the realization of the writer’s or directors vision, such as lighting, camera, special effects, audio, music, acting, and so forth.

After all, is Clint Eastwood’s directing success not positively influenced by his years of experience working as an actor? Could writer-director James Cameron have ever achieved such grand levels of success with films like Terminator 2, The Abyss, and Titanic were it not for his deep and continuing knowledge of computer graphics? Could screenwriter Diablo Cody have been able to craft such memorable and believable dialogue in Juno without immersion into the patois of today’s teenager?

So, I feel that broadening my knowledge is just an important as deepening it.

My homegrown formula for continuing education:

  • Reading books on screenwriting and directing
  • Reading the trades (from the entertainment business)
  • Reading screenplays (and the books from which they were adapted)
  • Acting and studying the art of acting
  • Watching and listening to TV and radio interviews with filmmakers
  • Watching behind-the-scenes features included with DVD movies
  • Attending (or participating behind the scenes in) stage plays
  • Discussing and debating the process and techniques of filmmaking with others in the business

And, of course, watching movies.  Lots of movies. Tons of movies.

It all works together. I get the most synaptic connections when I intersperse my movie watching with the more formal learning processes of studying the craft. Watching movies without also studying the art and craft of moviemaking limits understanding. Studying the craft without observing its application is just even more limiting. So I do both.

Buenos “notches”

I’ll usually gather my learning around a topic of some sort, which not only keeps the educational process fresh and fun but also measurable. Call it silly (although feel free not to), but I find satisfaction in being able to measure my progress through life, not unlike a beat cop purportedly carves notches in his nightstick. It’s why I make lists (I get great satisfaction in looking back at the close of the day or week to see what I accomplished). It’s why I set goals in writing and then mark off my fulfillment of them. And it’s why I usually study filmmaking by deep-diving into one subject for a period of time before moving on to another. I feel more accomplished, carving these notches into the nightstick of my moviemaking education. Now that we’ve beaten the hell out of that analogy…

For example…

I might do a director-focused study. Six months ago, for example, I immersed myself in the writings and movies of legendary filmmaker Edward Dmytryk. He’s written a number of textbooks on filmmaking and directed more than three dozen movies during his two-score career as a director, which had been preceded by decades as an editor, and capped by more than a decade as a filmmaking instructor.  He’s worked in and out of the big Hollywood studio system with some of the biggest names in the business, including John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, and Clark Gable. His work spans multiple genres, continents, and eras. He was my instructor at USC for a single class, and it wasn’t enough. So, several years after that class, I took the time, on my own, to go deep in my lessons. I’ve recently watched all the Dmytryk movies I could dig up, finally taking the time to see and understand exactly what he meant when he talked about his preference for Mise-en-scène—for editing without cutting by moving the camera and actors within the moment to do a close-up or wide shot organically, rather than doing multiple camera setups and cutting the scene together in post. It’s one thing to understand the theory, but quite another to personally experience the director’s style through his movies.

And presently, I’m doing a screenwriter deep-dive, studying the work of William Goldman, which includes reading many of his scripts and novels, watching Goldman interviews, reading his books on the craft of screenwriting and selling scripts, and, of course, watching the movies made from his screenplays. This deep-dive has been not only mind-expanding but downright enjoyable. Try reading one of his nonfiction books about screenwriting and you’ll see what I mean. His writing style is absolutely delightful, as engaging as the content. And so many of the movies have become classics: moving comedies, thrillers, and dramas. A real kick.  And a real education.

Or, I might choose a movie genre to study for a time. As my Blockbuster movie queue indicates, I’m presently engaged in a heavy round of study in political dramas, since the current screenplay project is one. It’s helpful to know what I’m up against, and to learn from those that have come before by observing and figuring out why certain passages in other political dramas are gripping or confusing or compelling or inspiring or boring. It’s a tricky genre: easy to get sappy or melodramatic. And if it’s based on real-world scenarios or events, it’s also easy to get too detailed in an effort to faithfully render it.  So, I’m trying to avoid such pitfall by studying their mistakes and by imitating their successes. 

What’s next?

I’m planning to do a deep-dive on the legendary filmmaker Frank Capra, as he is one of my favorites, more for the storytelling and subject matter of his films. Also on my list: the films of Lawrence Kasdan, Charlie Kaufman, and Neil Simon.

When I get a few moments, I’ll post a list of the books I’ve read or plan to read regarding film directing or screenwriting.


The Princess Bride Screenplay—A Good Read?

November 7, 2009

I just finished reading the screenplay for the movie The Princess Bride by William Goldman, and it was, in my opinion, a page turner. I was spellbound, unable to put it down.

You know what’s strange about that? It’s a screenplay, not a novel. And, by the nature of the beast, screenplays are…

Not designed to be spellbinding

By nature, a screenplay is effectively a blueprint—a kind of instruction manual for assembling a movie. By nature, it isn’t written for the enjoyment of the consumer. So it’s unnatural when reading a screenplay feels natural: pleasurable.

But isn’t a screenplay meant to tell a story too?

Yes, of course. But, in a screenplay, that conveyance of the story is stilted—structured in a way that it is inevitably non-narrative: not easily read with the familiar, graceful sentence-to-sentence and paragraph-to-paragraph flow of the standard narrative form, such as you would expect in a short story or novel. 

No, the screenplay is broken up visually into a series of mismatched text chunks of varying widths, alignment justifications, andimage capitalization rules, something like this:

So it’s a strain to the reader’s mind to consistently entertain and maintain the flow of the story as it hopscotches its way through the tangled form of the screenplay.

In spite of all this, reading this William Goldman screenplay—in fact, reading just about any of his screenplays—was as captivating as reading a good novel. Which should come as no surprise, given his own words on this:

“I try to make my screenplays as readable an experience as I can, for a good and greedy reason—I want the executives, who read them and who have the power to greenlight a flick, to say, ‘Hey, I can make money out of this.’” (from his book Four Screenplays with Essays)

From that same book, in his essay about writing the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid screenplay, he points out that:

“We all want the movies we write to get made. And that’s only going to happen if someone likes the script. Executives read a guh-zillion scripts on the weekend. It would be idiotic for me not to have him try and enjoy the ride.” (William Goldman)

That’s a great thing for me to remember as I approach the transition from constructing the step outline to writing the screenplay, as I now am. While it’s important to follow the industry-standard constructs of the screenplay format—to not do so could be a distraction to the reader—doing so doesn’t prevent the writer from making the process of the reading more enjoyable for the executive than the guh-zillion others they’re reading this weekend.

Consider an example of this from The Princess Bride screenplay:

Finally INIGO goes back to cliff edge, starts to talk. It’s instant death if the MAN IN BLACK falls, but neither gives that possibility much credence. This is our two heroes meeting. They don’t know it yet; but that’s what it is.

The last two sentences do two things; first, they tell the screenplay reader (who is usually going to be a producer or director or a hired reader initially, but me in this case) something important about this scene that the viewer will either not know at all, or may only be subconsciously aware of. Second, these words allow Goldman to draw me into the tale, creating anticipation, while making sure that I understand the spinal significance of this moment, which may not be fully clear this early in the story.

He also uses a lot of humor in his screenplays for the benefit of no one but the reader. Consider this example from the same script:

…And what we are starting now is one of the two greatest swordfights in modern movies (the other one happens later on), and right from the beginning…

These words are never spoken by the characters. In fact, both of these example passages are from descriptions of actions within scenes: words the viewer will never witness or hear. They’re only written for the benefit of the director, the producer, and others involved in the making of the movie.

Goldman does that a lot, and with all his screenplays (of the nine I’ve read, anyway). Which makes the reading enjoyable, and even sort of makes the reader feel special … privileged. Like they’re in on something secret. Given his commercial success, I’d say this writing technique works; his movies are getting made because the executives with the power to greenlight them are enjoying the ride of reading his screenplays.

You can read more of Goldman’s wise words to the writer in my writer quotations collection.


Quotes for Writers on Narrative and Storytelling

October 22, 2009

This category of quotations from my favorite writers quotes collection is about the bigger picture of storytelling– the theme, tone, motive, intent, pacing. A lot of good advice.

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“We all want the movies we write to get made. And that’s only going to happen if someone likes the script. Executives read a guh-zillion scripts on the weekend. It would be idiotic for me not to have him try and enjoy the ride.”
(William Goldman, from his book Four Screenplays with Essays)

“Movies are finally, centrally, crucially, primarily only about story.”
(William Goldman, from the introduction in his book Five Screenplays with Essays)

“What is happening now is apt to be less dramatically interesting than what may or may not happen next.”
(Alexander Mackendrick)

“All drama is conflict. Without conflict, you have no character; without character you have no action. Without action, you have no story, and without story, you have no screenplay.”
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

“Good screenwriting plays against the grain, plays against the obvious, plays against the way you would expect things to happen.”
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

“In art, the obvious is a sin.”
(Edward Dmytryk)

Whenever you write, whatever you write, never make the mistake of assuming the audience is any less intelligent than you are.” 
(Rod Serling)

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” (William Arthur Ward) Substitute the word “teacher” with “writer” and you have a powerful, relevent piece of advice for the screenwriter.

“I try to make my screenplays as readable an experience as I can, for a good and greedy reason—I want the executives, who read them and who have the power to greenlight a flick, to say, ‘Hey, I can make money out of this.’”
(William Goldman, from his book Four Screenplays with Essays)

“Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule.” (Stephen King)


Readying Step Outline for Delivery

October 17, 2009

While I’m already deep into the step outline for the second act, I’ve gone back briefly today to the first act, cleaning it up for delivery to the producer.

Going back? Say it isn’t so!

No, no — this “going back” isn’t like a retreat. It’s a good thing. And truly a step forward.

You see, there’s an interesting statement by William Goldman in his book Four Screenplays with Essays that inspired me to go back and polish up that Act I step outline before delivery. In his essay introducing the script Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, he talks about how the standard screenplay format is so structurally counterintuitive to a good read, being loaded with conventions that almost seem designed to interrupt the narrative flow. Which, he explains, is why, “I try to make my screenplays as readable an experience as I can, for a good and greedy reason — I want the executives, who read them and who have the power to greenlight a flick, to say, ‘Hey, I can make money out of this.'”

How I’m applying that

Even though this step outline is mostly for me, the writer, to help me structure the story and test out the narrative flow before I invest so many more hours in the detailed structuring of the entire screenplay with all the dialogue, I figured that the rules change for the delivery. This outline will be, in two days, mostly for the producer, not me.

As the producer reads it, he will be less focused on how artfully structured I have or haven’t made this first act than how much this outline version of the first act will or will not already begin to inspire him as being a potentially good movie. Or not.

So, borrowing on the wisdom of William Goldman, I’m modifying the first act step outline to read well: to flow compellingly from one step to the next, and using turns of phrase designed to make the reading more enjoyable. For the same good and greedy reason. 😉


Quotations on Screenplay Structure

September 22, 2009

This is the first post in a series of my favorite quotes that I refer to for inspiration or insight while I’m creating a story. Post topic: quotations on screenplay strucure.

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Before you can write one word of the screenplay, you must know your structure: The ending, beginning, plot point I, and plot point II. The screenwriter builds his or her story around these four elements.”
(
Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

The three-act structure is intrinsic to the human brain’s model of the world; it matches a blueprint that is hard-wired in the human brain, which is constantly attempting to rationalize the world and resolve it into patterns. It is therefore an inevitable property of almost any successful drama, whether the writer is aware of it or not.”
(Edoardo Nolfo)

Screenplays are STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE.”
(Alexander Mackendrick)

In every film that’s worth its salt, there’s the text, and there’s the subtext. And the subtext of this film [French Connection II] is alienation. The language and the culture worked against Gene’s character.”
(John Frankenheimer, director of French Connection II)

The first 10 pages of any screenplay are the most important. Almost everything you need to know about the movie is found in these first 10 pages. When the screenwriter sets up the first 10 pages of the screenplay, the reader must know immediately what’s going on.” 
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

“There could be as many as nine or 10 plot points during a screenplay. But the two most important come at the end of act one and at the end of act two. They are the anchors of your storyline, the stitches that hold everything together.”
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

Screenplays come in three sizes: LONG, TOO LONG and MUCH TOO LONG.” 
(Alexander Mackendrick)

“A screenplay is a living thing, and each piece, even though separate and complete, is a part of the whole. Structure, remember, is the relationship between the parts and the whole.”
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

Passivity is a capital crime in drama.
(Alexander Mackendrick)

“There could be as many as nine or 10 plot points during a screenplay. But the two most important come at the end of act one and at the end of act two. They are the anchors of your storyline, the stitches that hold everything together.”
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

“Anything on screen that is superfluous to the forward motion of the story is absolute torture to the audience…. If you want to verify that, just watch some movies that are like that and it really drives it home with a sledgehammer. If you have information on the screen that doesn’t move the story forward, you are taking moments away from people’s lives.”
Screenwriter Callie Khoury

“Good screenwriting is the art of discovery.”
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

“A plot point does not have to be a dramatic moment, or major scene, or sequence. A plot point can be a quiet moment for an exciting action sequence. The plot point is whatever you choose it to be … But it is always an incident, episode, or event that is dictated by the needs of the story.”
(Syd Field, from chapter 6 of his book Four Screenplays)

Dramatic irony is … where we, the audience, are aware of circumstances of which one or more of the onstage characters are ignorant and are thus kept in a state of expectation mingled with uncertainty.”
(Alexander Mackendrick from a ScriptWriter Magazine interview)

“The Plot Point at the end of Act I is always the true beginning of your screenplay. Acts I sets up the story components. Then, the screenwriter has to establish the dramatic need and create obstacles to that need; the story becomes the main character overcoming the obstacle after obstacle to achieve his or her dramatic need.”
(Syd Field, from chapter 6 of his book Four Screenplays)

“Act II is a unit of action that is held together with the dramatic context of Confrontation. Your character will confront obstacle after obstacle after obstacle to achieve his or her dramatic need.”
(Syd Field, from his book Four Screenplays)

“The Midpoint, that link in the chain of dramatic action that connects the first half of Act II with the second half of Act II, is what moves the action forward and creates a new dramatic subtext.”
(Syd Field, from chapter 6 of his book Four Screenplays)

“I try to make my screenplays as readable an experience as I can, for a good and greedy reason — I want the executives, who read them and who have the power to greenlight a flick, to say, ‘Hey, I can make money out of this.'” 
(William Goldman from his book Four Screenplays with Essays

“Be certain that the hurdles get bigger and come closer together, accelerating the pace of your story, as your story moves forward.”
(Michael Hauge, author and Hollywood script consultant)

All stories are about transformation.  In every story a caterpillar becomes a butterfly.”
(Blake Snyder, screenwriter and screenwriting instructor/consultant, author of Save the Cat!)


Screenplays Are Structure

August 13, 2009

[Note: If you read this blog because of your interest in Liberty in the Fires (aka Men of Gray III), be advised that this entry deals primarily with the process of screenwriting, not the movie project]

If you’ve ever written fiction for any other kind of story form, you may be wondering if all of this effort I’m going through to “structure” the screenplay is necessary. 

To this, I would ask, is it necessary to change the oil in your car every 4,000 miles? Is it necessary to stretch your muscles before going for a run? Is it necessary to stop and smell the roses along the way?

Of course, none of these things is “necessary.” But they are all considered wise.

Likewise, writing a screenplay with careful attention to its dramaturgical structure from the get-go is a good idea, even if it’s not necessary. This is perhaps more the case with screenwriting than other forms of writing because…

Screenplays are unique

At first blush, screenplays and novels may appear very similar. But actually the novel is a much more flexible narrative form, both in structural design and overall length. For two of those reasons in particular, careful thought to the structural elements is essential to the success of the screenplay.

  • First, other forms are more structurally forgiving
    The percentage of successful novels that ignore the fundamental theories of the narrative form is considerably higher than the percentage of successful movies that have broken from standard dramaturgical constructs. By comparison, nearly every movie that has done well at the box office conforms to certain dramaturgical standards (three acts, built around a primary conflict, ending with a resolution of the conflict, adhering to the genre expectations, and so forth).
  • Second, the screenplay is rigidly constricted by length
    When writing a novel, there really is no set length requirements. If you can tell your whole story in 100 pages that’s okay. If you need 500 pages to tell it, that might be okay also. However, go to a Blockbuster store and browse through the new releases, noting the duration of each movie. I would be shocked if you find one that is less than 88 minutes or more than 130 minutes.There’s a good half dozen reasons as to why this is, but the point is that any story idea, no matter how great, must be structured by the screenwriter so that it conforms to the standard movie length, playing out at no less than 90 minutes and no more than 120 minutes.  Following the standard screenplay format, that means 90 to 120 pages.

Perhaps the most unique characteristic of the screenplay compared to other literary forms is that it isn’t written to be read by the consumer; it’s a blueprint for building a movie. Because of this, it’s generally accepted that…

Screenplays are structure

When I say that screenplays are structure, I’m quoting famed screenwriter and novelist William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, All the President’s Men, Heat, The Princess Bride…). Most other screenwriters concur. Rather than belabor the point — you’re welcome to do your own research on it (I’ve provided some links at the end of this blog entry to get you started) — just know that my reasons for carefully planning the structure of the screenplay are based on my personal experience and on this premise that a good screenplay is built on a solid, familiar structure.

In his book Screenwriting 434, Lew Hunter explains that, while “in life, things happen one after the other,   in structure [i.e., the structured writing of a screenplay] one thing happens because of the other.”  In other words, the screenwriter structures the sequential “happenings” to propel the story forward. Renowned author Syd Field states that “Structure is the most important element in the screenplay.  It is the force that holds everything together; it is the skeleton, the spine, the foundation.”  So, when it comes to the process of structuring, does this necessarily mean that…

It’s my way or the highway?

No. It’s my personal experience that the structural exercises I’ve been describing, and that I’m about to move through, are a valuable time investment in the development of a screenplay.

If these methods don’t work for you, that’s fine. Perhaps you have one of those rare minds that can juggle dozens of concepts simultaneously over a period of days or weeks without losing track of each individual bit. And perhaps you’ve got a gift for maintaining a visual map in your mind that allows you to objectively see how those individual component pieces that make up each of those story concepts can or should complement one another, and thereby analyze their relative importance to the story — all while enveloping your most creative mental processes on breathing life the poetic beauty of the story’s telling.

If your brain works in that rare and fortune away, you can probably just sit down and start typing. But if your mind is more like mine, you may get value in using these structural mapping processes that I employ in your own writing. The process creates a physical representation of the story elements that you can see with your eyes, touch with your fingers, and refer to while you write.

Even a fairly simple screenplay will inevitably have many secondary themes or subplots or supporting character developments that weave their way as story threads through the fabric of the screenplay. Without a good mental map of your story, it’s easy to end up with incomplete story threads that will annoy the moviegoer. Worse, you may lose the balance of the story, getting lost on the trail of an interesting subplot within the universe of your story. It’s hard enough to keep the story to 100 pages even when you have a razor-sharp focus on the needs of your main storyline. Losing yourself in something off the beaten track muddies your narrative and forces you to either completely restructure the story, or delete much of what you’ve just written because it was ultimately unnecessary. So, when writing a screenplay, it’s helpful to remember that…

Screenwriting is both a subjective and objective process

If you enjoy the process of writing fiction, you most likely find it addictively engrossing and necessarily subjective. How then can you keep one hand on the wheel of the story’s structural requirements while you are purposely submersed deep within the scene and within the minds of the characters you are creating?

That’s the trick, you see. To be a successful screenwriter, you need to be both subjective and objective as you create your story. Writing fiction is a naturally subjective process. Conforming that creative process to the time-boxed and convention-laden strictures of the screenplay requires that you never lose your objectivity even as you delve into the creative, subjective process of writing.

For this reason, I recommend that you try it before you knock it; if you want to write a screenplay, try using the visual mapping processes I’m describing in this blog, particularly if you haven’t yet successfully written a complete screenplay or if you have written one but were not happy with the result.

Researching Screenplay Structure

If you want to learn more about the structural standards of screenwriting, these links may help: