A (VERY) basic guide to start on screenwriting

I attend bi-weekly meetings with a local writer’s group, we chat and share ideas and it’s pretty refreshing. Last week the conversation was about screenwriting and I have to say, they asked me questions I hadn’t really thought about, and one of them was how do you begin to write a script, say you have an idea and you believe it would be a good movie, how do you start. I was quiet for a moment, how (the hell) do you start?! Well, I finally came up with a quick screenwriting guide and I thought I’d share it if you too have a story to tell and don’t know how to start. Hence the (very, very) basic step-by-step guide to starting a script.

1. Write your story.

in whatever format you prefer, be it narrative, bullets, drawings if you’re good at it, a short story, whatever. Just put it on a piece of paper so that it doesn’t die in your mind.

2. Outline the plot.

This is where you take the story as a whole and divide it into the “moments” or parts of the story (beginning, middle, ending). If you can divide it by acts at this point, even better. (Take a look at this article for an easy explanation on Acts)

plot structure

3. Define your conflict and premise. 

What is the story actually about? 

What is the main obstacle for your main character and how is he going to ultimately solve it? As for the premise, ask yourself, “How are you going to tell the story?”. Will it be a perspective of love? Revenge? Perseverance? These questions, although broad, should give you a very good idea of where you want to go with your story and what to expect when you sit down and write.

Bonus: Once you’ve defined the three main parts of the story, try to think about the most important moments or beats (more on those here). If you can define this by now, you’re ready to start pre-writing.

As I said, this is a VERY basic guide. Obviously screenwriting is much more than this and represents a much longer process, but starting with something is better than just waiting to know it all, isn’t it? So get cracking on these easy steps and the rest shall be (hi)story!

Happy writing!

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