Guest Post by Gabiann Marin
There are hundreds of books and courses on screenwriting but if you want to get started the following tips will ensure you begin on the write (right) track.
Know your Genres – Know your market.
Films are like popular fiction, they narrowly target audience based around content and genre, if your genre is unclear, or you are not working within the rules of it effectively, your script simply won’t work.
Watch movies, read scripts and books and talk to people who have been involved with the genre you are interested in to get to know the rules and the language of that genre.
Structure is everything:
Screenplays are highly structured things and there is no room to ‘find’ your story. Have a clear beginning, middle and end before you begin to write and you won’t get stuck in the middle of the screenplay with no story left to tell. Consider that you need to have three acts – which correlate to a beginning, middle and an end, plus two – three incidents in each act which move the story forward. These are called plot points or incident points.
Show don’t tell:
This is the most important rule and the one that separates screenwriting from all the other formats of writing. A film is a visual experience so make sure you have enough visual information; rather than trying to get across all your key points in dialogue. For example rather than having someone explain how they feel trapped and confused, have them perform an action which conveys this, or put them in surroundings such as a small room or a dark, confined space, to give some if not all of this emotional information.
Don’t write – DEVELOP! :
Scripts are concise and trim, the story has to be fully realised, the characters likeable and interesting and identifiable and you have only a few minutes to establish this in a 90 minute screenplay. By developing your characters and stories beyond the page of your screenplay you ensure each scene is embedded with scene, character and story information which works at every level.
Act it out:
Screenplays are written to be embodied by actors, directed by directors and shot by cinematographers, so to be sure that your script can ‘play’ as written act out all the actions in each scene and read aloud any dialogue so you can get a sense if it is physically accurate and possible. This might feel silly but it can also be quite fun. If you have scenes with a lot of characters you can ‘cast’ your friends, relatives or even children into roles and observe how they interpret the dialogue and actions. If it sounds odd you can remove or change it quite easily.
BONUS TIP: Do a course:
Screenwriting is a peculiar practice, particularly for someone used to working in narrative, so enrol in a short introductory course to ensure you learn the basics of format and structure so your story can work effectively in visual media.
Gabiann Marin is a professional screen, creative and copy writer, editor and story developer who works as a mentor and teacher for writers, producers and creative business people. She currently lectures at the Australian Film Television and Radio School, JMC Creative Academy and The NSW Writer’s Centre as well as running private workshops and development sessions for individuals.
She is also a published author, her latest books include Aussie Heroes: Dame Nellie Melba and Aussie Heroes: Mary MacKillop, published by New Frontier Publishing.
Go to Script and Story to contact her or get more information.
Gabiann Marin is currently running open successful screenwriting courses with Sydney Community College. Go to Sydney Community College for more information.
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