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How to Write a Screenplay: Professional Advice for You

How to Write a Screenplay: Professional Advice for You

It is a real challenge to learn how to write a screenplay or a movie script as it requires not only a creative approach but also profound theoretical knowledge in terms of the format and structure adequate for this type of writing.

Let us serve as guides in the world of screenplay writing for you. We will show you how to avoid the pitfalls and find the most effective way to professionalism and proficiency in this field.

What Are the Main Characteristics of a Good Screenplay?

A screenplay or a movie script can be defined as a written document with the length from 70 to 180 pages. An average length of a typical movie script is approximately 110 pages; however, this parameter can vary depending on various factors.

We will get back to the question about the number of pages a bit later as a primary task for now is to gain understanding of the key issues and fundamental things necessary for working on a script.

What are the requirements to a standard format of a screenplay?

Typically, the format of a screenplay is simple; however, there are certain aspects that should be taken into consideration as they determine whether the final product will be a success.

The key rules of formatting scripts are the following:

  • Courier font size of 12-point
  • On the right – 1 inch margin
  • On the left – 1.5 inch margin
  • On the bottom and top – 1 inch margin
  • An approximate number of lines per page – 55
  • Setting of dialogue blocks – on the left – 2.5 inches from the page side
  • Names of characters are written in uppercase letters with specific positioning with 3.7 inches from the left page side
  • Positioning of page numbers is specific: 0.5 inch margin from the page top in the top right corner. There should be no number on page 1. There should be a period after each number.

Script vs. Screenplay

The layouts for scripts written for plays have their slight differences. The design is developed for live performances, not for recording and then showing to the audience on the screen. Besides, they always have directions included, such as “Exit, stage right” etc.

They say that a screenplay is a special script written for something to be screened after filming and presented on TV or in the movies. Frequently, such scripts comprise directions for peculiar shots, such as “CLOSE UP”. If a script is prepared for a movie, there are specific requirements in terms of length.

Suggesting Ideas for Screenplays

What can be more valuable for a screenplay than a powerful and creative idea? It is the same with fiction and plays. Even if you know how to write a screenplay, you still have to develop such an idea that can attract the audience. It is always possible to sum up the whole screenplay in one sentence – a “logline” which includes:

  • Hero (protagonist) – e.g. A father of three….
  • Purpose – e.g. …should get a new wife…
  • Antagonistic force (villain) – … jealous neighbors.

It may happen that you have lack of ideas and just cannot write a word. Then you are free to get inspired from the following sources:

  • Music or art – probably some piece of art can give you a hint about a new story.
  • Your previous works – you could have dreams about writing a novel, but the materials were not sufficient; thus, you can use them for a fantastic screenplay.
  • Classic plots – there are great fairy tales with eternal plots or Shakespearean works that inspire. (Disney is one of the examples of how those plots can be used with benefits.

Your new idea should be sufficient for developing a screen performance of approximately 100 – 120 minutes. Estimate the length of the scrip according to the following formula: one page of written script is equal for one minute on the screen. So, a typical screenplay should be written on about 100 – 120 pages. Mind the formatting standards.

Screenplay Structuring and Planning

It is essential to differentiate between a beginning, middle sections, and end of the story to make a great structure of a story. Still, the structure of screenplays is a bit more complicated. There are certain restrictions and limitations to your imagination but they will make your story well-organized and easy to follow.

What Is a Typical Screenplay Structure?

Act I – It takes approximately one-fourth of the screenplay with 20 – 30 minutes of screen performance. This section, known as “setup,” enables you to introduce the characters and the setting and to start the story.

Act II – It takes approximately a half of the screenplay in the middle with up to 60 minutes on the screen. This section, known as “confrontation,” adds the tensions and complicated turns of the plot.

Act III – It takes approximately one-fourth of the screenplay with 20 – 30 minutes of screen performance in the very end. This section, known as “resolution,” demonstrates confrontation between antagonistic force and protagonist with typical prevalence of the protagonist.

At peculiar stages, you have to take into account the following aspects:

  • Turning point 1: Almost at the end of Act I, the things change. The protagonist gets to know some facts that turn the world and the story upside down.

For example, a father of two should invite a pretty lady to a date, but his neighbor is trying to prevent this.

  • Turning point 2: Almost at the end of Act II, the story moves to the final act with the raised stakes.

For example, a neighbor kidnaps children and their father has to decide how to save them.

According to various recommendations and professional advice from screenplay writers, there are a number of other turning points, but there no universal approach to successful screenplay writing.

Is Writing a Screenplay a Time-Consuming Process?

It is one of the most popular questions as new screenplay writers want to know how much time they need for their first script. It actually depends on your time management skills and your individual schedule. Professional screenwriters typically take from 1 to 3 months to produce the final variant of the ordered screenplay. Being concentrated on your work, you will most probably plan all the details of the setting, characters, structure, theme, and plot within several weeks. Getting more experienced, you will learn more about the process and your next screenplay will be less time-consuming.

Working on more scripts and projects, you will boost your creativity and inspiration, while your passivity will be ruining for them.

How to Use your Imagination to Write Exciting Story

Be critical, reading through the scenes in your plot. Can you characterize them as surprising, moving, or exciting? If you were shown these scenes, would you feel engaged?

If you want to sound original and produce exciting stories, have a look at some hints from professional screenplay writers:

  1. Get to know how to write a screenplay and write out an outline for every scene. Think about the expectations your audience might have and try to meet them.
  2. Add a button to the final stage of every scene to have a hanging question in the air and try to make your audience wait for the continuation and wonder about the next actions of the characters.
  3. Check whether you managed to get the characters out of their comfort zones. There will be insufficient conflict if they are merely enjoying themselves, and your audience will lose their interest in the action.
  4. Do not use predictable locations. Make the situations at least a bit surprising. Use brainstorming techniques and add your unique voice into scenes.
  5. Check whether your characters take the actions for granted or they are surprised. The scene will look boring if they are not.

Conclusion. How to Make a Screenplay Fascinating

Your desire to turn a screenplay into a masterpiece is natural, but there is no ready-made receipt for that. You should definitely adhere to such advice as ‘watch new movies to get new ideas,’ ‘read more screenplays,’ ‘practice your writing daily’ and so on. Besides, try to exercise your imagination and develop in a professional approach to writing.

Acknowledge the fact that you will have to learn for all your life. You will never know everything and your search for new approaches will never stop.

Try to improve your writing and present your screenplay to a manager, producer, or professor at your university only after it is completely finished.

We offer excellent screenplay writing services and our professional writers can assist you with pleasure.

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