The great and legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock was once asked about the key elements of making a memorable movie. He replied, “To make a great film, you need three things: the script, the script, and the script.” Those words of wisdom truly symbolize the sheer importance of having a wholesome screenplay. Through creative storytelling and inspirational ideas, any screenplay – be it an original work or one adapted from existing source – can serve as a strong foundation to an unforgettable cinematic experience, if it is written in the right manner and using the right technique.
Theoretically, there are a few types of script in the entertainment such as camera settings. As for a stage or theatre production, it is simply known as a play.
Script writing is a process that demands our utmost focus and creativity in order to create not just a satisfying outcome, but also something that would be widely applauded later on. Here are some of the major elements that make up a powerful screenplay.
This is where your writing adventure begins. If you have never heard of the term ‘logline’, it basically refers to a short summary of a film that describes its main plot or central idea. It is usually written in just one sentence or less than 25 words. The entirety of your screenplay is going to be based on the logline that you create which serves as an outline. Hence, it is important to come up with a clear and intriguing logline. A logline usually consists of four components:
[protagonist] + [inciting incident] + [protagonist’s goal] + [main conflict]
By using visual language or active verbs, it would not just make it easier for you to imagine and organize the flow of the story, it would also help readers to truly understand the narrative that you try to lay out, making them feel tempted to read the rest of your script.
The best kind of story is the one that makes you drown in emotion. Regardless of genre, your screenplay should be able to bring readers through an immersive experience that ends with a statement (either subtle or obvious) which would leave a lasting impression. As cliché as this may sound, you have to write from your heart. You must be heavily invested in the story in order to pull it off. Use your own real-life experience or any anecdote you heard from other people as inspirations to make the screenplay feel more personal. Feel free to utilize various storytelling elements such as curiosity, suspense, and surprise as these may help you to make your script even more interesting. Be careful with the way you build your screenplay because it is not that hard for readers to detect if a particular script is written halfheartedly.
Once you have figured out the plot, it is time to fill the story with characters. Every character – especially those with dialogues – should be relevant to a particular scene that they are in (or even the entire story), as well as serving a purpose in that scene or story. Whenever there is an exchange of dialogues between two or more characters, you should know how to sustain the dynamics during that moment so that readers can feel the same energy, as if they are in the same setting as those characters. If a character is meant to be a protagonist, establish that stance from the very beginning. If you write about an antagonist, decide whether such feature should be justified as you go along the story or not. Do not make readers love or hate a character for no good reason.
Show, don’t tell
This is perhaps one of the most famous mantras in visual creative industry. It is pretty much similar to the saying, “action speaks louder than words.” As such, you should be able to develop your screenplay (especially the plot) by using action and details, instead of relying on the characters to describe it. Other devices within this spectrum include sensory details and emotional expressions. This technique aims to immerse readers in the plot, enabling them to fully experience the emotions and actions of the characters. Needless to say, rather than simply telling the readers what is happening through narration, you make an effort to show them what is happening through pictures and action. There is nothing wrong with using characters to explain a scene, but some readers might see this as a lazy technique or an indication of the lack of imagination on the writer’s side.
Unless you are Christopher Nolan, the last thing you want is for your audience to scratch their heads in confusion once they have finished reading the last page of the script. You may include as many subplots as you want, but make sure they are closely related to the central idea or main plot of the story. Even if you are making an anthology screenplay which consists of different standalone shots, readers would expect all of them to be connected to a common theme or message. Hence, always track the progress of your script and make sure it stays within your intended direction. Read and reread once in a while after you have done a specific scene to check for any possible and avoidable error.
With the right amount of knowledge – as well as extensive reading and research – it should not be a problem for you to write an impeccable screenplay, provided that you are entirely (and willingly) committed to it. Even if you are an occasional writer, if you are an avid reader, then script writing is something that you surely can handle. All the best!