Top 3 things a writer forgets when writing a screenplay

When you’re writing a script it’s easy to lose sight of some of the basics when you’re buried deep in your story. Remember these three points and you’ll be well on your way to writing a best selling script!

Engage your audience

Your audience need to be engaged and entertained. You might have to explain some very crucial plot elements in your story but try to do this in interesting and unique ways. A direct quote I remember from ‘Save the Cat’ was the Pope in the Pool Moment. If you haven’t read the Save the Cat series by Blake Snyder – I recommend you do so, it offers a lot of advice on screenwriting as a craft.


‘The term The Pope in The Pool came from a script titled The Plot to Kill the Pope by George England. The story was a thriller and as such couldn’t afford a dull scene with people sitting around drinking tea (something Donald Mass warns against extensively in Writing the Breakout Novel) and dumping information. So, the writer came up with a way to relay the information while keeping people’s attention.

He put the Pope in the pool.

As Snyder points out, “We’re thinking: ‘I didn’t know the Vatican had a pool?! And look, the Pope’s not wearing his Pope clothes, he’s… he’s… in his bathing suit!’”

This keeps our attention while the important, dull information is downloaded to our brains. We walk away from the scene wowed and retaining the knowledge that we need for the rest of the story to unfold, while never being bored.’


Make your lead character suffer

This may sound a little harsh but a great story is built on the foundations of conflict. Without conflict a story can’t sustain itself. You need to make our lead character overcome hardships, struggle and graft to get to where he needs to be. The more obstacles you put in his way the more the audience will want to follow his/her journey and thus make for a more compelling story.


The first draft is a first draft!

So you’ve finished your masterpiece you’ve stepped away for a few days and then re-read your entire screenplay. Chances are your first though is something like…This sucks! What was I even thinking! Or even worse, you’ve let someone else loose on your script and they have a list of ‘critiques’ for you. Your heart sinks and you wonder why you ever quit you day job.

But wait a second, because guess what, there’s still hope. It’s a first draft for a reason, a lot of writers fall into the trap of expectation, and their scripts simply don’t live up to it. Writing is re-writing.



The Writer Prepares

Writing a screenplay can often feel like a very daunting task. If you are lucky enough to have an idea for a story your first impulse might be to rush out, write a script and make a film.

Before you even start planning who will play your leading cast I just want to remind you of a few steps all screenwriters should follow before even picking up a pen (or reaching for a keyboard).

Top 5 tips 

Read screenplays

So many writers don’t know how to correctly format a script. There really is no excuse to use Microsoft Word anymore.

Final Draft, Adobe Story and Celtx are some of the most popular programmes out there for screenwriters. If you are serious about your craft and your script you need to ensure you format correctly. Read at least one script a week to keep on top of how the pros do it.

Simply scripts is a great (and free) resource for you to find endless titles:

Reading scripts can also be a really great way to inspire you!


Watch movies

One thing I love to do is to read a screenplay then watch a film, it really does open your eyes to how a script translates on screen. Watching films is also a great way to look for inspiration, learn more about genre conventions and see what has and what hasn’t been done before.


Know your genre

Whatever genre your story is, you need to know it inside and out. That means if you’re writing a horror you should read horror movie scripts, watch horror movies and learn as much as possible about what the typical conventions are. Some elements of a genre are so important that you can’t get away from them. In a horror movie there needs to be, well horror. Research this further into sub-genres and you can really start to see the patterns of a successful screenplay.

Genre Icons

Go to school

Even we adults still have a lot to learn, there’s no point thinking you know everything. Look for screenwriting clubs or courses where you can chat to other screenwriters about their methods or just to give feedback. Writing is often seen as a solo activity but the best way to get better at it is to collaborate with people you can trust to give you honest feedback. Always keep learning and honing your craft.


Pick up a pen

One you’ve followed these tips now you can think about picking up that pen. Keep a notebook with you at all times and write down ideas as they come to you. Try to allocate time each day to write a little more of your screenplay, even if it’s just one hour a day, you’ll start to see a story take shape.