Screenplay Plot Development
Writing a screenplay is probably one of the most imaginative
experiences one could have. You start with nothing but a
blank piece of paper upon which you create a world. Things
happen, or don't happen, only when you want them to. If
only life was only like this!
A good screenplay centers on CONFLICT and RESOLUTION. If
their are no conflicts, then their is no screenplay. The
THEME) of your story should be able to be summarized
in one sentence. Something like: A man and a woman confront
a series of obstacles, and discover something new about
their relationship with each other.
The story structure follows basic 3 act drama structure:
*ACT1- Introduction (Pages 1-30) - PLOT
*ACT2- Drama/ Conflicts (Pages 30-90) - PLOT POINT 2
*ACT3- Resolution/ Conclusion (Pages 90-120)
The length of the movie may change, but if you look at
most movies they basically follow this same structure. Although
this is the basic structure of a screenplay DO NOT WRITE
TO PLOT POINTS! Write your story with the screenplay structure
only as a guideline.
Listed below are some other helpful tips to make the writing
*THE MORE YOU KNOW, THE EASIER IT IS TO WRITE- The more
you know about your story the easier it will be to write.
You should try to know everything about your story before
you start to write it.
*IDEAS, IDEAS, IDEAS- Ideas for screenplays can come from
anywhere. Your life, things that you have read or seen,
and thoughts that you have had about a subject can be the
basis for your screenplay.
*WATCH MOVIES AND READ SCREENPLAYS- Watch as many movies
as you can, especially ones that are similar to what you
are trying to write. See finished screenplay and rent the
movie to see how a screenplay is portrayed on the screen.
*USE MULTI-COLOR CLUE CARDS- Before you start to write
your screenplay, it is sometimes helpful to lay out each
scene of your screenplay on multi-color clue cards. Each
card can be filled with brief notes about the scene, and
then arranged in any order.
*KEPT DIALOG AS SHORT AS POSSIBLE- Dialog between characters
should be kept as short as possible. Avoid long speeches,
or sermons in your screenplay.
*USING BLACK SLANG- Writing slang dialogue for your Black
characters is a tough call. If you decide to use it remember
that some of your audience may not understand what you are
trying to say.
*GIVE A REASON WHY YOUR CHARACTERS ARE BLACK- If your story
does not need your characters to be Black don't write color
*ACTION IS EVERYTHING- Try to kept your story moving at
all times toward the conclusion. There are some example
of sedimentary movies that has become great hits, but
usually a slow story is a boring movie.
*EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS IN YOUR SCREENPLAY MUST BE LOGICAL,
AND SETUP- Although your screenplay is a world that you
have created all the laws of nature, and logic apply. For
example: A character cannot use a weapon in a scene unless
it was setup in a previous scene. NOTHING JUST HAPPENS IN
YOUR SCREENPLAY. Avoid making the audience moan by having
a character do something that is not logical.
*AVOID THIRD PARTY REFERENCES- Try to avoid writing phrases
the start with "WE SEE ______" or "WE HEAR ______"
in your screenplay. Sometimes it is unavoidable to write
phrases that begin like this, but this method has falling
out of flavor in screenwriting. (We actually used this once
*KNOW YOUR ENDING- Try to have a general idea of how your
screenplay will end before you start. Consider your screenplay
to be a journey. You know where you want to end up at, but
getting there is the mystery of your story. Some writers
start with the ending and work backwards, while others write
from the beginning to the end. You might not know how you
will reach the end, but at least know how it will end.
*YOUR SCREENPLAY WILL BE CHANGED- No matter how great a
screenplay you write be prepared for it to be changed. Everyone,
from the Director to the Actors, will have their views of
how your screenplay should be turned into a movie. Hopefully
the changes will not change what you were trying to say
in your screenplay. A good example of what we mean by "change"
was in the movie "Three Kings" written by a Black screenwriter
named John Ridley. His main character was suppose to be
a young Black soldier in the Persian Gulf War. But,
the studio changed the main character to a white soldier,
because they thought that it would appeal to a greater audience.
You will have to ask yourself if you are willing to go along
with something like this in order to get your screenplay
turned into a movie.
*HAPPY ENDINGS- You don't have to have a happy ending to
your screenplay, but it sure helps. Hollywood loves happy
endings, and so do most people that watch movie (outside
of movie critics). Remember this line from Woody Allen's
movie "Annie Hall": " In movies you should try to have happy
endings, because life so rarely does."
Reading this section is a good start on putting your screenplay
together. The BOOKS,
SCREENPLAY, and CLASSES
on this site can provide you with more information
on the screenwriting process. But, the bottom line is that
either you have a good story to tell, or you don't. Good
screenwriting is a art, and just like any other art
only so much can be taught. Remember that the above
information is to help you develop the tools you will need
to write, but the skills to write must come from within.