Writing for the Screen: Screenwriting Part 3

Most screenplays use the three act structure. Of course there are exceptions, but the exceptions are usually made by more experienced and well established screenwriters.

The first impression will decide if your screenplay gets read in Hollywood. Readers in Hollywood are very busy and will typically read the first ten pages or so; if they’re not hooked, the script gets tossed. I have added a few tips to help you make a great first impression.

First of all, you need to know what a good screenplay looks like; how it is structured. Read as many screenplays as you can. Read scripts from great movies. Read scripts from bad movies. What makes the great ones so great? You can download scripts for free online for your own reading pleasure. The below mentioned websites offer free scripts:

www.simplyscripts.com

www.script-o-rama.com

www.moviescriptsandscreenplays.com

You can also Google “screenplays” or “movie scripts” and find many more.

A screenplay is broken down into three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end. Typically the breakdown is about 25% to set up the story; 50% to tell the story; and the remainder 25% to conclude your story. So, a screenplay of 120 pages should be approximately 30-60-30 pages respectively. This is called a three-act structure.

The Beginning

What happens that sparks the story? Is there a murder? Maybe an explosion or two lovers run away together. Whatever action kicks off the story, make sure it is compelling. Although the first 25% sets up the story, you only have about ten pages to hook the reader. The first ten pages should introduce the protagonist (the good guy) and the antagonist (the bad guy). However, you don’t necessarily need to reveal which character the antagonist is. The reader should also know the time period and the location the story takes place. The reader should have a pretty clear idea of what the story is about within the first ten pages.

Plot Point One

This is where the first act ends and the second act begins. In IRONMAN, when Stark escapes his captors wearing his prototype iron suit, he is no longer Stark the corporate genius; he is Ironman. The setup is over and the story begins.

The Middle

Act two has peaks and pit falls. The protagonist will fail in his/her attempts at whatever their goal is. Because of this failure, the stakes are raised. The antagonist is always one step ahead. The protagonist will almost succeed, but not quite.

Plot Point Two

The antagonist makes a bold move to where the protagonist has nothing to lose. Maybe the killer captures the protagonist or a loved one.

The End

This is what we all have been waiting for; the climax. The clock is ticking; it’s all or nothing. Then, depending on your story, the protagonist saves the day. Of course, different stories will differ in how they end. Sometimes the antagonist wins and sometimes the audience just thinks the antagonist is dead, but slips through the cracks.

Writing for the screen can be difficult. I hope these simple tips will help get you started.

You can view my other articles at sharkness

Writing | Non-Fiction | How To


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