How to plan and write a good screenplay that movie producers and film-makers can buy

Here are a few questions you need to show answers to help you plan and write a screenplay
  • Do you have a good story?
  • Have you created your characters? 
  • What's your hero's internal conflict like?
  • What's your hero's external conflict like? 
  • Are both the internal and external conflicts affecting each other? 
  • What impacts do both the internal and external conflicts have on the hero, the villain, and their adherents? 
  • Do you have effective support for your hero? 
  • How will the hero finally overcome the villain? 
  • Do you have thrilling moments that can excite the audience? 
  • Did you create an 'ending' that can never be forgotten so easily? 
  • Have you organized your story? 
  • Have you given your characters the best look? 
  • Do you need to shorten or increase the length of the story in order to get a short or long screenplay?
  • Are you ready to write now? 
Once you can show/provide positive answers to all the questions above, you are already having a screenplay.

Now, below, let's analyze how you can build answers to the questions. It will help you plan and write your screenplay.

  • Get a story
Develop a beautiful story. A story that arouses the different feelings of its audience is a beautiful story.
A beautiful story is a story which is rare, mysterious, incredible yet convincing, touching, culture diverse and multidimensional.
Create your story from a raw idea
so it can stand out from the rest, and that will make it a beautiful story. A raw idea is that idea only you can generate if you search your heart very well. It's a result of all the experiences you encounter in you daily life.

  • You may not bother about creating your characters yet
In the course of all the other steps below, your characters (the hero, the villain, the supporting characters and the rest) would have created themselves. All you would need to do at the end is to refine them and give them the qualities and characteristics that would best suit the story and the screenplay.

  • Create the internal conflicts  
The internal conflicts are for the supposed hero/the main character.
(Remember the characters have not been fully created. The proposals being put up are just tentative for now).
Just go ahead and create the internal conflicts. Internal conflicts are simply those impediments that affects the hero's ability to put up a tremendous fight against the external conflict which is caused by the villain. Internal conflicts are usually the personal, family or communal problems or issues which are encountered by the hero. Read more on internal conflicts here and here

  • Create the external conflict 
External conflict is the main bone of contention in a story.
This is where the thrills and impact  of a movie lies.
It is the main fight/competition between the hero and the villain.
For a story, a screenplay or a movie to be ..., the external conflict must be 'tough'
External conflict is the heart of the story or movie. It is what holds down an audience. Once the external conflict is described to an audience, their understanding and interest about the story or movie is affected.
A movie is thrilling and entertaining once it has a two or three group in competition for a course. This competition is the external.
An audience, in order to ascertain what the thrills of a movie is like, they ask questions such as: What's the matter? What's the contention? What are they fighting for? What's at stake?
Once a writer can answer these questions, the external conflict in his story is established.
Read more on external conflicts here

  • Make both the internal and external conflicts depend on each other
The internal should affect the external and vice versa.
Let the internal always thwart the fight against the external.
Also let the fight against the external help expose the existence of the internal.
Again, let the external when fought and conquered help solve completely the internal, and vice versa.
With an illustration, it's just like in a situation where a well grown brilliant coward thought he could use his intelligence to outwit and eliminate his fathers greatest enemy, but little did he know that the enemy was as brilliant as he is. The only remedy was bravery after it was discovered that the enemy too was a weakling when it comes to real physical fight. The well grown man is a coward, so in order to win the enemy whom is a weakling, he must get back home and pick up some courage.
To analyse this, the grown man's internal conflict is cowardice. And again, he didn't know cowardice could thwart his fight against a villain. When it was discovered that the villain is also as intelligent as he is, he had to find another means of fighting him - and that's real face-to-face fight. He needs some courage to engage in this fight, thus he had to first of all settle his internal conflict - cowardice.
So after he would have conquered the enemy, his internal problem, cowardice would have been checked. This is how internal and external conflicts depend on each other.

  • Develop the impacts and effects of the conflicts on both the hero and the villain, and on their respective adherents
The hero's lovely people and supporters, as well as those of the villain must feel the pains and gains of the ongoing conflicts; as the case may be.

  • Create a support, a guide, a counsellor, a friend or a helper for the supposed hero
This help or support would come from the supposed
supporting characters. They are a very important friend to the hero, and they are the ones who may guide the hero to conquer the villain.

  • Create the escape route, a way out for the hero to conquer the villain
Apart from the hero having a guide, a counsellor, or putting a check to his internal conflicts, there should be a means either tactically designed or by a divine intervention through which he will finally escape or defeat the villain.
This is the turning point, that final moments the hero makes the courageous moves, after he has solved his internal conflicts and counselled by his counsellor, to defend, escape and conquer the villain.

  • Develop exciting moments
Moments after moments, that's how a scene goes by. And scene after scene, that's how a story goes by. What makes an audience love a story is the exciting moments therein.
To develop exciting moments, let every dialogues and actions by the characters take the audience by surprise.

  • Develop a good ending
Let the end be unforgettable. All the characters in the story must be affected at the end. Their

  • Sharpen your story
(i) Install your theme properly.
The theme is the message has to send to the audience.
(ii) Organize the Plot.
There must be a sequence. The three act structure (The beginning, The climax and The End) of a story which makes a typical screenplay must be in place
(iii) Define the setting:
There must be a defined setting.
(iv) Set up the Locations and timings

  • Sharpen your characters
By now, the whole characters would have been created based on the story build-up so far. Now they need to be refined and redesigned to fit in properly.
To do this, take time and point out all the characters you encountered as you were observing all those procedures above. Write them out and identify all the roles they played in the course of the procedures. This will help you finetune their monologues and dialogues, recreate the behaviours and restructure their physical make-up.

  • Decide the length of your story/screenplay 
It's very easy to keep your story at a particular desired length. All you need to do is to adjust the frequency of events, the time it will take a particular course to be achieved, the number of characters, number of actions and the different dimensions involved in each of the points already listed above. 

  • Start writing things down, in prose form first of all
Before arriving at this point, you would have scribbled some things down. Now put those things together and create a content. Make it your screenplay in prose form. And make it sequential; let it have a well defined beginning and a befitting ending.

  • Start writing your screenplay now! 
You are now free and qualified to write your screenplay. It's going to be very easy now. The only thing is just to get the format for a screenplay and start building your own screen from the prose you've created.
The format is based on writing the screenplay using the proper formating guidelines of the elements of screenplay.

See the elements of a screenplay and their formating below.

SCENE HEADING 
Formating:- Flush left from the edge of the paperSee example here
(i) Scene heading describes where and when a particular scene is taking place. It consists of the exact location (either interior or exterior of that location), and the exact time at which the actions in that scene hold.
(ii) You have to write the scene heading in such a way a screenplay reader sees himself right inside the scene. This happens when the scene heading is descriptive enough.
Read more on formating scene heading here.

ACTION
Formating:- Same as the scene heading
(i) Write the actions as they should appear on tv screen. This means your verbs must be in present tense.
(ii) Use actionable words
(iii) Active voice
(iv) Use transitive verbs except in quoted words or references
(v) All actions must be written in real time as they occur.
(vi) Avoid using indirect descriptions, figurative expressions, phrasal verbs. Just be go straight to the point.
For instance instead of using 'she looks like the morning star' Use 'she is beautiful' or 'she looks gorgeous''

CHARACTER NAME
Formating:- Indented 3.5 from left margin
Read more on formating character name here.

DIALOGUE
Formating:- Indented 2.5 from the left margin
Read more on formating dialogue here.

PARENTHETICAL
Formating:- Left indented 3.0 and right margin 3.5

EXTENSIONS (O.S, V.O) 
Formating:- S.O. directly to the right of character name. 
V.O., same as in O.S

TRANSITION (cut to) 
Formating:- left margin is 6.5. 
(i) It follows action and precede Scene heading
Read more on formating transition here.

SHOT (angle on, insert) 
Formating:- As in scene heading
Read more on formating shots here.

DUAL DIALOGUE 
Formating:- Side by side normal dialogue
Read more on formating dual dialogues here

ADLIBS
Formating:- In action line or normal dialogue
Read more on formating adlibs here.

ABBREVIATIONS (M.O.S, C.G.I, P.O.V)
Formating:- In action line

MONTAGES
Formating:- as a single shot)
(i) Series of scenes related and building to one conclusion
Read more on formating montages here.

SERIES OF SHOTS  
Formating:- as shot, action paragraphs
(i) Similar to montage, but takes place in one location and concerns same story

SHORT LINES/POETRY/LYRICS 
Formating:- song lyrics is a dialogue but in caps
Read more on formating poetry, lyrics, rhymes here.

INTERCUTS
Used instead of repeating scene heading
Read more on formating intercuts here.

FLASHBACKS
Read more on formating flashbacks here.

DREAM SEQUENCE
Read more on formating dream sequence here

You can read more generally on how to format a screenplay here.


Written by: Winston 'Winny Greazy' Oge

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