Rewriting Genre

Taking a movie out of the genre it was written for can be an excellent lesson in understanding what a genre is.

The Exercise

Re-write your favorite scene from a movie as if it were part of

  • A western
  • A horror film
  • A science fiction film.
  • Defense Against the Critics

    Can you defend the choices you’ve made in your own writing? Try it. Your Task: Take a screenplay that you’ve written. Pick out the major plot points and defend your decisions for the way you’ve written them. Write a short essay detailing the decisions you’ve made for the plot of your story and defend these choices against potential criticism.

    The 3-Act Structure

    The three-act structure has been one of the most influential tools for screenplay development. An understanding of its history and applicability is essential to the burgeoning screenwriter.

    The Exercise

    Write a four-page essay on the three-act structure. Where did it come from? What is it and how is it used? What are some of the challenges against it? What are some of the movies that use it? Has it developed over time? How?

    Rule Breaking

    Written/Contributed by Hal Ackerman

    In a series of one-line (or at most, two lines) impressions, make a litany of all the times you “broke the rules,” Lied, cheated, stole, set fire, pilfered, prevaricated, deceived. (eg: Poisoned my sister’s gold fish. Enjoyed it. Took joy rides in the family car at age 14 while parents were in hospital.

    b. Extract the juiciest of all those incidents. Write it as a story, in prose. However long it takes — a page, 10 pages.

    c. How would you adapt it to a screen story? Make a running order of the scenes. Would you need to invent other scenes to dramatize events that were mentioned in the prose version? How would a movie audience know who the characters were and what was important to them?

    24 hours

    You’ve been hired by a major motion picture company to do a re-write on a screenplay that’s in pre-production. And, you have 24 hours to do it. Your task: Download a script for one of your favorite movies. Re-write the ending in the next 24-hours.

    How To Write A Scene

    One of the best ways to learn is to practice! Your Task: Read Screenwriter John August’s blog entry, “How To Write A Scene.” Following the instructions (minus step 11), grab an article from today’s news and write it into a movie scene.

    Ten People

    Running low on our own ideas creates the best motivation to ask our friends. Your task: Pick ten people you know and write a brief character description for each of them. Ask each of them what one defining moment in their lives was, and one character trait that changed in that moment. Write this as a character ark. For each character, write a paragraph-long plot summary for this event.

    New Information

    Research is a great way to learn more about our characters. Your Task: Pick a subject that your character is familiar with that you might not know much about. Research and list 15 facts on that subject.

    The Hero's Journey

    A Hero is often considered to be someone who was born with extraordinary talents and abilities. But are heroes really superior beings? I think not. In my opinion, heroes are everyday people who take on challenging obstacles to reach noble goals. Everyone has been or will be a hero in their lifetime. Your task: Write a 1-page synopsis of your life as a hero’s journey. Identify the goal you’re working toward and 3 challenges faced. Craft this synopsis in a creative way, telling your story interestingly.

    Someone Else's Action

    “In describing action, don’t let it take longer to read than it would to do it on screen.”
    - Hal Ackerman (Screenwriter, Author and Professor)

    The Exercise

    Watch an action movie of your choice.
    Pick one scene and write the action elements using as few words as possible.

    creative screenwriting exercises (Get the book for all 101 exercises)