Creative Instruction

Beyond storytelling, the screenplay is a map for actors and filmmakers. The screenwriter conveys creative instruction through action elements in the script.

The Exercise

You’ll need a partner.

Partner A is to instruct partner B how to put on a shoe (preferably one with laces). To do this, partner B must take off one of their shoes. They are also to pretend that they have never seen a shoe, don’t know what it is and don’t know what its various parts are or do.

Partner A needs to explain the process of putting on a shoe. Partner A should do this verbally and without pointing at the parts of the shoe. Every part of the explanation should try to be clear, verbal and effective enough to get partner B to get that shoe on.

Journal

How can language create and shape action?

Letting It Get to Me

How do movies influence, change or effect us? How can 1 scene have so much staying power in our lives? I’ve seen it many times. Friends will refer to a specific scene from a movie to relate experiences in their lives. They’ll use scenes in movies to justify a decision. It goes on. Your Task: Watch your favorite scene of a movie. Freewrite for 20 minutes on anything that comes up.

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.

Outside

Let’s change place around and see how it affects everything.

The Exercise

Write (or find) a two-page scene that takes place outside, in the sunshine.
Rewrite it three times — once while it’s raining; once while it’s snowing; and once at night.

Brainstorming Structure

Explore structure.

The Exercise

Create a mind map to help you brainstorm the structure of an idea. Place your story idea in the center of the mind map, and see what comes out.

Character Descriptions

Here’s a test on creating effective character descriptions.

The Exercise

Pick ten characters you’ve seen in movies.
Write a 1-sentence description for each of them. Make it as accurate as possible.
Bring these descriptions to friends who have seen these movies. Can they guess who you’re referring to?

Place as Action

Have you ever seen Ghost in the Shell? There’s a contemplative movement in the second act where the main character watches the city go by. It’s a perfect example of place as action. The pensive main character is taken away by place in a moment that gives the viewer a chance to reflect on the action and philosophy in the movie. Are there other examples of place as action? Can place move the plot forward?

The Exercise

Brainstorm five movie scenes where place is a defining factor in the scene.

Turning Point

Usually, a movie’s plot is what draws me to it and its’ plot twists are what keep me there. Your Task: Watch 10 movies and identify the turning points in the plot. Answer these questions: How did these turning points happen? Was there a consistent theme from movie to movie?

Random Acts of Weirdness

Relieve writer’s block by finding new stories to tell. If you’re not planning your own adventure, check out weird stories from around the world.

The Exercise

Navigate to an online search engine and query “weird news”.
Pick a site, then a story.
Imagine the actions and dialogue that make this story a reality.
Write a two-page scene.

Plot Device

A plot device is a person or object in a story that is used to advance the plot. Your task: Identify the plot and at least one plot device in 5 movies.

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