Let’s practice developing plots. Your Task: Take a movie that you’re working on that uses the 3-act structure. If you don’t have one, download a screenplay online. Identify plot point 1 and brainstorm 25 other possible scenarios.
Written/Contributed by Hal Ackerman
What is the thing or person that irks you most. Lawn
sprinklers that spot your car? TV Ads? War? Politics? People who apply
makeup while driving?
Write a furious diatribe against it. Attack it. Lacerate it. Vent your
spleen. This will be the document that ends the thing that you hate.
When you have done, write PART 2. With equal commitment, honesty, depth,
passion and insight, be an advocate for the issue you have just attacked.
If it was a person, write his/her character piece about you.
What changes in your scenes when you reduce or expand them? Screenwriting books almost unanimously call for an economy of words — choosing your words wisely and using less to say more. Practice this. Your Task: Come up with a scene from a movie and write 3 versions of the same scene. Write the first one using a 1/2 page; the second one with 1 1/2 pages; and the third one using 3 pages.
Use transformational moments in your life to explore screenwriting structure.
List three transformational moments in your life.
Pick one incident and answer these questions:
What was your life like before the transformation?
What took place during the transformation?
What were the obstacles to transforming (both internal and external)?
How did you face these obstacles?
Name the people involved in this transformation.
What were their roles in your transformation?
What happened to them because of this transformation?
What was the outcome for you?
Create an outline of the specific incidents that occurred before, during and after this transformational experience.
Visualize a movie with each of these specific incidents as a scene in your movie.
What do I think about my movie? What am I leaving out? What can I add to make it more powerful?
Let’s change place around and see how it affects everything.
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.
Expository dialogue builds our characters personality. It gives the audience a chance to learn more about who our character is. For example, in the movie “Adaptation,” much of the voice over that is used is built as an internal monologue that gives the audience an idea of the main character, Charlie’s intense inner critic. Your Task: Identify one scene in a movie where expository dialogue is used. Now, write your own 1-page scene that involves this kind of dialogue.
Your agent just called. You’ve got a meeting with a major studio exec in half an hour. Your problem: You haven’t written the pitch yet. Your task: Pick the best movie you saw this month. Pretend it hasn’t come out or been sold yet. In half-an-hour, write a one-paragraph synopsis, a one-sentence log line, and two movie titles you can compare it to (for example: It’s Rambo meets Bambi).
What internal or external forces impede your ability to write? Our capacity to understand and permeate these forces can build our power as a writer.
List 10 things that stop you from being the writer you want to be.
Brainstorm three possible solutions for overcoming each obstacle on your list.
Plan a date on your calendar to work on one of these solutions.
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.
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?
Adding depth and balance to your characters will create a richer story.
Write a one-page essay about the emotional life of an over-the-top character from a comedy that you’ve seen.
Create a “Ten things I do for fun…” list for a character from a moving drama.