Combine The Two

There are two kinds of movie dialogue: Expository Dialogue & Action. Expository dialogue says something about your characters, and the who, what, why, how and where of the movie you’re writing. Action dialogue is what moves the plot forward. Your Task: Combine the two. Write a page of dialogue between two characters that exposes them and moves them to the next scene.

The Producer Calls

A producer calls you. He wants to see you work on the fly. He wants to see how creative and sharp you can be. Your task: Come up with 25 original movie titles in 10 minutes.

What Does It Take?

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.

Sherlock Holmes And Moriarty

Written/Contributed by Hal Ackerman

Do this with a writing friend. Each of you separately concoct a perfect crime: Circumstances, motive, execution, getaway. Perpetrator. Victim. Write it out in some detail.

Then exchange papers. Create a character who will solve this crime. How will the hole in the plan be discovered? By what means of detection?

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.
  • Editing Practice

    Editing our own scripts is sometimes wrought with our own defensiveness and inability to let go of what we originally put on the page. Practicing with other scripts can improve our skills and help us see that no matter how done we think a script is, it can always use a little more work. Your Task: Download and read someone else’s script. Answer these questions: What opportunities have the writers missed? What loose-ends have not been tied up? Does this seem important to the writer? Why or why not? How would you make this script better? Explain each element you would change in detail. To go even further, share your notes with someone who has read the script or seen the movie. What do they think of your comments?

    Fear

    Acknowledging our fears can release their grasp on our work.

    The Exercise

    A mind map is a visual display of images and words that flow from one to the next. To create one, draw a circle in the middle of a piece of paper. Write your topic in that circle. This is the center of your first hub. A hub is a collection of related words, thoughts or ideas. Thinking about the topic, brainstorm items around it. Then, grow your mind map by making any of the other words a hub and expanding on it.

    Create a mind map that centers around the topic “my fears”

    Journal

    What does fear look like in my writing life?

    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.

    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.

    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?

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