Has It Been Done?

When developing an idea, two good questions to ask are: Has this been done before? If so, how is my project unique? Your Task: Research your idea. Check out the IMdB search function and do a word search in the “plots” category. This will search the plot summaries of the movies within the database.

Editing for Character Consistency

Sometimes we get so into the challenge of finishing our screenplays that we forget to go back and make sure our characters have a consistent voice. Your Task: Read a screenplay that you or someone else wrote. Get into the mindset of one character and read it thinking of them. While you read, consider what’s awkward, what’s natural, what their voice is and if it’s being followed throughout. How is the character real or superficial? What could make them more consistent?

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.

Tarrantino Exercise

Written/Contributed by Hal Ackerman

1.Open the phone book Yellow Pages to two random pages, and select two businesses. Move two characters from Point A to Point B by whatever means you invent. Invent a good reason for the journey. Reveal that intent skillfully. If it’s huge, understate it. If it’s trivial, exaggerate.

2. Pick one of the following topics and write a dialogue scene between those two characters, exploring and disputing the topic fully.
a. Standard shift vs. automatic transmission
b. Leaf blowers
c. Teeth
d. Class seating on airplanes
e. Vegetarianism
f. Paying for cable TV
g. Burning CDs
h. Any other mundane topic in the world.

As in every good scene, use the interchange not only to explore the issue, but in doing so, reveal who the characters are, individually and in their relationship to each other.

3. Orchestrate part 2 into part 1 and write a sequence of scenes.

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.

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?

Write A Rant

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.

Being The Writer I Want To Be

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.

The Exercise

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.

Feedback: Out Loud

The first time I had my screenplay read out loud, I immediately knew many of the things that had to change. Try it! Your Task: Get hold of a finished screenplay. Get a group of people (at least 2 others). Assign parts to each person and read the screenplay out loud. Finished? Now, have each person do a 10-minute freewrite answering the following questions: What are my impressions of this work? What do I wish was in it? What am I glad that was included? Share.