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.
  • 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?

    A Series of…

    Want to understand your character’s life? Create a timeline that details the major events in it.

    The Exercise

    Pick a character from something you’re writing.
    How old are they now?

    Make a timeline that spans from birth to their current age.
    Notate major positive or negative impacting events in their life.
    Write a sentence or short paragraph describing each event.


    From your character’s perspective: My life is a series of…

    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.

    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.

    Place & The Economy of Words

    When I’m writing a story, I like to get descriptive. When I’m writing a screenplay, I try to narrow that long-winded drive into shorter sentences with fewer words. This gives the production crew an easier time in bringing the script to screen.

    The Exercise

    Go somewhere you want to write about.
    List ten words that describe this place.
    Narrow it down to three that truly capture the essence.
    Write one descriptive sentence that shows where you are.

    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.

    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.


    Sometimes, seeing where other people have taken an idea can inspire us with new ways to develop our own. Your task: Make a list of five things you are passionate about. Identify as many movies you can think of that cover the first item on your list. Do a 5-minute free-write with the starting sentence, “Stories can be…”

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