The 3-Act Structure

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.

The Exercise

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?

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.

A Brave New World

Science fiction movies create new worlds for audiences to partake in. Identifying and showing the rules for these worlds are important tasks when explaining the plot.

The Exercise

Write a three-page science fiction script.
Before you begin, identify two rules for your new world. For example, is there gravity?
Make up the rules and write your script around them.

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.

In The Bedroom

Written/Contributed by Hal Ackerman

Two people are in bed. A siren or alarm is heard. Or the phone rings. Or a doorbell. WRITE THE SCENE.

You will have to ask yourself: Who are these people? Who are they to each other? What are the immediate circumstances? How does the alarm affect them? What do they do? Are they at cross-purposes? How so?

Place ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances or extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances.

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?

24 hours

You’ve been hired by a major motion picture company to do a re-write on a screenplay that’s in pre-production. And, you have 24 hours to do it. Your task: Download a script for one of your favorite movies. Re-write the ending in the next 24-hours.

Exposition

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.

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.

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?

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