Happily Ever After

Let’s use the ending of a film to practice creating scenes. Your Task: Pick a movie – any movie. After watching it, jot down 4 alternate possibilities for an ending. Now, pick one of your 4 new finales and use standard screenplay format to write out one of these endings.

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?

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.

Character Autobiography

Written/Contributed by Hal Ackerman

Write the full name of your character down the left side of a page, one successive letter on each line. On each line, write a true statement about the character (or from his/her voice) beginning the first word of each line with each successive letter of the character?ǂÄôs name. So for a character named Holmeyer:

He lives with a rabbit
Open hearted
Loves bridges
Means well
Ebbs when he should flow
Yearns for love
Even tempered
Runs from life

Try it with all your main characters. (Try it with your own name)

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.

An Example of Place

Examining how others view and use place will give us a better idea of how we can use it to strengthen our stories.

The Exercise

Watch a movie set in a country that was made by someone who’s not from there.
Watch two movies set in the same country made by people who are from there.

Journal

How is place perceived and setup differently?

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?

Outside

Let’s change place around and see how it affects everything.

The Exercise

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.

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)