What If?

It’s been said that a writers’ main tool is the question, “What if?” With this simple query, we can explore any ordinary event’s limitless plot possibilities. Your task: Get a copy of today’s newspaper. Read 5 articles with our question in mind. What if she stole the money? What if those soldiers were plotting something? What if that man was lying? Write out one movie idea for each article you read.

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)

Can't Stand It

I was talking to a grocery store clerk about writing the other day, when he asked, “How do you write about characters that you can’t stand?” I responded with saying, “finding compassion for our characters gives us the ability to understand them more which helps when we write their lives.” Your task: Pick a person you dislike. Write a 1-page synopsis for a plot based on their life as a hero’s journey.

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.

Journal

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

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.

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?

Random Acts of Weirdness

Relieve writer’s block by finding new stories to tell. If you’re not planning your own adventure, check out weird stories from around the world.

The Exercise

Navigate to an online search engine and query “weird news”.
Pick a site, then a story.
Imagine the actions and dialogue that make this story a reality.
Write a two-page scene.

Genres

Written/Contributed by Hal Ackerman

Two cars, a sports car and an SUV arrive at the same parking spot. Write the scene or sequence of scenes in
a. A Romantic Comedy
b. An Action Adventure
c. A Film Noir mystery
d. Science Fiction

You may change the vehicles and characters inhabiting them as you please.

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.

What Do You Like?

You can learn a thing or two about the way you write by delving into what you like.

The Exercise

Identify your favorite scene of all time.
Get that movie and watch the scene.

Journal

Let go and write for 10 minutes about the scene.
Why do you like it so much?
What does it bring up for you?
How has it influenced you?

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