Recently I received an email from someone who wants to begin the process of learning the craft of screenwriting. I started my response with the advice to use this blog as a free resource. After all, there are over 13,000 posts in the archives…
Then it dawned on me: How would a new writer even know where to begin going through those archives?
So this week, I will run a daily series aimed at those of you who might consider yourself to be a beginning screenwriter. I will provide links to five sets of resources on the blog you can use to develop a solid foundation in your learning process.
All for free.
Part 5: Scene-Writing
If you figure the average scene is one-and-a half to two pages long and a feature length screenplay ranges from 90–120 pages, that means when you sit down to write a script, you are confronted with the prospect of handling anywhere from sixty to ninety scenes. Looked at this way, it’s fair to say the most basic act of screenwriting is scene-writing.
So the practice of scene-writing is one critical component of the learning the screenwriting craft.
You can use several resources on Go Into The Story to help you do this.
Great Scenes: Go through the dozens and dozens of examples of notable scenes from a wide range of movies. All of the posts include excerpts from actual scripts, so you are seeing how a variety of writers approach scene-writing on the page.
Script To Screen: Over a hundred more examples of noteworthy scenes, again from a diverse set of movies. I chose these scenes specifically to compare what is on the page and what is on the screen, as this is a key part of learning how to write scenes at a professional level. That process — studying a written scene and its movie version — is important.
Scene Description Spotlight: Yet more examples of movie scenes, these with a focus on the language of scene (or action) description. Here you want to embrace imagematic writing, using strong verbs and vivid descriptors to paint word pictures in the mind of the reader. Also think poetry more than prose, lean yet evocative language.
My advice: (1) Break down each scene into its Beginning, Middle and End to get a handle on scene structure. (2) Consider what the function of each character is within the scene. (3) Zero in on the conflict or tension at the center of the scene. (4) Look for subtext in the dialogue and underlying intentions for any actions characters commit.
All of that is about script analysis. How about putting what you learn into action?
Scene-Writing Exercises: Twenty exercises you can do to test your hand at a variety of different types of scenes. Plus if you check out comments, you can see dozens of writers who have posted hundreds of scenes to analyze how others have handled the exercises.
Scenes are the building blocks of a screenplay. The more you become comfortable writing them, developing an instinct for them so when you sit down to write, you feel your way through the process, the better off you’ll be.
That’s it, a five-day journey into a way to go about upping your understanding the craft from the point of a beginner and links to hundreds and hundreds of resources on this blog.
If you have any thoughts or comments, please consider taking a few minutes to post them in comments. If you are a beginning writer, I’d love to hear from you and learn about your background, interests and aspirations.
The path to becoming a professional screenwriter is an arduous one and extremely competitive. To maximize your chances, a new writer needs solid information grounded in the realities of working in Hollywood’s front lines as well as a pragmatic form of inspiration.
You can find both here at Go Into The Story.
If you enjoyed the series, I’d appreciate if you’d take minute or so to let me know in comments or send me a quick email.
To read all of the posts in this series, go here.
Since a few people have inquired, I’ll do one post next week about how you can use this blog is you are an intermediate level screenwriter.
[Originally posted November 15, 2013]
UPDATE: There are actually over 18,000 posts on this site. Tons of information. All free! Use the Google search engine and archives to explore virtually any subject about the craft of writing.
There are actually 40 more scene-writing exercises on the site now:
Screenwriting is scene-writing. Get on it!