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The Five Most Important Screenplay Writing Tips

Author: sajad Ahmed

Many fledgling screenwriters can become over ambition when attempting to write their first screenplay. Sometimes it's best to master the basics first; only when the rules have been mastered, can they be bent or broken. A writer, during the initial process of developing a feature screenplay, should consider the below five tips; they can potentially lead to the development of a better, more marketable final product.

Know Who is Telling the Story

Before diving into writing a fully fledged screenplay, it's important a screenwriter knows who the protagonist of the story is. Always ask 'Whose story is this?' A film's audience will always enter the storyline of a film via the main character and follow their - journey'. This approach is almost instinctual and viewers are set up to embrace a story in this manner from a young age. For this reason writers need to make it clear whose story the audience is engaging in; otherwise viewers will often be left emotionally distant from the experience. Ensemble and multi-character films like The Player or Pulp Fiction are an exception to this rule, but these types of films use intertwining storylines as their protagonist and they do so very cleverly; it takes a great amount of experience and knowledge of story structure to pull this type of screenplay off.

Give the Protagonist a Clear Goal

It may seem frustratingly simplistic, but think of any recent movie and, when pared down to its basic elements, it will be clear the film is about someone wanting something: in short the protagonist has a goal and the film is about the journey to define and achieve that goal. This is how the audience becomes hooked and stays interested: they're watching to see if the lead character achieves their goal, and how. This goal, whether to win the love of an attractive stranger or survive when lost deep in the jungle, generally is dual layered: there's the practical surface layer, and the emotional subjugated layer. For example, on the surface the protagonist will be trying to escape from the jungle, but emotionally they'll be trying to overcome their paralysing fear of being alone. Every time the protagonist succeeds in getting closer to their goal, they should be changed on both a practical and emotional level.

Define the Obstacles to the Protagonists Goal

A film is nothing without tension. Tension is what keeps the audience interested, and managing tension is crucial to successfully creating an intriguing film. Once a protagonist has a goal to work towards, it's time to add obstacles to challenge them. When a character meets and handles (or mishandles) an obstacle is where tension is created and essentially is where - story' happens. Each obstacle the protagonist faces should be more and more challenging, forcing that character to have to dig deeper into their personal reserves to overcome this struggle. It's this struggle the audience will find so engaging.

Add Crucial Turning Points and Plot Twists

Film goers are experienced at seeking out and foreseeing basic plot twists in movies from a lifetime of viewing. The challenge a screenwriter faces is to create believable and intriguing plot twists that throw the audience off guard while drawing them into the inner sanctum of the story. There can be any number of twists in a story, although a minimum of two is ideal; usually a good story sets up audience expectation and then trips them up at a crucial moment, turning the story in a new direction and renewing the audience's interest in the overall journey. Plot twists are also important as they add drama to a story that might otherwise become predictable and monotonous.

Before Starting a Screenplay Decide on the Ending

It an old story clich - : mystery writers start with the ending and work their way back, using their knowledge of the outcome to develop the details within the plot and keep their audience guessing at every stage. This rule should be consistent across all long forms of story writing, and is paramount in developing a feature screenplay. A good screenplay is all about that final impact and the impression it leaves on the audience. Typically everything that happens in a screen story should have an impact on the story's eventual ending and each moment of the film should be working towards that ending, to give the finale meaning, reverence and a lasting effect on the audience. When it comes to writing, knowledge truly is power.

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