How to become a screenwriter – A Complete Guide

“The most ordinary word, when put into place, suddenly acquires brilliance. That is the brilliance with which your images must shine.” – Robert Bresson. 

Everyone has a story to tell. Building a complete story with a unique narrative and not describing the characters’ feelings doesn’t always come naturally to everyone. Screenwriting is the process of writing down movements, actions, dialogue and expressions of a character that is built into a convincing narrative and conveyed through visual storytelling. With the rise in more and more OTT platforms, the art of screenwriting has become highly in demand. Every writer wants to make a movie and get recognised and represented. But remember, with an abundance of opportunities comes unimaginable competition. 

So, becoming a successful screenplay writer does not have to be you sitting for weeks together trying to crack the perfect script. With the proper creative habits and practices up your sleeves, you will be able to develop the skills necessary to captivate and engage your audience. Here are a few ways you can be a step ahead of other writers! 

  1. Learn the format

While there is no one standard format for storytelling, there are a few things that always enhance your scripts and make you stand out amongst a room full of writers. One of the first things one has to remember is the 3C’s of writing:  

Clear. Concise. Consistent. 

Remember that making a movie is a collaborative process, and writing is the first step towards it. So it’s highly crucial that you convey your story in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. Once you have written the first draft of your new script, ensure that you proofread it once to ensure that it is concise. Nobody likes a movie that has unnecessary dialogues and narratives. The last thing you want to check is the pacing of your script. Unlike a book or novel, you have two hours of screen time for an entire story. And since it’s a visual medium, it is essential to keep a consistent pace to capture the audience’s attention throughout the movie. 

  1. Screenwriting 101

You have the perfect story for your next movie. The characters are ready, the basic script is done, and you’re all set to start writing the screenplay. If you are a traditional writer who works on novels and articles, writing this requires you to think differently. Here are some technical things one must include while screenwriting. 

  • Screen heading

It is a one-line description of the location, time & day of your story. Writing this will provide a clear visual picture to the director making the movie. 

  • Action 

This explains the actions that are going on in a scene. It can be both with a character or just things that will appear on the screen. 

For example; 

We see a carefree little boy running towards an ice cream stall across a road with bustling traffic.

  • Transitions 

All the transitions from one location to another, every single cut on the screen must be mentioned when writing for a movie. Writing this down will help in the post-production process of the film. Common transitions are cut to the next scene, closing take, introduction etc. 

  • Character & Dialogue

This is to identify the person speaking and all the other characters in the scene. While writing a character, most screenwriters often use extensions that describe where a person is if they can’t be seen. 

Along with this, the words that a character says are written. 

  • Shots 

An essential part of writing for a movie is visualising how it will look on the screen. While deciding the exact shots is a director’s call, noting the perspective, object/character of focus and the other things are a writer’s call. 

For example; 

We see a slow-motion shot of a ball falling down the stairs. 

Cut to 

(Over the shoulder shot)

A little boy is happily chasing his ball down the stairs. 

  1. Must-have qualities

To succeed in the entertainment industry as a screenwriter, one must have the following qualities that one should possess in order to make a script into a movie. Here are some of them; 

  • Professionalism 

In any profession that involves effective communication, having a professional demeanour is always beneficial when meeting producers and collaborating with the directors and executives. The most basic things like being punctual, communicating politely and showing respect will make you a better professional. 

  • Self-discipline

Traditionally, every writer has a process to inculcate the habit of writing every single day. But since this is not a traditional nine-to-four industry, keeping certain time constraints and meeting deadlines on time are among the things one must learn. 

  • Persistence 

Rome was not built in a day. So was every screenwriting career. In this competitive world, it can sometimes take years to become successful. But being persistent and patient will take you a long way as you have ample time to enhance your skills, continue networking, and constantly work on new projects.  

  1. Watch more movies 

Nothing can help you become a better screenwriter as much as a good movie. Cinema not only transports you to another world but also helps you gain more experience and a deeper understanding of how writing for movies works. So, next time you’re watching a film, look at it from a writer’s perspective, read interviews and try to gain more insights by reading screenplays of famous movies! 

  1. Never stop writing 

Write every single day. Approach your work with a new challenge every day, and try to conquer it. One way you can challenge yourself is to use a wide range of writing prompts from the internet and complete an entire story with it. Along with it, develop good writing habits that will help strengthen your craft and dedicate a specific time each day when you only sit and write. 

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to start chasing your passion by writing the next big blockbuster. Hope these tips help kickstart your screenwriting process. Happy writing!

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