Welcome to DAY SIX in the thirty days to a first draft screenwriting thread.
A strong DESIRE is important in developing a good story. Today you’re going to write in your character’s voice. You’re going to have them talk about what they want most in the world.
In musicals, this is called “THE I WANT SONG”
Dorothy dreams of being anywhere but in Kansas
Hamilton dreams of doing something great in “my shot”
Elsa dreams of getting away from everyone so she can stop being repressed and just let it go.
The story is strong because right off the bat the audience knows what the character wants, why and what they might be willing to do to get it.
Movies have I want songs too. Olive in little Miss Sunshine wants to be a beauty pageant winner. The Batman wants to find a way to change Gotham City. Inception’s Cobb wants to find a way to get back to his children. Woody wants to be Andy’s one and only.
The strong desire of the character is what drives them.
Write a page monologue of your character talking about what they want, why, and how they are going to get it. This sets the stakes for the story.
When you’re done, do the same for your MAIN ANTAGONIST.
Now you know what they want, you have an outline for act one, conflict, a setting, stakes. It’s time to start writing. Tomorrow.
Welcome to DAY FIVE in the thirty days to a first draft screenwriting thread.
Now is where the NOTECARDS are put to use.
Find an area where you can lay out the Notecards and find an order to them.
You can lay them out on a table to start. Or you might tack them to a corkboard if you have one, but the table is good. You are going to place the cards in the order you think they come in.
You should start to see the story forming. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know it all yet. We only want to outline up until the End of act ONE, or PLOT POINT ONE. We will stop between each act to outline some more as we go.
You can download the outline I use HERE.
Lay out the plot points for act one. Here’s what you need to figure out:
An opening image, This could be something poetic that hints at the larger themes of the movie. The ordinary world stage. This is where we meet the character and see their everyday world. The INCITING INCIDENT. The event that kicks off the story. Then they will be called to take some action to change their life. They’ll refuse at first, and then something will force them to do it anyway. That is PLOT POINT ONE.
You can check out my video on Three-act structure for more guidance, But only worry about act one right now.
Welcome to DAY THREE in the thirty days to a first draft screenwriting thread.
Yesterday we found the protagonist, and today, we’ll work on THE ANTAGONIST.
Your antagonist is the ENGINE of the story. They are the one that provide the obstacles for the protagonist. You need a strong Antagonist to make the story work. In fact, you need several.
In the book, The ANATOMY of story, John Truby suggests four-point antagonism. This means the Protagonist sits at one corner and is opposed by three other antagonists.
For example: Take THE BIG LEBOWSKI.
The DUDE has his main antagonist, THE BIG LEBOWSKI. But that is not enough he also has
THE NIHILISTS that have kidnapped poor bunny Lebowski, and most important of all, he has WALTER, his best friend and absolute relentless psychopath. Walter is the who feeds the Dude the most significant obstacles. Sometimes having you antagonist right next to the hero is the most interesting choice.
Draw a diagram of your antagonists and put your hero at one corner, and the three opposition characters at the other end of the rectangle.
Finally, you’ll want to write about your antagonist. Start with your MAIN ANTAGONIST. What motivates them? What quirks do they have? Physical attributes? How do they dress? What do they want?
Write about them for five minutes straight. Do the same for the other protagonists.
If you want more ideas on creating the antagonist check out this video here….
Tomorrow we’ll use these ideas to brainstorm a plot. HOMEWORK: You’ll need INDEX CARDS For tomorrow’s task. Pick up a pack of 100 cards. Maybe get the color coded ones in case you want to get fancy. You can get them at any drug store.I’ll see you tomorrow.
Welcome to DAY TWO in the thirty days to a first draft screenwriting thread.
Today we’re going to create the protagonist. Your protagonist or hero is the one who needs to carry the movie, so they better be interesting as hell.
You need to pick the most interesting protagonist possible.
One trick is to pick someone who is ill-suited for the job at hand. For example: Let’s go back to the GODFATHER,Remember the logline: The task is, after Don Corleone is shot you must take over the family business and root out your enemies.
You could make this movie with Sonny (James Caan’s Character) as the main character and it’d still be a good movie, but it wouldn’t be great. Sonny is suited for the job he’s a violent tough guy and criminal.
What makes it great as they pick MICHAEL instead. Micheal wants nothing to do with the family business he’s rejected his father’s lifestyle. This is what makes him a great protagonist. This also brings in a sense of irony that makes the story so fascinating, We’re going to take Michael, a man who rejects the mafia and is against everything it stands for, and turn him into the godfather
So pick your protagonist. Give him a name even if it’s just a temporary one. No time to labor over decisions like this. You can always change it later. That’s what find & replace is for.
Write about your protagonist for a couple of paragraphs. What do they do for a living? What are their flaws? What drives them? What is their philosophy? Do they have any unique physical attributes?
Now surround them with the supporting cast. Does the character have a BEST FRIEND? A MOTHER and Father? An antagonist? An inner antagonist–that’s someone who appears to be on their side but opposes them. Do they have a mentor? A boss? A love interest? List out your cast and give everybody a name. Again, don’t wait to name them. That will always stall you.Write about each person and make bold decisions about who they should be.
It can be helpful to cast them. Grab pictures on the internet of actors you’d like to use to play the character. Or use your friends. It can be a short cut that kickstarts your imagination to base characters on people you know or actors you like.
If you want more ideas on creating a character, check out this video on Creating Characters using great Television icons.
Now you have your cast. Tomorrow we’ll add an ANTAGONIST.
Welcome to DAY ONE in the thirty days to a first draft screenwriting thread.
The first few days will be spent outlining and planning.
We’re going to write a logline or elevator pitch. I always start with this, because if you can’t write an elevator pitch then you don’t know what you are writing. You’ll also use this all the time. Contests will ask you for one and when anyone asks you what your screenplay is about, you should be able to rattle it off in one minute.
A good logline has four elements:
Who your protagonist is.
What is the inciting Incident, this is the event that kicks the story off.
What is their goal?
And finally, what makes it difficult? This could be a dilemma or could be the cause of the conflict.
So for example: Let’s take the THE GODFATHER.
How do we describe the protagonist? Michael Corleone. The reluctant son of a Mafia Crime boss.
What happens to him? His father is shot and injured, leaving Michael to take over the family.
What is his goal? To root out his father’s enemies.
And finally.. what makes it hard. What creates a dilemma?
What makes The Godfather interesting is Michael wants nothing to do with organized crime. This creates an irony.
Let’s put it all together now…
Michael Corleone is the son of mafia crime boss who wants nothing to do with the criminal world. When the Godfather is shot, Michael must take over the family and root out his father’s enemies.
That’s 35 words. You want to keep it under 50. The contests all ask for a logline and they always want it under 50.
So write down a logline for your film using the four elements:
One. Who your protagonist is? Two: What happens to them. Three: What’s their goal? Four: what brings the conflict. If you know these four things you can begin writing.
We’re going to write a screenplay in thirty steps/ thirty days. Most of the prompts can be done in an hour or less. The days are broken up into chapters so you can bookmark these prompts and hit one a day.
9 days will be spent on brainstorming and that leaves 21 days for the actual writing, that means you’ll need to write 4-5 pages a day to get a ninety to one-hundred and ten pages of screenplay done. Screenplays are mostly white space, so 4-5 pages is not a lot of words. You can do this.
The first thing you need to do is to commit to writing a VOMIT DRAFT. Writing a first draft in thirty days means you need to write fast and not be precious. Accept that no matter what you do you will have to rewrite this thing FIVE TIMES, so you don’t have to get it right the first time. The trick to understanding this is to know that even if you tried to get it perfect and labored over it endlessly, perfecting every word, it still won’t be perfect, so you might as well vomit out the first draft.
The other thing to accept is you’re not that smart, (No one is) but your gut is. Your gut is where the story comes from, so if you write with your head, you’ll get something too mannered and not very interesting. By writing the vomit draft you’ll force yourself to write from the gut, where all the good, juicy subconscious gunk will come out on the page. You’ll surprise yourself, and when you surprise yourself, you surprise the reader.
The third reason to vomit out a first draft is… If you finish this draft, you’ll be motivated to revise it. If it sits unfinished in a drawer, it might sit there forever. MARK Statistics say, if a screenwriter spends more than three months on a first draft they are 80% likely to never finish it at all….
Okay, I made that up. There are no statistics because no one would scientifically study the practices of screenwriters, but I’m guessing it is true.
There is nothing more frustrating than an unfinished draft. A drawer full of half-finished screenplays will feel like little bits of your soul you have not explored.
Now commit for thirty days. This is an easy way to make a commitment. You don’t have to commit to a writing practice for the rest of your life, you just need to make space for your writing for thirty days at a time. It is easier to make a short term commitment than it is to tranform behavior forever, and the truth is, if you can bang out a screenplay in one month, even if it’s all the writing you did all year, you would be ahead of most people who spend years trying to write and never get anything done.
So on day ZERO, all you need to do: Decide you are going to commit to the vomit draft….
1. You must rewrite this FIVE TIMES, no matter what. So don’t bother making the first draft good.
2. Writing fast equals writing from your gut. Write from your gut.
3. If you finish the first draft, you’re likely to finish the fifth draft. Write this down in big bold letters and stick it somewhere where you can see it.
Repeat this until you believe it, and then tomorrow we begin.
You can watch a video prompt every day over on Catharsis Machine–