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.
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–