The Art of Screenwriting – Part 2

A good film always touches many people and makes an impact on the film industry. However, this desired effect depends on the script and the screenwriter. The story and how a film is told must elicit a strong emotional response from the audience, from love to hate, from passion to fear or excitement. As a result, a scriptwriter’s skills are essential to create a story that can attract an audience.

The Skills of a Screenwriter

A film can potentially reach millions of people from across different countries and therefore, the screenwriter must ensure that the written story will grab the attention of millions of people worldwide.

Now, let’s explore the skills that a screenwriter needs to write a good story.

1. A Screenwriter Should Be Able to Conceive an Exciting Story

 

To originate story concepts for screenplays, it is almost always necessary to stimulate

your own thinking by observing, recording, and reacting to all of the potential material

that confronts you every day, and to use that material as a jumping-off point for your own

brainstorming and creativity.”

 

– William K. Coe

 

Before planning or writing a script, a screenwriter should first be able come up with a story concept for the script. This cannot be a vague idea but rather a very clear and concise one.

For instance, a good story concept contains the following elements:

  • Main characters or subjects with whom the audience can relate and identify.
  • A specific goal, desire or objective that the main character must achieve. This motivation to do or search for something creates the impetus that moves the movie forward.
  • One significant or a series of obstacles, challenges, and difficulties that makes it hard for the main characters to achieve their objectives. As a result, this element will make the audience become invested in the characters’ path and how they overcome their difficulties.
  • A good story concept should also include originality and familiarity. For example, aren’t there countless romantic movies released each year? But each one possesses something that distinguishes it from the others while presenting a genre with which audiences are familiar.

The story concept that contains these four elements can be summarised as,“the story about a character or subject who wants to (action) but cannot(obstacle)”. One famous example is Titanic, one of the most romantic movies of the movie industry, where the story is about Rose who wants to be in a relationship with Jack but cannot because of the difference in social class.

However, how does one come up with a story concept? Below you will find a list of some sources of story ideas:

  • Anecdotes from your own life or from what someone else has shared with you
  • Beliefs
  • Dreams
  • Emotions
  • Fears
  • Legends
  • Conversations
  • Current affairs and news stories
  • History
  • Memories
  • Novels, plays or paintings

2. A Screenwriter Should Be Able to Think Visually

 

Imagine your story as a series of pictures. If those pictures keep talking to you, you probably

have a play. If your mind jumps from image to image, and if every image is full of action, you

may be ready to write a film script.”

 

– Laura Schellhardt

 

One significant difference between most people and a screenwriter is how they see the world and think visually. As we have discussed above, a good story idea consists of some crucial elements and a good screenwriter should be able to see and communicate with these elements.

Books, newspaper articles and poems are read by consumers. However, compared to these mediums, an audience does not read but instead watches films. As a result, the scriptwriter must write with the aim of creating a product that does not simply consist of words on paper but that acts as a stimulus to create a series of moving images.

Some of the crucial visual elements for scriptwriting include:

  • Colour
  • Light
  • Movement
  • Sound
  • Location
  • Contrasting elements
  • Metaphor

So, today we discovered two vital skills that a screenwriter should possess. Please share your comments and don’t forget to come back for part 3 if you want to learn more about a screenwriter’s skills.