A screenplay is just a bunch of scenes strung together. Anyone who says otherwise has clearly not read this blog post.
To completely oversimplify it, you write some scenes to set up your story, then you write a BUNCH of scenes to complicate your story and make everyone think the lead character is screwed, and finally you put a few more scenes to rescue the lead and end your story satisfyingly. That’s whatcha call a 3-act structure.
Needless to say, your scenes need to be incredible. So incredible that the thought of writing them completely cripples you with fear and self-doubt.
But when you’re taking a class, you got these things called deadlines. So you figure a way to skirt around the inevitable mental obstacles. I’d like to share mine with you, if you don’t mind.
Step 1: Take the “What Do I Care About?” Quiz
Question: What do I care about less, the possibility of writing a crummy scene, or the certainty of falling behind in my work and hating my own guts tomorrow morning?
If you chose ‘writing a crummy scene’ then proceed to Step 2. If you chose ‘hating my own guts’ then go ahead and put on sweatpants because it’s gonna be a Ben&Jerry’s-in-bed kind of day.
Step 2: Do a dance
Seriously. It will help you loosen up and make you feel a little more creative. Music is optional. If you must take six minutes to scoot through your playlist for something suitable, then skip it.
Step 3 (and most important): Think
Do you know what this scene is about? If not, think about it a little. Feel free to let your thoughts come out on the page, so you can read what you’re thinking and save any thoughts that might otherwise get away from you.
Say you need to write something about your lead character, John. John is about to do four hundred hours of community service, but something has to come right before that. Once you have some sort of idea of the transition you want to make, move along to Step 4.
Step 4: Outline
Just three lines: Beginning, Middle, End.
John tells Peggy he is really looking forward to community service. Peggy’s boyfriend Butch appears and gets the wrong idea. John gets a black eye and has an epiphany about the relationship between observational conclusions and underlying realities.
I have to say, employing this step in my writing process has been so freeing. It gives me a bony structure on which to drape the eloquent folds of my action and dialogue.
Step 5: Expand
Put in the stuff people say or do, and tada! You have a scene.
Just add like fifty more, and you’re all done.
The end result might be brilliant, it might be terrible, but that is what editing is all about. At least you have something! And really, I believe the motivational power of ‘something’ is really quite synergistic.
I’ll end with this piece from my new favorite artist, Ceslovas Cesnakevicius, because I think it is cool and adventurous. And I love elephants.