Just like a pilot can’t hop into a cockpit and take off just from watching some video games, a writer shouldn’t start writing a screenplay because they’ve watched a few movies. Like any craft, writing a screenplay takes time. Writing a great screenplay takes time and effort.
But also, just like a seasoned pilot has a checklist of tasks before take-off, even a seasoned screenwriter can always still make use of a checklist of sorts—things to satisfy when creating a new screenplay.
To start your first screenplay, you need to have a minimum of knowledge about the craft. Learning the fundamentals of screenwriting is vital to writing a script that will get you noticed and, hopefully, get you paid. Among others, this means:
- Creating your story in an outline or treatment first
- Learning the three-act structure—and, no matter which structure you subscribe to—all stories have a beginning, middle and an end
- Understanding the elements of a screenplay
- Knowing the importance of creating organic obstacles for your main character
For seasoned writers, having a checklist of important elements should always be part of the screenwriter’s toolkit. This means knowing where in the script the inciting incident falls, for example. Other important pieces include:
- Did I establish the tone and mood of the story?
- Do my first five pages grab the reader?
- What is the theme of my story and is it consistent throughout?
- Are my main characters’ goals clearly defined?
The building blocks, or fundamentals, of screenwriting are not difficult to learn. Once you have a great idea, getting to the finish line—typing “The End”—takes patience and attention to detail. You want to make sure define the narrative elements and you engage the reader. There are plenty of books out there, but don’t get so bogged down in reading long, involved books. Rather, get to the heart of the process so you can get writing.