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Screen Writing - What Is A Script And What's A Great Story
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Before you can start writing screenplays for movies or television you need to get a hold of the basics. The good news is that anyone can write for film, many of Hollywood's top people were virtually unknown before they got their first script accepted. You also don't have to write about "what you know" that lovely if slightly useless piece advice given to every author when they start to be creative. So let's get started by examining the fundamentals.
What's a script?
Quite simply it's the document in which you outline all the visual, speech, sound, behaviour and even linguistic elements of your plot. It can only ever be an outline, not the exact second by second of your finished product. Why? Because film is not a one-man project it's a joint-venture between many creative elements, there's the writer, the director, the producer, the editor and the cast and each of them will contribute something unique to the final reel. That's one of the reasons that you can re-make a movie successfully, it allows a different team to see something new in the original and adapt it in weird or wonderful ways.
What makes for a great story?
The best stories are those we become involved in, as the plot continues we need to feel something for the characters, to care about their resolutions and to know what comes next. Audiences are passionate about great movies; there are a huge number of fan review sites online such as Rotten Tomatoes where they bring that involvement to life.
Normally great movies have something at stake for the protagonists, there's something that must be retrieved (think Star Wars and the plans for the Death Star) whatever the cost, or something or someone that everyone wants or fears (think Kaiser Soze in The Usual Suspects), there's the intangible too the demand for freedom for example (like Independence Day) and there's the unpleasant (think Once Were Warriors or Dogville).
Once you have the motivation it drives the behaviour of your characters, does it give them super human powers, a new romance, or personal fulfillment? These are questions your script must answer.
Then there's conflict and surprise, the obstacles human, physical and mental they must face to attain (or fail to attain) their goals.
You also need a "hook", the "what if" element of your film, the reason to keep watching - sometimes this is obvious (Lord of the Rings - "what if a diverse group of individuals with special (and not so special) powers had to save the world from a magical demon?") and sometimes not so obvious (Usual Suspects - "what if there's a mythical villain in custody and he has to convince everyone that the villain is not him?).
Finally it's a good idea, though not essential (particularly with the latest wave of alternative titles doing very well at the box office) for your script to fit into a particular niche or genre, Science-Fiction, Action, Horror, Thriller, etc.
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