As promised, below are the last five “commandments” from the SCREENWRITING U (www.screenwriting.com), article “The New 10 Commandments of Writing Screenplays” by Hal Croasmun.
6. Put your characters through hell.
Great parents take care of their children and don’t let harm come to them. Great writers put their characters in the worst possible places to challenge their beliefs and physical limitations.
Don’t get the two jobs mixed up. Audiences don’t go to movies to see characters lead safe lives. They want to see your characters take risks, experience danger, and barely escape from challenging situations.
Writing screenplays will make you a tough task-master. By your final draft, your characters should hate you for all the terrible things you did to them.
7. Free up your dialogue so you can express more character.
Beginning writers often fill their dialogue with exposition and story details, thus reducing the amount of character and creativity that shows up in that dialogue. Don’t do it.
Instead, put the exposition, information, and story details into the action and situations.
For example, instead of a trainer telling a new boxer that a certain philosophy doesn’t work, have him put the character in the boxing ring and learn it by having his ass kicked. Now, the trainer doesn’t have to lecture. In fact, he is free to talk about anything – breakfast, politics, his favorite dog, etc. – because the real meaning is being delivered through the action.
It completely frees you up so you can be much more creative with your dialogue.
8. Turn cliches into fresh ideas.
In the film industry, a cliché is defined as “something we’ve seen before.” If you write a script with the same plot or the same lead characters or the same situations, people will balk at them.
Audiences want to see familiar stories told in different ways and familiar characters with something special about them. That means that your characters, situations, actions, and dialogue need to have something unique to them.
Your challenge: Hunt down every cliché in your script and brainstorm more unique ways to accomplish their purpose. Give them a twist or unique spin or different voice. It takes a bit of work, but it instantly improves your screenplay.
9. Give yourself permission to write shit in your first draft…
…and push yourself for perfection in your final draft. Not the other way around.
This is a better strategy for writing screenplays than trying to be perfect on the first draft and shoving yourself into writer’s block.
First drafts are the time for total freedom of expression, not criticizing your writing. You want to discover what you can about your story, characters, etc.
On the other side, writers often send drafts to producers that aren’t even close to ready. That’s the time to bring out your internal critic and make sure this is a perfect draft.
The more in sync you are with your creative process, the faster you’ll achieve perfection.
10. Rethink your script…until it is the most amazing it can be.
This is the ultimate challenge of a professional screenwriter – having to rethink the same script over and over until you discover the perfect way to tell this story.
Even if you think your story or character is perfect, you should have the skills to re-envision it in many different ways. Not only will this help you write a better story, it will also help you work with production companies and Studios when they request script changes.
And if you want to dramatically improve your ability to write screenplays, check out ScreenwritingU’s screenwriting classes. Script Magazine rated our classes #1 in their “Top 9 Online Screenwriting Courses.”
Make those 10 Commandments part of your daily writing and someday, you’ll be soon be writing screenplays like the Hollywood writing Gods.
Hope you found this information helpful.