So you have an amazing idea, but now what? The spark of genius struck you at 4 AM and you can’t get back to sleep, the idea train has left the station and isn’t slowing down and you have no idea where it is going.
Write it down!
The first stop for the idea train is the most important! WRITE IT DOWN! It doesn’t have to be a complete thought or even a sentence, write down whatever will bring your idea back to your mind. Let it flow, let the idea jump from A to F and back to B. Sort it out later, get it down now. The original idea is very rarely the finished product so stop fretting about it not being perfect.
O.K… Got it down, now what?
Let it sit. This sounds counterproductive but there is reason behind the madness. You wrote down your idea, it is fantastic!!! This idea will be the next Jurassic Park, the next Avatar, the next Friday the 13th! This idea will put you on the map, who do I sell it to?
Take a deep breath and let it sit and think about what it did. It doesn’t have to sit for long in the back of some neglected closet, never to see the light of day again but it does need to sit.
I let it sit and I am still super excited!
Great, that is where you want to be. Take out your idea and look at it, straighten it out, pet it gently, and tell it you love it.
Move the pieces around and put them in order, start to create your story.
Start giving names to the “She” and “He” you left nameless and alone, start giving them stories inside your story.
No one wants a two-dimensional character with no backstory, develop them and raise them. Visualize their lives, what led them to where they are in your idea?
This is character creation!
Oh Snap! I made characters come to life for my idea.
Yes you did, you made characters your audience can relate to. You know who they are, what made them the way they are and how they interact with each other. She and He suddenly became Susan and Tony, co-workers who can’t stand each other; or lovers who are married to other people.
Now your idea has life and living characters, it is no longer just a series of thoughts in your head or on the sheet of paper; it is a living, breathing thing now. You know these characters, you love them, hate them, sympathize with them… Regret killing them… Good, if you feel your characters, your audience will too.
Sweet, got characters, got story line. Can I sell it now?
We are doing well, we have living beings and a story but where do they live?
“Huh? They live in my story.”
What is the world like? Is it modern day? Is it an alien planet or another time? Are they city folk or country folk? What do the buildings look like, what do they wear? This is world creation! When you had the idea it was an amazing landscape, you could see it so clearly.
Your audience cannot see your mind; let them know how glorious your idea is. Paint a picture with words; let them know about that shiny chrome ball sitting lazily on the kitchen counter. It may be something the character interacts with. You have a living character; now give them a living world.
After all this work I might as well write it myself!
That is a great idea, I am glad you mentioned it.
You don’t need to be an expert in film writing to write a screenplay, but you do need to understand the format. There are some great programs out there to help with this; one such program is Celtx, a free screenplay writing software that has industry formatting built into it in handy to use drop-down boxes.
Scene heading: Best place to put the descriptor. Interior – Office – Day
This lets whomever is reading know they are inside an office and the time of day, so they know what sort of lighting to expect.
Action: Someone did some stuff!
Use a few short sentences to describe what we see in the office.
‘Tom walks from behind his desk and sits on the edge of it, he leans down and glares at Tony who stiffens and leans back in his chair.’
Character: Who is talking?
This is where you label the speaker.
Dialogue: What did the speaker say?
Now listen Tony! We love you, I love you.
You do good work but sadly good… Isn’t good enough!
A good thing to remember with dialogue is you want the character to read the punctuation, write it with pauses and intentional dialect, write what you want to hear and how you want to hear it.
Transition: Is there a change between scenes that is vital to the story?
Typically you don’t want to write in transitions unless it adds to the effect you need to happen, same as writing shots. Let the director worry about those, you are just writing action and dialogue. If you do not give the director something to do, no one will buy it.
You now have the first draft of a screenplay.
These are the basics and essentials to a screenplay, with these items alone a director can picture your story, they can use their artistic vision to bring your 4 AM idea into the world of mass media.
With the characters and world developed, you have turned your idea into a cohesive story. You have written it down and made a screenplay, it may still take some edits and some rewrites but you now have something that is worthwhile. The idea train that left the platform with no destination has now arrived at the first station, be proud of your work and of yourself.
Book your discovery call today and see if one of our filmmaking courses is right for you.
-Jonathan Thompson, Devil May Care Productions.