How to Begin Writing Your First Screenplay
“I’ve never written a screenplay so I’ve decided—even though I don’t plan on branching out into screenwriting—to rewrite one of my stories as one. Just for practice because I think that stretching myself, my abilities, is a good thing!
Writing a Screenplay: First Things
1. The Logline or One-Line
I’ve written an article about this (See: Creating A Logline). Basically, a logline is a sentence that spells out in dramatic fashion the central conflict of a story.
The central conflict is composed of three things:
- The protagonist’s goal.
- The person or force that opposes the protagonist’s goal.
- The stakes of the conflict.
Here is a formula:
[Protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist’s name] must [protagonist’s quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist’s goal].
An example logline for Die Hard:
Headstrong NYPD detective John McClane wants to save his estranged wife and her colleagues from certain death at the hands of Hans Gruber, a mercenary willing to sacrifice anything to get his hands on $640 million in bearer bonds.
Joe Bunting over at The Write Practice wrote an article about how to write a screenplay. He gives the following tip on how to craft your logline:
‘It’s also helpful to put a summarizing adjective in front of your characters to give a sense of their personalities.’
Here’s his example: ‘A headlong orphan and his Vulcan nemesis must save the Federation (and themselves) from revenge-seeking Romulan from the future.’