5 Hacks For A Better Screenplay

So you see a lot of these clickbaity eye-catching article headlines Online. The problem is they are, nine times out of ten, a load of old codswallop. The text inside the article might as well be the recipe for vegetarian marshmallows as the title has already done its job and enticed us all to click through to the ad-laden article.

FYI here’s a recipe for vegetarian marshmallows:

(Actual article follows recipe)

Ingredients:

250g icing sugar mixed with 250g cornflour, for dusting

2 tsp agar powder

200ml water

200g granulated sugar

100g glucose syrup

3 egg whites

1 tsp guar gum

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

2tsp vanilla bean paste

Instructions

1. Line a 20cm square baking tin with cling film and dust in a small portion of the 50/50 sugar/cornflour mix.

2. Dissolve the agar powder in 120ml of water in a small saucepan and leave to one side.

3. Mix together the sugar, glucose and 80ml of water in a pan and bring to the boil to make your sugar syrup. Cook the mixture until it reaches 120C on a sugar thermometer.

4. Put the agar mixture on the heat, bring to the boil and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

5. Combine the egg whites, guar gum, cream of tartar and vanilla whip until stiff, usually about 4 minutes. Gently pour the sugar syrup in, keeping your mixture on a medium speed. Increase the speed, and continue to whip for 2 minutes.

6. Add in the cooked agar mix and beat for a further 12-15 minutes at full speed. The marshmallow mixture should be stiff and produce firm ribbons.

7. Pour into the tin and smooth with a damp palette knife. Leave to set overnight at room temperature.

8. Dust a work surface by sifting over a thick layer of the dusting mix. Tip the marshmallow slab out of the tin, using the cling film to give you some lift. Dip a sharp knife in hot water to heat it, trim the edge of the slab neatly, then cut into squares. Roll in dusting mix, then leave to dry for 24 hours before eating. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Now back on topic. There is things you can do to help your screenplay get on the right path towards being a well crafted film template. These include;

  • 1. A 3-Way Triangle Of Conflict

The best way to demonstrate and strengthen high stakes Within a screenplay is in a three-way power struggle. This is between the protagonist and antagonist fighting over whatever’s at stake, be it the Infinity Stones in Avengers End Game or often personified in the form of a stakes character.

Rather than thinking of a screenplay in terms of a simple protagonist and antagonist dichotomy, the three-way triangle of conflict adds a third dimension that solidifies the conflict.

  • 2. Map Your Hero’s Character Arc Through Every Major Plot Point

The call to action- Act 1 break- midpoint- Act 2 break- Climax. These should all be big moments that define where your protagonist is at on their arc.

If you line this up right you will find your protagonist becomes not just more important to the plot but also more interesting to the reader.

  • 3. The Core Principles Of Each Scene

Every well-written scene, especially the major plot point scenes, contain four dramatic principles that best move your story forward and keep the audience engaged.

Principle 1: Only one new piece of critical information should be revealed. Principle 2. Each scene should include a goal that relates to the protagonist’s overall objective. Principles 3. Each scene has a 3-act structure of its own. This includes; set up, complication and resolution. Principle 4. Advancement of story, character and theme of the overall story.

  • 4. Antagonist With Personal Motivations Not General Villainy ones

Having a character with personal stake in both the Protagonist and Antagonist roles of a screenplay will add more depth to the story. Take The Friday the 13th Franchise for example. Jason has seemingly no real gripes with the camp counsellors or anyone he comes across after the early instalments but he kills them for the sake of a few screen scares. Juxtapose that with Killmonger in Black Panther. His father was killed by the King of Wakanda, his uncle, when he was just a child. He trains his whole life with two goals in mind; to return to his father’s homeland to seek revenge for his father’s murder and to use the wealth and technology they possess to lift black people the world over out of repression. What story has more depth, a masked motiveless killer or a man wanting to revenge his father’s murder and “free his people?”

  • 5. Kill The Camera

Directors don’t want you to have directed the film before they step on set. Actors don’t want to be told how to bring a character to life. Unless you are directing this project yourself kill the camera. “We see” is a camera direction. DELETE THAT SHIT!

“She seems broken hearted” that’s sad but that is acting DELETE THAT SHIT! Use the action to describe the visual action of the scene and leave the directing up to the experts. Leave the feelings and dramatics up to the professionals while you are at it also and if you use these hacks you will find that your screenplay is further along the road to reading better to development executives, agents and everybody else needed to turn your dreams of being a professional writer into a reality.

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