Movie Critiques
Top 20 Problems
Human Condition
What Kind World?
Read for Fun
Home Page
Reference Shelf
Story Ideas
How To Write
A Movie
Quick Start
Prom Date
Getting Started
What to Write
Writing Methods
Short Scripts
Types of scripts
Slug line
Scene Description Lines
Helpful Things
Stop Theft!
Teacher's Information
About This Guide
Teacher's Information

This guide is not intended as a textbook. No attempt has been made to use precise definitions of terms or to teach theory of literature or creative writing. It is intended only as a practical aid to help people write a screenplay, and may be found a useful resource for conventional curriculums.

This guide emphasizes an intuitive rather than analytical approach. Concepts in this guide are presented in an order that will get people writing and interested enough to dig deeper. Characterization, dramatic structure (especially plot), dialogue, the scene, and format are essential to writing a screenplay. The remainder is improving on the basics.

The phrase, what this story is about, is often substituted for concept, plot, theme, and premise. Concept is an excellent tool for focusing dramatic structure. Theme and premise can be useful tools, but are less often used, even though they are evident in stories. Plot is the most useful tool and has been explained in some depth.

Contemporary wisdom has it that characterization is the essential starting point for a screenplay and that story follows from character. However, many writers need some idea of what their story is about before they can even begin developing characters. For example, as people confront questions in their life they often choose to write about them. Characters become a device for exploration. This idea is central to the Writers Workshop pilot program with high schools, giving students both the motivation to write, and an avenue of exploration. Writing is an interactive process and there is no one best starting point for all stories. Building characters is an excellent beginning exercise from which stories can develop and exploration can blossom.

I recommend workshopping one (30 minute) screenplay in class as an excellent vehicle for gaining interest, participation, and learning. The workshopping approach allows writers to both write the story and see the result through staged reading. 

I hope you or one of your students will write the next Home Alone! Please be aware that ALL scripts submitted to anyone associated with the TV and movie industry must be submitted through an agent with a Release Form (provided by a studio). The Writer's Guild can supply you with a list of agents, particularly those willing to take new clients. A query letter to a receptive agent will get you a Release Form. Good luck!


You are free to give this article in its entirety to others (small groups, under 100) as long as the copyright with my name (Dorian Scott Cole) is included. This material is not public domain and may not be sold, mass distributed, published, or made electronically available in any form, without permission from Dorian Scott Cole. Complementary distribution (unpaid - no charge) will not be charged for. Visit the Visual Writer Web site for e-mail address information.

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