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It is essential as a screenwriter that you understand screenplay structure. As in any art form there are conventions and elements that are a basic and fundamental part of that art form.

You must have learnt and understood the basic conventions of the 3 Act structure. It is only once you know and understand these ‘rules’ that you can begin to manipulate and experiment with them to create unique and challenging screenplays.

It helps to write your core story in three paragraphs before you begin the actual screenplay to make sure you have enough drama to make a compelling story.

Make sure you use techniques specfic to screenwriting which create drama, pace, tone and anticipation.

Have you created ‘B’ and ‘C’ storylines that involve other supporting characters? When these storylines intersect and affect your main ‘A’ story they will help you create conflict.


A strong central character with a clear ‘goal’ almost always assures us they will come into conflict.

Conflict creates drama - even in comedies. Above all, you want your screenplay to be dramatic; this is why films are entertaining.

Make sure your central characters have powerful and strong ‘action stories’ and ‘emotional stories’. In simpler terms, how they act and how they feel, both of these are vitally important.

The most interesting cinematic stories are those where characters emotional and action stories are in conflict with each other, once again creating drama.

It is important to create well developed supporting characters that avoid stereotypes.


Writing successful dialogue is much harder than it sounds. The trick is to make ‘script’ dialogue sound completely natural when in actuality it is very different to normal everyday speech.

Avoid mundane introductions

Avoid long speeches - dialogue should be lean and short.

Avoid repeating information in dialogue that the audience already knows.

Avoid wasting dialogue on ‘endless banter’ unless it is really necessary.

Think before you write any dialogue – can you show this ‘visually’?

Do not tell your story in the dialogue - especially long speeches explaining characters back-story. Remember this is a visual medium you must ‘show’ your story – not ‘tell’ it.

Subtext is a vitally important part of successful dialogue – learn and understand how to use it.

Make sure all your characters have unique and individual voices that come across clearly on the page.


Screenplays are above all a visual medium. You must write in a way that is visually expressive.Even in films that are strongly character driven the story must be told visually and the characters must move and be active in your story.

Write in full complete sentences, using creative and visually expressive language which will impact the reader.

Keep action paragraphs short and your descriptions lean.

Never use the term ‘we’ in your action descriptions. This ‘first person’ intrusion takes the reader out of the story and into the machinations of filmmaking. It takes a talented script writer to be able to visually explain movement and action in the story without using ‘we see’, ‘we move’, ‘we watch’ etc.


It is extremely important that your screenplay follows all the professional rules of script formatting and presentation.

If you ignore these ‘rules’ it clearly indicates that you are a novice, and will often mean your scripts are ignored. The last thing you want!

Below are some common mistakes that first time writers make and you should try to avoid.

  • Do not bold, Italicize or underline ANYTHING in your script
  • There are only two elements that should be CAPITALIZED in your action. The name of a character when they are first (not thereafter) introduced and SOUNDS. Nothing else!
  • Do not include any camera directions (pan, zoom, close-up etc)
  • Do not include any editing directions (cut to: fade to: jump cut)
  • These last two points are vitally important as these only appear in SHOOTING scripts, not in SPEC scripts.

    All screenplays are SPEC before they are locked and go into pre-production, only then are they changed by the production secretary and director.

    Writers MUST always follow the rules of the SPEC script.


    Script development and revisions are an essential process that you should go through before even considering presenting your script to anyone in the Entertainment Industry.

    Never submit a screenplay that is in its first draft form. You must take the time to fully explore and develop your story and its characters.

    A great script goes through many drafts before it gets to be great!

    All writers, even the Pro's seek the opinions of their peers. It is vital to creating a strong viable screenplay.

    Getting detailed script analysis will give you crucial advice to help you avoid rejection.


    Write! Write! Write!

    Keep honing your skills, keep practicing, learning and understand the principles of screenwriting until they are second nature!

    Once you have achieved this, only then can you can start to break, adapt, diversify and twist these principles to challenge the perceptions of your audience and create a unique and original screenplay.

    If you have any questions about the above please feel free to email me via the contacts page.

    Good Luck!