Script Consultant and educator, Pilar Alessandra joined us early in the London Screenwriters’ Festival to talk about how, even among the most employed writers in Hollywood, writer’s block can stump our writing and freeze our creative motion. If you are finding yourself blocked and can’t get to the end of a script you are likely micromanaging. Speed drafting through using the following techniques will get your story to the end and then you can go back and perfect it.
Here’s six fantastic tips from the session that you can look at right now to get your writing moving again.
Simplify Your Structure
If you’re stuck from the complexities of structure then remember the four Ts!
Trauma (Act 1) ~ Life as it was is hit by an inciting incident that will change everything.
Training (Act 2A) ~ Not always literal training, but how a protagonist copes with what they’re facing.
Trials (Act 2B) ~ How the protagonist pushes back against a problem.
Triumph (Act 3). ~ Solve the main problem of the story. Even if you’re writing a trilogy you must resolve the issue of this particular film.
This simple framework to begin structuring your story is all you need to get started, it’s the natural flow of what characters go through and most other screenplay structures will fit within it.
Crisp Up Your Characters
If your character is boring you don’t need more backstory to fix it, just think about their behaviour in the moment. Character rules that are visible on screen tell us something about them and make them more interesting. When you get notes to ‘develop’ a character you can then break a character rule as a development to show change.
Take an Antagonistic Point of View
Cliche antagonists are a common problem. Look at the script from their point of view to see how they are the hero of their actions in order to fix this issue. Similarly supporting characters are also the heroes of their story from their point of view. Writing a logline from each character perspective will grow them into more realistic forms and for ensemble TV will keep you grounded on what each characters goal is for an episode, season and entire story arc. Remember that antagonists can be big things like whole species or natural disasters too and even forces of nature will have rules of behaviour that will define how you can use them for or against your character actions in a story.
Make Scenes Sparkle
For lame scenes you feel stuck on you need to create interest and freshness to spark attention in your story. Listing the tropes of a stock scene (ie. a marriage proposal) and changing up the characters, setting or dialogue in a way that give you a fresh take. You don’t need to throw a bomb in the works every time, adding an external complication to the activity of the scene is enough. Added interest should be rooted in the genre, character traits and circumstances of your plot and get you excited about your dull scenes again.
Digg Your Dialogue
Find your character voice by giving them the language of their passion. Verbal rules that are just for them. Does one character swear a lot? Keep things like that specific to one character to differentiate personalities throughout your screenplay.
Go Backwards To Move Forward
Finding the ending and working backwards to see how we get there is a great way of getting out of story conundrums. Define the treasure, decide if they get it or give it up, and find the trigger that leads them there. Working backwards can help a lot to get you unstuck from any point in your script. Ask how you got to this point and what springs from it to ensure a flow. Bear in mind physical intention, verbal intention, emotional intention and story intention.
Whether you plug away in bite sized bits or are a binge writer you need to make a regular date for yourself to write in so make sure you do that. Pilar also has a free regular podcasts you can subscribe to with lots more screenwriting advice and details can be found at www.onthepage.tv or search On The Page podcast on iTunes.