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Writing a strong and successful script is all about finding the balance between writing a good story, having a perfect structure and knowing your characters well. Some even claim that the one component that can really make or break the script is how well the writer know its main character. We sat down with up-and-coming screenwriter Paul, who has recently finished his second long feature which is going to hit our screens in 2021.
“Give the audience someone to root for”
“The most fundamental part of your piece of writing centres around your protagonist. The audience should be able to relate to him or her, and he or she has to be very interesting,” explains Paul. “If your audience is engaged with your main character, whether it’s because of his or her qualities or flaws, they will remain interested in the film regardless of the story.”
Ideally, any screenwriter should be able to find that balance between all the components to create a good story and all should work together harmoniously, but a sure way to start is to focus on writing the different layers of your character, and making sure you are confident about its meaning and purpose. “I personally like to write out my characters biographies before starting writing the story,” explains Paul when asked about tips he would give other aspiring screenwriters. “What I tend to do is give myself a questionnaire about my characters to make sure I know all their likes, dislikes and personality traits by heart,” he explains.
“Make sure your characters have a unique voice”
“You don’t want your characters to all sound the same, or sound like you, so the more you know them, the more it’s going to show in your dialogue as a whole,” Paul explains. Your characters need to have compelling personalities as touched on above, but they also need to have interesting dialogues, and this does not only apply to your lead character but applies to all of your characters. Strong dialogues will lead the story and let the audience know exactly who each characters are at each moments on the screen.
“Dialogues show so much more than meets the eye regarding each character’s personalities. It depicts how educated they are, whether or not they have an accent, if they are introvert or extrovert etc. Overall, any dialogue should be special and stand off the page,” says Paul. A well written dialogue scene that depicts a very simple scene could become the most important party of a movie, if written well. “Well known director Tarantino is arguably a master of dialogues and any of his films should be an ideal source of inspiration for any writers.”
“Create a coherent structure”
“You might want to break boundaries and move away from the conventional story, but it’s important that your script follows an archetypical structure,” explains Paul. “I personally recommend reading Joseph Conrad’s book called Heart of Darkness which explains the well-known Hero’s Journey,” says Paul. The hero’s journey is a common template of story telling which involves a hero that goes on an adventure and faces a crisis, wins a victory, and finally comes home transformed.
The audience will always subconsciously expect things to happen at certain points of a movie, and the way the structure is organised will reveal this information little by little, so that the audience will start forgetting what’s coming, and become hooked on the narrative. “The best films are usually structured in a way that emotions will run wild and live through through your main characters,” explains Paul. “Just make sure you plan your structure first before writing any story.”
Feeling inspired to write your first short film? Don’t be shy! But make sure you send us your first draft so we can give you some feedback!
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