Tips for Planning What You are Going to Write – Scriptwriting
One philosophy that works for many writers is to plan the essence of their story.
They feel before you ever write a word of a novel or a non-fiction project you should have on paper a plan.
This means that you already know the scenes and what order they are in for a story and the general information about
the characters and places which will populate the story.
Now I am sure that many are already vehemently protesting this notion and declaring that they know “so and
so” never uses an outline. Is this true? Partially. Those who claim to write freeform are essentially doing
the outlining process as they write OR they have already done so in their head. Some of us prefer to have the outline
in front of us on paper or to work through it before we actually begin writing. Regardless of which you prefer, the
necessity of knowing what you are going to write before you write it should be apparent to anyone.
So the question becomes what must be planned – or what exactly must you know – before beginning the process? I would
suggest the following:
The Central Character(s)
There are two schools of story development: those who begin with a character and those who begin with an event or
situation. I will cover the situation approach next. For now, just think about envisioning your main character and
more importantly WHAT HE WANTS and WHAT IS KEEPING HIM FROM IT.
This is the essence of conflict and any character without conflict is a boring character and boring characters don’t
deserve to have book written about them. How much do you need to know about a character? You need to know enough
to make him interesting and to find out more you have to find out what it is that makes people interesting. The answer
to that is the reason there are enough book genres and story types to make a writers head spin.
Find what interests you and then write from there. If you continue you will eventually find your audience who will
be enthralled by the same type of people and situations.
This could be called the situation or the conflict or the inciting incident or any number of applicable terms that
essentially mean the same thing: WHAT HAPPENS and WHY IT IS IMPORTANT.
This is a loose description that encompasses both character dramas as well as novels focused in action that takes
place in the physical world. How much do you need to know? Sometimes it is simply enough to know that some dark and
stormy night a stranger shows up at a castle. A book can bloom from something simply as that and naturally characters
The word “world” is a very lose description of what is better understood as the environment or backdrop
against which the “movement” takes place. The world may be a foreign culture or an alien civilization or
even the delusions someone experiences in everyday life.
Regardless of which, you need to know enough about “it” to be able to describe it and make it believable
for your reader. Not only that but you must make it interesting too. And to know what will make it interesting, more
excavation is required. As above, you need to find out what interests you.
Movement is the quid pro quo of entertainment. It is the state of change that makes life interesting and thus we
demand movement in our entertainment. Music has rhythms and tempos and stories have incidents and events. Both provide
the change, which makes the piece interesting.
Thus, you need to know in general how the change will occur. As they say though, the devil is in the details. Stephen
King creates change by introducing a maniacal and homicidal fan to a writer (see Misery) while David Mitchell introduces
change by a characters realization that he has a ghost living with him (see Ghostwritten).
The “Meaning” or the “Message”
Some may protest by saying entertainment does not need a message. I counter by saying the decision that there is
no meaning or message is a message by itself. Think upon this yourself and come to your own conclusions.
A Quote to think upon regarding this subject:
“The ideas are expressed in pictures the pictures are explained in words.
Clinging to the words
We fail to understand the pictures
Clinging to the pictures
We fail to understand the words
Having understood the pictures
We can forget the words
Having understood the ideas
We can forget the pictures.”
— Wang Pi (226 – 249 AD)
Learn how script writer, James Lamberg has written (and ghost-written) over fifty screenplays in the last ten years which have been produced both in the United States and the UK.
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