When you’re new to writing, just getting to the end of that first script is really hard. This section of the website is for those who want to write, who have an idea that is itching to get out, and who would like a guide or structure to help them take it from idea right through to a first draft.
What you get here is a series of steps in the writing process with essential elements, questions and challenges you will face. It’s not designed to be exhaustive, but it’s not just a basic ‘how to’. It’s the essentials of what we believe go into making a good script.
All ideas are only as good as the characters that drive them, and all good ideas need to be dramatic.
Drama literally means ‘action’ – to act. What is the central dramatic action in your idea?
What is the story? Do you have a compelling enough journey for the character and audience to go on? If it’s a series or serial, do you have enough story to keep it going over a number of episodes or weeks?
Creating a coherent world is crucial. What are the rules of your story universe? What do and don’t we need to know and see? Less is often more – the writer needs to know all the rules and background – but the audience only needs enough to stay hooked without being confused.
Strong scripts know what they are and what they are trying to do.
Weak scripts plough on without really being clear from the start. Great writers master medium and form, and manipulate it; not so great writers ignore it. Form is what kind and shape of story you are telling. Format is where in a specific broadcast or performance schedule it might sit.
So the first question to ask is: what IS your story? Where and how do you see it finding its most engaging expression? Is it an idea that would work best on radio (through the medium of sound), or film (through the big visual silver screen), or television (through the smaller screen that sits in our homes), or online (through the computers and devices that are in our homes and that we carry around with us)? How do you want an audience to experience and connect with your story? Are the idea and story you have right for the medium you have chosen?
Characters are the thing that separate great scripts from only competent scripts – and great writers from only competent writers.
There are a lot of things you can work on to improve and hone your script and your craft – structure, dialogue, formatting, scene writing – but if your characters aren’t engaging enough, then everything will be a struggle, because they must drive everything that happens – whether they are people, aliens, animals or robots.
To write great characters, you need to know what the world looks like from their point of view – to step into their shoes and see from their distinct perspective. What does the world look like when Frank Gallagher or Dot Cotton or Miranda or Sherlock look out at it? What does the world look like when your character looks out at it? If you know this, then you can know how they might instinctively act and react in any given situation. And from this comes authentic drama and comedy.
Diploma in Scriptwriting