How to Write Your Script’s First 10 Pages

By: Laura Huie

 

Let’s discuss how to start writing a script effectively, focusing on the crucial first ten pages. These initial pages need to set the tone of your story, establish the basis of your world, and grab the viewer’s attention. In a world where film and television options are endless, viewers don’t hesitate to click away if they’re not captivated within those first few minutes.

 

But it’s not just about impressing your audience. Behind the scenes, producers and studio execs are on a tight schedule. They’ve got stacks of scripts to read, and they can’t afford to spend time on anything that doesn’t hook them almost immediately. That’s why it’s crucial to nail those first ten pages of a script – it’s your golden ticket to getting noticed in a sea of scripts.

In this article, we’ll dive into how to start a film script effectively, exploring what our coverage readers look for in the first 10 pages of a script and offering tips to help you hit all the marks seamlessly.

 

1.  Make Your Protagonist Clear

 

Your protagonist is the primary lens through which the audience experiences your story. They’re not just “a character”; they’re the driving force behind the narrative, the individual whose journey the audience will follow and root for. In the opening pages of your script, introducing the protagonist clearly and effectively is paramount for several reasons.

 

Firstly, establishing your protagonist early on allows viewers to form an initial connection with them. Think of it as making a new friend – the more you know about someone, the easier it is to relate to them. By providing insight into your protagonist’s personality, desires, and motivations, you give the audience a foothold in the story, inviting them to emotionally invest in the protagonist’s journey. What is the thing that your protagonist wants the most?

 

Additionally, the opening pages of the script should provide clarification regarding the protagonist’s goals and objectives. Whether it’s a quest for redemption, a search for love, or a battle against external forces, the protagonist’s desires drive the story forward, propelling the audience into the heart of the action. Understanding what the protagonist wants creates a sense of anticipation and sets up the stakes for the conflicts and obstacles they’ll encounter along the way.

 

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2. Clarify Your World/Setting

 

Within the first 10 pages of your script, it’s crucial to immerse viewers in the world your characters inhabit, painting a vivid picture that captures their imagination and draws them into the story.

 

One of the primary functions of establishing the setting early on is to provide context and atmosphere. Whether your story unfolds in a bustling metropolis, a remote wilderness, or a sprawling fantasy realm, the setting serves as the backdrop against which the characters’ actions and decisions unfold. By clearly delineating the world in which your story takes place, you give viewers a sense of time, place, and mood, grounding them in the narrative and setting the stage for the events to come.

 

Moreover, a well-defined setting helps to contextualize the characters’ motivations and behaviors. By immersing viewers in the specific details of the setting – the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings – you provide insight into the characters’ lives and the challenges they face within their environment. This, in turn, fosters empathy and understanding, allowing viewers to connect more deeply with the characters and their struggles.

 

3. Establish The Tone & Genre

 

The tone and genre of your script dictate how viewers perceive and engage with your story. Are you writing a comedy, a thriller, a romance, or a drama? Clarifying the tone and genre early on helps to set expectations for the audience, allowing them to anticipate and embrace the journey ahead. Just as a comedy promises laughter and light-heartedness, a thriller suggests tension and excitement, while a romance hints at warmth and intimacy.

 

By signaling the genre upfront, you not only provide viewers with a roadmap for what’s to come (or perhaps subvert their expectations) but also spark their curiosity and anticipation, compelling them to invest in the story and see how it unfolds.

 

4. Set Up The Central Dramatic Question

 

Every compelling story revolves around a central question or conflict that drives the narrative forward. In the first 10 pages of a script, you need to introduce this question or conflict and pique the audience’s curiosity. This could be a mystery to solve, a goal to achieve, or a dilemma to overcome. By establishing the central dramatic question early on, you hook viewers and keep them engaged as they seek answers throughout the story.

 

5. Plant Your Stakes

 

Planting your stakes within the first 10 pages of your script is like sowing the seeds of anticipation and tension that will grow throughout your story. Stakes refer to what’s at risk for your characters – what they stand to gain or lose based on the outcome of the narrative.  Establishing stakes in the first act often creates a sense of urgency and importance that propels the audience forward, eager to see how events unfold.

 

Advice From Our Readers

 

We asked two of our experienced readers what they look for in the first ten pages of a script. Here’s what they had to say (both have to do with loglines!):

 

Grahame Wood

Grahame’s first television pitch landed a network development deal. His novels, The Darkly Stewart Mysteries, have garnered four shopping agreements. Grahame is a voting member of BAFTA and has worked in the film & television industries of the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada.

 

“Two big things for me are:

 

1. Do the logline and first 10 minutes match? If the logline is “‘A teenage boy accidentally creates a mini black hole in science class, and it gives him the power to go back in time ten seconds whenever he likes,’” but there’s no such science experiment in the first 10 pages, that’s going to be a problem for me.

 

2. Does the action of the characters grab my attention? Do I want to go on this journey with them? Do I see the potential for a complex series-long character arc for the central character?”

 

Roxy Cuenca

Roxy is a professional script supervisor in indie feature films & shorts to big-budget features with Disney, Warner Bros & Sony among others. She recently worked as a Script Editor on a Netflix feature directed by F. Gary Gray. After 15 years of helping get film scripts ready for production, she is now working in script development.

 

“With the first 10 pages, it’s hard to know if [the writer] has potential when they don’t have a good logline. The logline with all the important points: Who is the protagonist, what do they want and what stands in their way (or whatever variation around those points) is important to enter with these 10 pages.

 

You can often tell in the first 10 pages if you want to keep reading. If they’ve set up the premise or subtext of the premise within those 10 pages because they know the points of their logline it could even help the writer to know.

 

When assessing just the first 10 pages of a script, it’s not always possible to discern what the story is going to be. So a logline helps to give the reader some parameters to evaluate within. That way, we can feedback to the writer on how successfully the opening pages set up the story that is promised in the logline. For example, is the protagonist introduced effectively, their “now” status and how that status changes or is about to change, to send them on their journey? Or, in the case of more fantastical settings, is the worldbuilding clear, and the rules of that world presented in a way that places the reader in the setting easily?

 

Overall, what we look for in the first 10 pages, is how effectively the essential elements of the story are set up, and whether these make us want to read more, build expectation and engage us emotionally.”

 

Submit Your First Ten Pages for Coverage!

 

It’s never too early to get feedback on your script. Submit your first ten pages and your logline, and one of our dedicated readers will provide detailed feedback on the opening scenes, initial world-building, character introductions, the inciting incident, and story development potential.

 

Learn more about our Coverage Services here.


Laura Huie is a writer and editor involved in comedy-drama screenwriting, fiction editing, and full-time marketing copy. Laura is also a freelance article writer for Shore Scripts and has worked with Script Pipeline on their live Symposium series. She is one-half of the screenwriting duo, Bloom & Huie. Together, they have written multiple television series as well as a feature-length film. Their mission is to write honest and witty female stories wrapped up in unbelievable worlds.

 

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