by Natalie Howell.
We all have that moment in our lives, especially in times of transition, when we begin to rethink the decisions we’ve made and wonder if there is something more out there. That moment happened to me as I sat in front of my laptop at my university’s library, registering for classes for my last semester of college. I had always loved to write, which is why I chose journalism as a major. I loved reporting and loved working for the student newspaper, but I felt as though I hadn’t yet found exactly what I was looking for. As my time at college was coming to an end, my search for creative fulfillment was keeping me up at night.
As I stared at my computer and looked at all the classes I should be taking, classes that would make sense given my major in journalism and minor in political science, I had a moment of panic that led me to once again study the list. I kept scrolling until I saw “Introduction to Screenwriting.”
Now, with only a year of screenwriting experience under my belt, I am still clearly a beginner, and still trying to find my way through the challenges that every new writer faces. Here are five challenges I faced when moving into screenwriting and what I have learned about how to solve them.
Having the patience to plan.
I have always been incredibly impatient, which made writing short stories the perfect way to express myself creatively. I would just start writing and see where it goes. That tactic doesn’t really work well in screenwriting, even when writing short films. While planning things out may not be too exciting, it’s necessary when it comes to good storytelling. Although it takes time and patience, planning and mapping things out can really make a difference in the final product. Never underestimate the power of a good outline.
Making the characters real.
One thing that I struggled with when I first started writing, and something I still tend to have problems with is giving my characters mannerisms, quirks, and feelings that are believable and unique. Basically, making my characters real. When starting out it can be hard to picture your characters as if they were in a movie, interacting with each other and showing real emotions. How would Harry physically react to what Maggie just said to him? How can you show what’s he’s thinking?
One way to overcome this problem is to allow your characters to walk around with you in everyday life. When something happens that may be relatable to a character, ask yourself “how they would react to it?” This can help to round out your characters and have their lives exist outside of your story.
Getting the formatting right.
The struggle with learning the right formatting almost goes without saying. It’s so important, yet it can be hard to grasp. Learning new things has never been something I’ve been good at, as my grades in high school and college can attest, but it’s easier to put time and energy into learning something that you are genuinely interested in. Like most things, the only answer to this problem is to study and read other screenplays to see what the standard is.