Write a Story Only You Can Tell


By: Laura Huie


As writers, we often wonder what’s the best way to bring success when entering screenwriting contests. Besides honing your plot, characters, dialogue, and other distinctive craft elements, you need to write a story that only you can tell. But what does that mean exactly?


Everyone has a story to tell and their own way to tell it. Dig deep into your own unique experiences, your specific interests, and what you know in order to discover a story that only you can write. The authenticity that follows will be evident in your screenplay—whether it be a feature, television pilot, or short film—and you might be surprised how the old adage “write what you know” can bring contest success.


Here at Shore Scripts, we want every writer to put their best foot forward in our competitions, and one way to do so is in the drama genre. In fact, drama is by far the genre with the largest number of submissions to our contests. And although that means more competition to be up against, aspiring screenwriters can still make their mark. Let’s dive into some current trends in drama in film and television, how you can write “good” drama, and tips on writing what you know.


The History of Drama


Both drama and comedy are known to be the earliest genres of cinema, and they remain the most popular genres today. Specifically, drama is based on the emotional development of realistic characters. Frequently, the themes within dramatic films or television shows are derived from real-life issues. With a mix of both external and internal conflict, drama often tells genuine stories of everyday human struggles which makes this genre easy for audiences to relate to.


This genre is also wide-ranging, meaning that there are many subgenres of drama, including biography, courtroom, dramedy, melodrama, historical, period, romance, and more. For emerging screenwriters, drama is a great place to start because the possibilities are nearly endless.


Examples of Popular Dramas in TV/Film


The Godfather: The aging patriarch of an organized crime circle must secure the future of his family’s empire by leaving it in the hands of his reluctant son. Read the script here.




The Shawshank Redemption: A former banker convicted of murdering his wife develops a lifelong friendship with a fellow prisoner, and ultimately tries to defy the odds by keeping hope alive inside prison walls. Find out more about the use of narration in The Shawshank Redemption.



Breaking Bad: A chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal lung cancer teams up with his former student to cook and sell crystal meth in order to provide for his family, his wife, disabled son, and newborn. Learn more about working with protagonists & antagonists.



True Detective: The lives of two detectives collide during a 17-year hunt for a serial killer in Louisiana. Read the Pilot script here.




Current Trends


Drama remains to be one of the most widespread genres, and there continue to be new and exciting perspectives added to the genre each year. Most recently, current trends show dramedies, modernized takes on historical/period dramas, and crime-centric dramas are on the rise. Let’s look at a few popular examples in the past year within these subgenres.


Dramedies: A well-balanced mix of drama and comedy. This balance provides comedic relief for the audience, while still centering on serious issues. Think of The White Lotus (HBO Max), Wednesday (Netflix), Succession (HBO Max), or The Bear (Hulu).


Historical/Period Dramas: Inspired by true historical events and/or people. Think Bridgerton (Netflix), The Crown (Netflix), or The Gilded Age (HBO Max).


Crime Dramas: Focuses on crimes, the criminals that commit them, and the people that catch them. There are also many different formats of crime dramas, such as procedural, detective, whodunnit, and more. Think Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Netflix), Barry (HBO Max), or The Staircase (HBO Max).


Although these are current trends, this doesn’t mean that screenwriters should veer away from other dramatic subgenres. If you’re passionate about your story and you have a clear reason why you’re the ideal person to write it, then it can very well be a success.

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How to Write a “Good” Drama Screenplay


With so many variations of the drama genre, there are a few core elements that are at the heart of every great dramatic screenplay.


Start with the main conflict: Every good drama (and screenplay in general) begins with a primary conflict. What situation or decision is going to force your protagonist out of their comfort zone and into this strange, new world?


Build memorable characters: An audience needs to be able to root for their characters, even if they make bad choices. Well-rounded characters have flaws that move the conflict forward and keep your protagonist from being stagnant. They have to realize their flaws eventually and make an effort to overcome them.


Find your universal theme: Since drama is based on a heightened sense of the human experience, choose a universal theme for your story so an audience can relate to your characters—whether that be grief, love, good vs. evil, coming of age, etc.


Raise the stakes: Increasing the intensity of conflict in your script is paramount to keeping an audience’s attention. You can achieve this by creating further obstacles in front of your character’s goal, tapping into their emotional needs, or playing on what they have to lose.


Tips for Writing What You Know


Writing what you know can take on many different forms—sometimes it’s derived from past experiences, having aspects of your characters that you relate to, or themes that are relevant to your life or someone you know. Bottom line: Writing what you know doesn’t mean your story has to be autobiographical.


You can render emotional truths onto the page even if your drama is based on fiction. Look for common ground in your story through your characters and the conflict they are facing. For instance, even if your setting is in a faraway fantasy world, your characters’ emotions and consequent decisions can be based on truth.


Another critical element in creating a story only you can tell is vulnerability. Audiences are hungry for stories that are rooted in authenticity, no matter how fantastical they may be. Use writing as a medium to explore uncomfortable truths and raw feelings that others will be able to resonate with. And remember that your voice is your own.


Time to Write!


Feeling inspired to start writing your own screenplay? We encourage you to begin putting words onto the page and seeing what sticks.


If you want to start small, we are about to open our Spring Short Film Fund on January 15th, 2023. This is a great opportunity for you to kick off your screenwriting career and jumpstart your progress with an achievable goal.


And just a quick reminder when submitting to any of our contests: We accept all genres (not just Drama)! It’s absolutely fine if your script is a combination of multiple genres or sub-genres. If that’s the case, make sure to use the Coverfly Genre dropdown to indicate the main genre on your submission, and make a note of other Genres, along with any other information you feel will be relevant to the reader in the Comments to the Reader field.


Check out our other Screenwriting Articles & Screenplay Downloads for more free resources on how to write unique, compelling stories!

Laura Huie is an experienced 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 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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