When writing a screenplay, you must create a story and then tell that story. Where most novices go wrong is that they try to tell a story before they know what’s going on, which is a recipe for failure since you’ll likely run out of ideas long before you even reach the halfway point of your screenplay.
Before you write your screenplay, take plenty of time to define your story and all the history behind your characters. The more you know about your story and your characters, the richer your screenplay can be.
One way to create a story is to play with role-playing games. The most popular paper and pencil role-playing game is Dungeons & Dragons, but there are plenty of other role-playing games that focus on fantasy, science fiction, westerns, espionage, or any other story genre.
Role-playing games are a unique form of storytelling because they force multiple people to collaborate on telling a story. For many people, this can be liberating because it can be fun to make up a story with others, much like doing improv.
However, keep in mind that role-playing games are a form of interactive story telling, so what’s exciting for the players might not be exciting or interesting to an outsider.
Still, role-playing games can help define your story, even if you never play out your story. By forcing you to think about your story world like a game master, role-playing games can help you create a richer world for your characters to inhabit.
In any paper-based role-playing game, a game master creates a setting and the players interact with the game master to create a joint story. Sometimes this can be amazing and sometimes it can be just plain dull. It depends on how well the game master and players work together so everyone has fun.
So if you’re having a hard time writing a screenplay, stop writing and start thinking about your story as if it were a role-playing game you were going to create. What would be appealing about your story to others? What kind of setting does your story take place in that’s interesting? How can you create drama in your story?
By clearly identifying these elements of your story before writing, you’ll be able to spend more time writing and less time trying to create and write at the same time.