The Big Picture First

‘In America when we give a date, it appears to have no logic behind it. First, we state the month, then the day, and finally the year. In other parts of the world, stating the date is more structured. First give the day, then the month, then the year so you’re listing the date from small (the day) to large (the year).

In other parts of the world, stating the date is the exact opposite. First you give the year, then the month, then the day. In either case, the date is clearly structured from small to lager or large to small. In screnwriting, you need to think in a similar structured way, typically from large to small.

The biggest mistake most screenwriters make is not being structured in creating their story. Many people get a good idea, start writing, and wind up running out of ideas around page 20 with no idea how to extend their story.

To avoid this problem, you need to think of your story from the big picture first, then down to the smaller details.

The big picture is plotting your story so you know what story you’re telling, what happens, and who’s involved.

Once you get this big picture clarified, then you can start breaking your story down into parts and think about the finer details like who’s the hero? Who’s the villain? What does the hero and villain want?

Clarify these ideas and you can move down to the smaller details such as what needs to happen in Act I, Act IIa, Act IIb, and Act III?

Keeping moving down to finer details and ask yourself what events and supporting characters you need in each part of your screenplay.

Now start focusing on plotting how each Act should go.

Then start plotting the scenes you need.

Then start writing dialogue.

Always start with the big picture first and work your way down to the details. Screenplay formatting is the last thing you should worry about because if you have a lousy story, having it properly formatted will be useless.

Unfortunately, too many people get seduced into buying the latest screenplay formatting software and start writing, without thinking of the big picture first.

Think of the big picture, then keep refining the details bit by bit.

What’s your story about? (the big picture)

Who is your story about?

What happens?

What happens in each Act?

What happens in scene?

What is the dialogue that characters say? (the smaller picture)

If you can answer all of the above, then formatting your script is trivial.

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Supporting Characters