Starting a New Script

I have decided to focus on writing a single script until I have a first draft.

My goal right now is to write several scripts to hone my writing skills. I learned a lot from writing the script to The Anger Trap and I think that I will learn more from writing some new scripts. I will wait until I have done several before I decide on making one of them into a film.

I have selected as my next script an idea I had while travelling in China last year. It has nothing to do with China, as far as I know. It is the story of a detective on the trail of a psychopathic serial killer. I know that doesn’t sound very original, but the detecting isn’t the main focus of the story. When I made Line of Taxis , I used some of the emotions I was having in my life and transferred them to a different situation. I plan to do the same with this story. I am having mostly good things in my life now, but I do have flash backs to the emotions that inspired Line of Taxis.

I will be trying a slightly different approach than I used for The Anger Trap. Then I developed a detail outline before starting to write the actual script. This time I will organize my out line based on ideas I picked up while reading a book by David Mamet.  In particular, his three questions.

For each scene, I will write a one-line overview of what happens in the scene. Then I will have a short description of the purpose of the scene. That is to focus on why I need the scene in the script.

Then for each character in the scene, I will answer the questions: What do they want, what happens if they don’t get it, why now and how have they changed at the end of the scene.

I will complete the outline of each scene with a list of the events within the scene. This is a sort of plot outline for the scene. For each event, I will note what each of the characters is thinking. I think that knowing what the characters are thinking will make it easier to keep the story going forward.

Having distinct characters is important to help the audience identify with them. I used character descriptions in writing The Anger Trap and found them useful when it came to writing.

In addition to a character name, I plan to select a picture to help me visualize the character. Beyond that, I want to note what purpose they serve in the story. For example, are they the protagonist, or the antagonist or comic relief? I will also develop a bit of a biography, so I know where they come from. Most importantly, I want to know how they will change throughout the story.

I expect that my approach will change as I work through this script.


  1. I dunno James. It seems to me to be a very clinical approach to screenwriting. If you approach it like an Engineer would a blueprint, than writing becomes a chore, a process. I have always found it is better to allow your characters to evolve organically from scene to scene (in the dialogue phase) and not hobble them with character arcs that are ridgedly plotted in advance. The tried and true method of character bios, plot research, treatment, then scene by scene break downs seems to keep things fresh.

    I like your ‘selecting a picture’ idea… having a ‘dream Hollywood cast’ also works, as well as creating detailed maps and pictures of locations you want to use..

    BUT, then again, that’s jus’ what works fer me.

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