Screenwriting, it’s all in the process

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Editor’s Note: As I go through the process of moving, a couple of my expert (re: smarty pants) friends — experts in writing, marketing, publishing, and social media — are pitching in until I get back. Enjoy their wisdom and visit their sites, which are listed at the bottom of their post.

When I was asked to write this blog about screenwriting, along with being honored, my immediate response was yes, of course, which was quickly followed by, what the heck am I going to write about?

Feeling both excited and overwhelmed at the same time, I immediately thought, why don’t I pose the question on social media, if you had the opportunity to write a blog on screenwriting what topic would you write and or would want to read about?  Screenwriting Process, a resource and service for screenwriters out of the UK posed an interesting response, “I would want to know about YOUR screenwriting process.” What is involved in creating your idea and the steps involved in conceptualizing your story, dialogue and characters onto paper.  I know I like to hear about other writer’s personal journeys and processes so why not write about mine.  So here goes, let’s dive into what is now known as my screenwriting creative process.

First, let’s start by defining what a screenplay is; according to Wikipedia,

“A screenplay or script is a written work by screenwriters for a filmvideo game, or television program. These screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. In them, the movement, actions, expression, and dialogues of the characters are also narrated.”

This, by definition is the `technical’ term for screenplay, but for me, screenplay means the heart and soul, breath and life of the narrative being projected on the screen. Each story I create really is a child that I nurture and grow.  These are my pieces of art, my human stories that I work, polish and craft.

By industry definition, writing a screenplay takes 5 steps:

  1. Create A Logline
  2. Write A Treatment
  3. Structure The Outline
  4. Write The First Draft
  5. Edit

Now I do follow these 5 steps but to make them work for me, I do tweak them to suit my writing style and process.

To tell a great story you must first start with a great idea, or in industry terms, a logline, our first step.  A logline is essentially a one to two sentence quick narrative describing what your screenplay is about.  Now my ideas or loglines really have no rhyme or reason as to how they come to me.  Each screenplay is different so where and how my inspiration comes to me varies as well.  It could be from a song lyric, having a conversation with a friend or like my film short Redemption, from a current news story, the Catholic Church child abuse scandal.

Once I have established my story idea, I generally move onto what I like to call the ‘backbone’ of my narrative or in industry terms, the Treatment, which is step 2.  The treatment is essentially a breakdown of what your plot narrative will be.  Again this generally is no longer than 10 to 20 pages for a feature length.  However, this is where my process varies, when I write my ‘backbone’ I try to be as specific as possible, include actions, plot developments, dialogue, character development if possible, ANY and EVERY thing I can think of when developing my story plot.

Essentially I am not only writing but structuring my treatment or ‘backbone’ at the same time, virtually combining step 2 of writing the treatment with step 3 of structuring the outline.  I found by not censoring myself and just allowing the story and the characters to play out in my head I am able to create a very vivid and solid foundation to build my screenplay with.  This blending of two steps was just a natural progression in my storytelling technique and process.

Now that my treatment has been completed I can easily move onto the fourth step of writing the first draft of my screenplay.  Since my treatment is so detailed it really is not as big of a step to move onto the first screenplay draft as the treatment could almost count as the ‘true’ first draft due to its structured plot detail, advanced character development and scene description already evident.  Again, I do not censor or try to edit myself in this stage I try to just allow whatever comes into my head to be put down on the page, as polish and crafting will come in the editing stage.

Lastly, we come to the editing stage which by all definitions is the final stage.  For me this is where the real creativity and storytelling come into play.  Here I like to play with my plot structure, my characters and scenes; I really try to create a gripping and captivating story that takes the viewer on an emotional journey.   The goal for me is to create characters that the viewers can either, relate to, root for, love or hate.  Telling the human story has always been a gift to me as I believe we all have a unique story that needs to be shared with the world.

Creative process whether it is in screenwriting, novels, and short stories or featured articles, each will have similarities and differences according to the medium.  But ultimately the outcome is the same, a captivating story meant to either entertain or inform its reader.

So there you have it, my creative screenwriting process.

But before I go, I pose this question to all the writers out there no matter what you’re medium; I would like to know what YOUR creative writing process is?

 

Please leave your answers in the comments below, I look forward to reading what each of your processes are!

 

Dina Arsenault is a public relations professional and a freelance consultant with A Cue Creative Consulting,  a boutique agency specializing in the art of branding artists and small business owners. She’s also a creative person writing, producing and directing her film short Redemption in 2007, which screened at the Reel Women International Film Festival in Los Angeles. Aresnault graduated with honors from Brock University in Communications Studies, earned a Broadcasting Diploma in Radio, TV and Film from Niagara College and most recently a public relations certificate from Simon Fraser University

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