Congratulations! You wrote a screenplay. That is amazing! But you know that, right? You’ve worked hard to get this far. Be proud of this accomplishment.
In the meantime, what’s next for your story? Don’t let your hard work go unseen. One tip, though. Submitting a script for professional coverage before sending it to a contest or agent is wise.
As a story consultant, I provide EmpowerNotes to help writers like you understand how your screenplay will be received by readers in the film industry. You want to give your work its best chance to shine. I can help.
To prepare you, I’ve compiled this list of successful screenplay elements to understand about your work. EmpowerNotes will show you how well these elements combine to tell your story and will give you actionable notes on how the narrative can accomplish your vision for the script. No need to master it all before coverage, but it is helpful to know what will be addressed.
Discover the top things to be aware of in your screenplay (and keep this list handy) before submitting a script for EmpowerNotes:
1. Your screenplay is properly formatted and edited.
First impressions are so important. When a reader receives your script, your understanding of industry format and page length will matter. Maintaining industry standards acknowledges that you respect the recipient of your script as much as you wish to be respected for your work.
Keep your feature screenplay between 90-120 pages. A short film is under 40 pages. If you are using screenplay software, your script should have proper formatting. If not, there are free and paid options available. I can offer suggestions if you need them.
2. Your story has a strong and original premise.
You know your story best and you know what inspired it. Make sure the genre, characters, and situation chosen for your story combine to create an original take on the familiar. If you struggle in this area, I can help you with feedback to stretch and discover your creative options within the story that honor your original vision and goals.
Audiences and executives know when they have seen something before. Surprise a reader with a highly visual, emotionally engaging premise that captures their attention from the earliest pages of your screenplay.
3. Your protagonist wants something, faces losing something, or both. Your protagonist also needs something he doesn’t quite understand.
Your screenplay’s plot will completely revolve around your main character’s pursuit of something important in the story. The strongest plots are ones that convey both an external and internal conflict. The external pursuit may seem like the driver of the plot, but the internal struggle of your main character is the heart of the story.
Plot points are not just a string of actions, but a trajectory of increasing conflict for the protagonist to discover his unmet need. Make every plot decision with consequences and character, both strengths and weaknesses, in mind. Your narrative will be stronger for it. Audiences will engage with empathy, anticipation, and curiosity.
4. Your supporting characters have arcs too.
All your characters are meant to depict living, breathing, three-dimensional people. Give them relatable lives, grounded actions, and emotions. Their own desires and needs are important. These arcs should relate back to the main character’s arc.
Side plots should complement the main narrative and ultimately drive the protagonist along his journey. Make sure that each subplot has a purpose and impact on the main narrative. I can help you find the right balance of action, especially in the second act.
5. Your screenplay has a solid structure with a satisfying ending.
Story structure can sometimes be a hotly debated topic in screenwriting circles. Many books have been written to discuss the various frameworks screenwriters use to tell their story. For the purposes of EmpowerNotes coverage, my standard is an open one that asks for a solid set up, rising conflict leading to a climax, then an appropriate resolution to all the story elements.
If you struggle with structure, my coverage can help you pace your narrative in a way that most effectively accomplishes your vision. If you feel like something’s missing or you are unsure what to leave out, I can help with that too. So much of writing is rewriting. All writers face this reality. It makes an empathetic professional eye so important.
6. Your characters have unique traits, mannerisms, and voices.
Let each character in your screenplay have a unique presence and physicality on the page. Use key traits and mannerisms that give us clues to who they are, where they have been and what they are thinking in each scene. Tell your audience these things through what they can see.
Use dialogue only when necessary and very rarely to drive exposition. Every scene should turn on the shifting emotions told through subtext. Use your writing as a signpost of these shifts. Show your audience what is happening to your characters, try not to tell them.
7. Your setting is well-defined and appropriate for the genre.
After all the discussion about story and character, does it seem odd that setting is on this list? Perhaps your setting was a little bit of an afterthought. Maybe the details are still vague in your mind. Hopefully not, because setting is important.
Setting is the first and last element your characters encounter. Where they are and how they feel about it sets the mood for every scene, every interaction. From beginning to end, your protagonist is either resisting or making peace with his environment. Create a setting that counts by knowing your genre well and either matching or subverting expectations with a detailed sense of place and mood.
ABOUT MARTA BOULDEN
I'm a Story Consultant who empowers screenwriters to craft quality, meaningful narratives for film. Certified by Hollywood Gatekeepers, my coverage service combines foundational writing expertise, effective narrative insight, and personalized recommendations. With empathy and a growth mindset, I teach writers to transform their vision into their best work.
Storytelling has been a part of my life since I was a little girl. Life gets complicated, though. I once thought my capacity to write had left me. Discovering screenplays as a form was a gift and my creative heart came back to life. I believe our stories and dreams are essential. I look forward to connecting with you as you generously, bravely share and live out yours.
Find me at martaboulden.com for more information and to commission me to provide you with my personalized coverage service, EmpowerNotes.
© 2020, Marta Boulden. All Rights Reserved.