It’s amazing. Wherever I go, when it’s found out that I’m a screenwriter, I will get approached by someone who says, “Oh my God! You write screenplays? I have the BEST idea for a screenplay…” In fact, this happened to me about a month ago at a coffee shop that I frequent. I was working on a screenplay, and the woman at the table behind me started talking with me, wanting to know what I was writing. After she learned that I write screenplays, she said, “I have the best story ever for a comedy.” Without hesitation she began to share. Of course, she was not too pleased with my response. I said, “You know, that’s a really funny scene, but I’m not sure it’s an actual story. You will need to develop a story-line in order for it to work as a screenplay.”
The nub of it…you cannot build a story on a scene. I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work.
Another factor to consider when writing your screenplay: You cannot just cram together various scenes, that have no connection with each other. That is like trying to squash a square peg in a round hole; it will never work. They must be cohesive. Like building blocks–they need each other to stand. So, a good story needs to promise something from the beginning. There must be a hook, and everything that you write from the first word to “The End” must lead to a final goal. Every sentence, every stitch of dialogue, the scenes, the descriptions all connect, and an audience or reader is magically drawn in.
So, the elements that you provide for the audience or reader actually draws them in, and keeps them engaged with the story and the characters. Good stories are made up of various elements. There are guidelines, not hard-fast rules, but structure and strategy is paramount.
Aristotle claimed, “the ability to plot, or to create a powerful structure, is the most important aspect of writing. Good writers serve their stories; bad writers serve their own agendas.”
A story is evolving, not static. It is LIVING–alive with anticipation, and that anticipation holds an audience/reader to the premise like glue.
There are reasons that films like: A Beautiful Mind (2001), Dances With Wolves (1990), How Green Was My Valley (1941), Zorba The Greek (1964), Norma Rae (1979), Crazy Heart (2009), The Silence of the Lambs (1995), The Sound of Music (1965), Lord of the Rings (2000-2010), Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000), Whale Rider (2003), Gangs of New York (2002), La Vie En Rose ( 2007), Finding Nemo (2003), Inception (2010), Toy Story 3 (2010), Fahrenheit 911 (2004), Atonement (2007), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), to name a few, have won Oscars.
For screenplay coaching and/or editing: carlaiacovetti.com
Other references: ReadThrough.com – where screenwriters and actors collaborate online to help bring scripts to life!