A Screenwriting Tip: How a Well-Written Story Unfolds

Thumbing quickly through the pages of my Fantastic Four comic books  (sample page below) created the feeling of editing a film. As a sequence of visually stimulating scenes with characters speaking and doing things in each box, a film editor could splice together these comic book scenes to produce a visual storyline that viewers could watch on screen.

Unlike novels that showcase more elaborate writing, a screenplay must embody tightly-focused scenes that show characters doing things. Developing engaging characters are essential to produce interesting action and dialogue. Viewers should be able to relate to your lead character (to some degree) as he/she is set in motion to attain a primary goal which is usually to  fulfill a desire.

Most well-written stories unfold like this:

1) The main character desires something that he/she is not yet sure is attainable.

2) The main character goes on a "journey" to attain his/her desire.

3) The main character encounters obstacles during his/her journey.

4) The main character must find ways to overcome his/her obstacles.

5) A story or subplot ends with the main character succeeding or failing at fulfilling his/her desire.

6) The main character now discovers he/she desires something else instead; or the main character needs to change his/her approach to persuade other individuals to help him/her attain that desire.

Many fiction novels focus more on describing what the characters are thinking, stage plays focus more on dialogue, and movies focus more on characters in action. TV shows idle somewhere between stage plays and films, favoring a balance of action and dialogue.

Fantastic Four Comic Book page
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Notice how the comic writer/artist encloses each action scene in its own box? A screenwriter uses a similar approach to write scenes of a screenplay.

I welcome your comments and suggestions. Use the comment form below.

Brian Scott

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