Screenplay Hack: The First Draft

Want to craft a first draft that isn’t a ground-up rebuild? You need to get your character development on point so that your first drafts are the bones of a tight screenplay that can be worked (and reworked) regularly. Follow this Screenplay Hack and make your First Draft a winner.

It’s every writer’s dream to create a perfect first draft that doesn’t need any alterations. But, sadly, it is not a feasible dream. Many people prefer to start by creating an outline of the script. The process of scriptwriting varies from writer to writer and project to project. Every project that you encounter will require a different approach.

What’s makes a difference is how prepared you are. Sometimes writers have to bust out a draft in 3 or 4 days. The way to be able to create an acceptable first draft depends on your mental preparation. It’s always the mental preparation that allows you to put forth a meaningful draft.

How to Prepare for Writing the First Draft?

In the first phase of development, writers deal with ideas, plot lines, characters, and character development, etc. Nothing is set in place at this time so there are many directions to start from. You can choose to focus on one aspect and grow from there.

The first draft is about getting the flow rather than just hacking out ideas. It’s better to take your time and develop a strong background in the first draft rather than struggling and getting stuck on page 20.

Tune Your Characters

One way to start is by tuning your characters. Now, every writer has a different way of doing things. For tuning characters, some start out by looking for unique idiosyncrasies about the characters that differentiate them.

So, for example, if there are two female characters, they cannot be exactly the same. They need something that differentiates them and adds some juxtaposition. And this is something that you will learn about in the script development masterclass and screenwriting courses in the SAN mentorship program. Two characters of the same personality cannot exist in a script so writers need to juxtapose them. They need to create a contrast between them. It can be a difference in their essence, motivations, physical attributes even.

Start by understanding the characters and the trajectory. This allows for smooth character development and refinement to take place. In the first draft, there is no need to go deep into the characters’ motivations. So, just focus on your character goals and character development stages to form a solid spine for the plot.

Don’t Restrict Your Mind

When starting a new script, there is no need to rush to write down what you think of immediately. Let the ideas float around in your mind and allow the subconscious to do its thing.  Outlining the story from the get-go marries you to the idea. This will cause a hindrance when there is a need to shift the structure or fit in other things.

Keep an open playground and have the flow of thought just come in and out. The constant back and forth of ideas will build up an itch over time. When the itch becomes unbearable, that is when you should start writing the screenplay outline template. When you are overflowing with ideas, it is easier to develop the outline of the first draft.

Another way to start writing would be to make notes of any idea that comes to mind about the plot. Letting yourself get consumed by the plot is a great practice and it allows for an easy flow when writing. At the start, there are a lot of ideas juggling around in the air. So, to get a grasp on one of these ideas, writers need to find a starting point. Random idea notes do not make a screenplay outline template.

Find The Purpose of the Draft

Sometimes writers have to produce the first draft in just three or four days. Many people, in this case, start panicking about the lack of time. Instead of letting the lack of time take over, writers should think about the purpose of the first draft. What do they want to get out of it?

The first draft is not remotely close to the finished product. This is why it seems impossible to have it completed in a few days. You don’t need to add character details or fill gaps to make the first draft impressive. It all depends on the mental preparation you’ve done. If you accumulate enough ideas, then writing the screenplay outline of the first draft will not be an issue.

The first draft is the screenplay outline template. This is because the final product may be completely different from the original draft. Drastic changes and dialogue make the draft longer and over time, you have a completely different product. There is no need to include dialogues as long as the characters’ goals and motivations are clear. Moreover, many characters that are in the first draft will be cut from the final version.

The experience of the first draft tells you a lot. It shows what was difficult and not quite working. It brings you feedback.

The Writing Process

As with the thinking style, the writer process varies from writer to writer. Some people prefer to write in solace, without any distractions. Which is great, if you can feel the emotions of the characters without any outside sources. However, if it is difficult to imagine your character in a particular scene, you can use other sources to help you visualize it.

Character Visualization

Visualize your character with a person. This is a great way to maintain the character’s personality. You can pick any actor who you think resembles your character and visualize them in the writing. It helps to keep a picture of them in front of you while writing. It brings you a physical manifestation of their essence which evokes your emotions. The characters in your script need to feel real. So, there needs to be an emotional connection in the writing to ensure that the actions of the characters feel natural.

Music for Inspiration

Listen to music as you write. Music is a great medium for evoking emotions. Music inspires and bleeds feelings into your writing. There are so many choices available that match the tone of your scene. You can pick out two or three scores that evoke a certain emotion such as anger if you are writing an aggressive scene. Listen to these records on repeat every time you need to write a similar scene. Relying on music is a great way to communicate the right feeling into the scene.

Music is an emotional product. It takes you on a journey through various emotions. You can notice the difference music makes in conveying the feeling of a scene. Screenwriting courses at SAN encourage writers to notice the score and see what it’s making them feel. It is a guarantee that if scenes don’t have a score, you will not be feeling what you’re feeling while watching.

The Bottom Line..

A first draft should be nothing more than mud pies. The first draft is the idea vomit that has a form underneath it. It has the bones that need chiseling and reconstruction. The first draft should not have any situations that need to be rebuilt to fit in the scene. Because that just means starting from the bottom all over again. If something requires a total rebuild, it is starting something completely different.  And you just want to make sure that you understand the hero very clearly.

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