Straight from our Cameo Archive, Beth Brandon shares her tips on how to outline your script!
So you have an idea for this amazing script. (Don’t we all?) What do you do with this idea? Where do you begin? Do you outline? Do you just dive in? The hardest part to writing a script is really, well, writing.
To decide what to do with your nugget of an idea, simply start writing. Get it all out of your system and fast before it passes you by. Quickly write down all of your thoughts and ideas on the subject. What could happen in the story and what may never see the actual final draft are all equally important.
You can do this for an outline, for the actually script, for a treatment, or even to flesh out potential characters you might see in your movie.
(For more on this notion please check out this 20 minute video/speech about the idea of creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love.)
So what if you get stuck? What if suddenly your great idea doesn’t seem so great anymore? Don’t give up. Professional’s push through the hard times, even when they loathe what they’re writing. Utilizing things like Script Frenzy is a great way to stay motivated.
No idea how to push through?
- Brainstorm potential scenes and moments that could be in your script.
- Brainstorm character flaws, wants, desires, and how you can challenge those at each step of the way.
- Figure out what your characters mean to each other. And furthermore, what it would mean if they lost one another.
- Write monologues from their point of view explaining how they look at the world.
- Open an entirely different and riff—unedited—about what you think of your script—what you like, what isn’t working, how you feel about it. Get all of your anxiety and fears and doubts out of your system. It will clear your head and make room for the brilliance yet to come.
- Let your characters have a knock down, dragged out, bloody fight. And then figure out how they would make up.
- Take a scene that currently takes place somewhere “boring” in like a kitchen, or at a park, and place it somewhere exotic, like the Louvre, or inside an Egyptian pyramid. Then figure out a reason why your characters would be there, or how they would get back to the kitchen or park.
Please do not keep any of this in your final draft. If you really have a scene that takes place inside an Egyptian pyramid there better be a search for a Mummy involved. In other words—all of this is just practice; an exercise for you to get out of the rut of your story.
Opening your imagination to the ridiculous opens your mind to what you’re not otherwise seeing. In other words, it makes room for the genius to come through. If you do any or all of these things, you’ll never have writers block again. I promise.
You’ll never know if it’s a good idea until you actually try to write it. Clearly, it will not be perfect. Deal with and embrace the imperfection of it. This is your shitty first draft, and it’s just for you to practice your story. As the saying goes, practice does make perfect. Especially if you practice every day.
Try this: Write five pages a day for three weeks. It may be exhilarating at times, but there will also be moments of complete and utter misery. After three weeks of writing five pages a day, you’ll have about 100 pages of a script—and by then, you’ll know whether or not you’ve got a movie. Three weeks of writing to find out if you’ve written the wrong thing is a hell of lot faster and more productive than three months, or even years of hemming and hawing to find out if you’ve got an idea at all.
And the best part? You’ll already have a completed crappy draft. Which is much more than most people can say of any of their “ideas.”
Now. What are you doing still reading this? You’ve got writing to do!
Beth Brandon is a screenwriter/playwright who has also worked in television. Her scripts have received notable recognition from Scriptapalooza and the Kendeda Playwrighting Competition. She has had staged readings of her plays in New York, (Horizon Theater), Atlanta, GA (Alliance Theater), and Houston, TX (University of Houston.) Beth received her MFA in writing under the instruction of Academy Award nominated screenwriter/Tony Award winning playwright Mark Medoff at Florida State University’s School of Motion Picture and Recording Arts. Beth currently lives and writes in Los Angeles.