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Finding a Groove by Moving Forward

Screenwriting has allowed many to give a voice to the voiceless on the page. Whether theatre, film or television, screenwriting became a cathartic experience as well as a creative release. With any experience, there has to be a transition that allows for progression. Working on my second act allowed me to find voices within my multi-layered world.

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Unlike last week’s writing overload, I found my groove as I begun to take on my second act. Allowing the screenplay to act as a setup has allowed me to explore this foreign yet nearby world  – the music industry. The characterization and dialogue came through me as the intensity of the second act opened up for my characters and the world around them. Human connection and relatability became the focus of writing the second act. Doing some work in the first act allowed for the second act to be more grounded in reality. I allowed influences from various areas – interviews, documentaries, musicals – to sip into the second act but with my own twist. All those years of being a music head really paid off when it came to creating conflict when the time called for it. Adding new characters to play against my leads allowed for some interaction I never saw coming during the initial stages. The second act builds upon the world created in the first act as the music moment become second nature in the writing process. Like last week, my thesis fell more in line with the intent of my original one-act play touched on. I wanted to illustrate that point while expanding into other areas for a more well-rounded story. With my second act done, the next few weeks will be about working to refine what I have and making some new twists.

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For the first time in weeks, I felt less anxious about life. I was able to enjoy some personal time by doing some self-care. Independent study went well this week as my professor and I discussed the new direction. Teaching was a little better as I became more comfortable with the students. Client work slowed down a bit, but there seems to be something around the corner. I sent out my script to be read by a film and television professor (Fingers crossed for a good critique). The visual work was scaled back this week while work and school took over my life. So far, my thesis journey has begun to fall in place.


Come back next week for more on my journey to creating my Master’s thesis.

Don’t be a stranger! Leave a comment below.

Finding a Pace Amongst the Chaos

For writers, having a full workload is seen as a gift and a curse. On one hand, doing what you love can be rewarding artistically (and sometimes, monetarily). On the other hand, it can be a little overwhelming and mentally-taxing when everything is a little off-kilter. For me, this dichotomy played itself out in some many ways.

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The past week has been a trial of will and passion as I was stretched thin by my need to be preoccupied. My screenplay has begun to take on a new direction as I aim for a potential series on TV or streaming than a theatrical release. I decided to take what I have in my first act and expand it. As I had discussed with my professor, the first act needed more room to breathe so I could develop the characters even more. The characterization and dialogue needed to be developed more. Initially, I tried cramming to much action in the first act with very little development for my characters to connect with the audience. Equaling the playing field for the leads was a mission that seems to be going well as I did get a chance to flesh out my four leads. Adding scenes and expanding some supporting ones allowed me to give the environment and lead characters more context. For the first time, I felt my thesis is becoming what I actually wanted. The new take allowed me to do more world building and set up for the future series. As I moved into my second act, I knew moving on would help me to correct and reshape my first act.

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The past few days have been a little chaotic. Covering SCAD AnimationFest was both exciting and daunting as I went from event to event for an upcoming article. Independent study was a little rough as all aspects of my life competed for my attention. I did my second exercise as a teaching assistant which led to some fun ideas and awkward moments. I did client work that I actually got paid for. The visual work was scaled back this week while work and school took over my life. So far, my thesis journey has been battle for my time and passion.


Come back next week for more on my journey to creating my Master’s thesis.

Don’t be a stranger! Leave a comment below.

Finding Inspiration in Animation

Animation inspires me in so many ways. This week’s video focuses on my time at SCAD AnimationFest. Enjoy the new vlog!

 


Come back next week for more on my journey to creating my Master’s thesis.

Don’t be a stranger! Leave a comment below.

Rewriting Your Screenplay

After all the revising and editing, something might be gnawing at your mind and spirit – does this screenplay work for my vision. This thought can pop into your head after reshaping and editing your screenplay. In today’s blog, I’ll on rewriting your spec script to match your true vision.

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Rewriting can be a daunting task when you try to rework what you’ve spent months even years working on your passion project. This allows you to escape the creative box you’ve painted yourself into. It’s important to have your work for whatever occasion arises.

During the revising and editing process of my screenplay, I found that the format and structure I used in my screenplay wasn’t working for me or my vision. I was trying to make a half-hour dramedy to an hour-long drama. It lacked the intensity and hilarity I originally envisioned for my first project. I needed to reclaim my original premise and characters I planned all those years ago.

Now, as I begin to think about my concept, reshaping my script is going to affect every aspect of my overall package. When the time is right I will be prepared.n-screenplay-628x314

 

The goal of rewriting your work is to help prepare you for the endgame – optioning your idea for film, television or the web. Just remember to keep your eyes on the prize.

In reading this post, I hope you will feel better about the rewriting process. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

As I end my run with The Screenwriting Forum, it has been a pleasure writing this blog. The amount of information and advice I shared in this experience helped me to grow as much as it did my readers. I loved the community that has formed from this blog. And I hope to continue this positive and encouraging environment as I moved on to my new blog.

Come back within the next few days for my new venture.

Packaging Your Screenplay Part 2 – Revising and Shaping Your Bible

Once the logline and treatment have been revamped, you can focus other aspects. Any screenwriter with a vision will want one for when their big moment finally arrives. But once the revising and editing process has slowed down, revisiting the bible is a must. In today’s blog, I’ll tackle a screenwriter’s best friend – the series/film bible.

If loglines and treatments are the mission statement and slogan for your vision, then the story bible is the handbook of your well-crafted vision. It’s the foundation of your screenwriting. Your bible sets the tone for your story will be for the next 90 minutes or 5 seasons.

For me, my story bible has shifted quite a bit since I first wrote my pilot. The same premise has remained in tack, but episode orders, plotlines and more have changed as my needs for the overall story have. Remember to always keep your premise even as your story shifts from time to time.

With that said, let’s explore how to repurpose your story bible.

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Retooling a story bible can be a daunting yet rewarding task as you want the bible to be in sync with your pilot. With that in mind, a series/film bible is described as:

a reference document used by screenwriters for information on a television series’/film’s characters, settings, and other elements that keep the content consistent throughout its course.

With loglines and treatments are short and concise, a story bible tends to vary in length depending on what stage in the process you’re at.

There are two schools of thought in television and film about story bibles. As mentioned by Screencraft, there are more traditionalists like screenwriting master Jacob Kruger who puts it as:

What they’re really asking is proof that you know what you’re doing, and that your series pilot not only has a fabulous premise and collection of castable characters we’d want to spend our time binge-watching, but also has the kind of engine required to run for at least five years.

He feels many producers and studios still have the mentality of world-building as king. He suggests the tried-and-true structure listed below:

  • A series logline (including all the elements from your original pitch).
  • Short character bios for each character detailing who he or she is along with their wants, and what they will do to get it.
  • A short overview paragraph describing the story arc of the first season.
  • Summaries of each first-season episode, including a title and a nutshell description for each episode by restating the characters’ wants and needs and the rising conflicts.
  • A short summary of seasons two through five (with short being the keyword; leave the producers and executives wanting more).

On the opposite end, there is producer/script editor Lucy V. Hay who feels the traditional method can be boring and long. Hay champions brevity as she states, “Knowing this helps you focus your vision and your pitch to the right network.” She suggests this four to five-page format:

  • A one-page pitch
  • One page of character profiles for all characters
  • Short synopses of all episodes following the pilot
  • A page or so detailing the format (who the returning characters are, intended channel, intended slot, and so on)

 

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Courtesy of Bang2Write

I have to admit I fall more into the traditionalist lane as I craft TV scripts with a series being the goal. I love the idea of world-building and giving background to every aspect of my script. While it is a challenge, I love having the vision to be fully planned out before someone sees my hard work.

The revising and editing process can make it hard to stare at your meticulously planned bible and say “I need to start over.” That moment can be a heartbreak for any writer especially your average screenwriter. It means you have to go back to the drawing board and go through the shaping and plotting all over again.  But it’s okay because you have shifted your vision, and your story bible needs to reflect that. You can still keep the bones while you lay on the flesh.

I’m going through the process as I write this blog. After rethinking my spec script, I figured out some of my issues are related to the bible I create. Now, I am reconstructing what my episodes and modifying my series trajectory.

When redoing your bible, you have to keep your screenplay in mind. It has to reflect what the themes, characters, plot, settings, and etc. are now rather than the previous revision(s). As I have gone through the revising process, I have found myself looking back at the story bible every time to see if it still captures the premise of my script. Now as I make some changes to it, I have to let the past go as I reshape my vision to its true form.

 

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The goal with this writing staples is to help shape and mold your vision to what your endgame is going to be – optioning your idea for film, television or the web. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Hopefully, reading this post will relieve your anxiety about tackling your series/film bible. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week for registering your screenplay and preparing it for submission.

Packaging Your Screenplay Part 1 – Revising a Treatment and Logline

Once free from the creativity drainer known as writer’s block, the preparation for shopping and optioning your screenplay will commence. Even before writing your screenplay, two key elements are needed – a logline and treatment. But once the revising and editing process has slowed down, revisiting the logline and treatment is a must. In today’s blog, I’ll dive into redoing your logline and treatment for your big moment.

Loglines and treatments are like the mission statement and slogan for your vision. They set the blueprint for what your story will become once you begin writing/typing your script. Even though your story might change course here and there, your logline and treatment are there to keep you from veering too far off course.

For me, my logline and treatment have remained the same since I first wrote my pilot. Of course, there have been some minor tweaks along the way, but pretty much the same premise has remained in tack. Remember to always keep your premise in mind when redoing your logline and treatment.

With that said, let’s explore how to repurpose your logline and treatment.

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Logline

Retooling a logline can be both amazing and challenging. As the definition states,  a logline is

a brief (usually one-sentence) summary of a television program, film, or book that states the central conflict of the story, often providing both a synopsis of the story’s plot, and an emotional “hook” to stimulate interest.

Being short and concise is the key to crafting a great logline. So once you’ve come up with one, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

The revising and editing process can make it hard to look at your well-crafted logline and think “this doesn’t speak to the story I have now.” That moment can be a heartbreak for any writer especially your average screenwriter. It means you have to go back to the drawing board and go through the brainstorming process all over again.  But it’s okay as now you understand your plot and characters better. Writing the new one will be a little easier.

When redoing your logline, you have to keep your screenplay in mind. It has to inhibit the plot and characters as they are now not from the previous revision(s). Just remember to keep the setting, characters, inciting incident, conflict, and goals in mind. As I have gone through the revising process, I have found myself looking back at the logline every time to see if it still captures the premise of my script. Every revision causes a tweak to the logline in some form or fashion. Keep calm and go with the flow.

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Treatment

Long before the first word of your screenplay is typed or written, your treatment plots out how your story will come together and take shape. Treatment follows its definition to a tee:

a piece of prose, typically the step between scene cards and the first draft of a screenplay, longer and more detailed than an outline that reads like a short story, but describes the events as they happen in the present tense.

The treatment allows you to write your screenplay without worrying or over thinking every little detail. Trust me that’s a godsend for a type A personality like me and my racing thoughts. It provides structure while allowing for wiggle room where needed.

The revising and editing process can throw your well thought-out treatment for a loop. It feels like your world is coming to an end as you go back to start tweaking dialogue and rearranging scenes to best fit the story in its new form.  But it’s okay as now you understand that all the moving parts are now working in tangent with each other. Writing the new one will be an undertaking but so worth it.

Like your logline, retooling your treatment make you refer to your revised screenplay. It has to follow the story’s new course instead of the previous one. As I’ve gone through the revising process, I found myself tweaking the treatment as I rewrote and edited my script. The same vision I had, in the beginning, did not reflect the current state of my screenplay. Every revision trickles down to the treatment in some way. Just remember to keep your vision in tack.

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The goal with these two writing staples is to help shape and mold your vision to what your endgame is going to be – optioning your idea for film, television or the web. Keep your eyes on the promised land.

Hopefully, reading this post will aid you in rethinking and revising your treatment and logline. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week for more on deconstructing and reconstructing your film/series bible.

Writer’s Block Part 2 – Finding Relief

After dealing with the symptoms and causes of writer’s block, writing a screenplay can be a stressful situation so why add this foe of all writers into the mix. In today’s blog, I’ll dive into some resolutions to help deal with this plague.

Dealing with writer’s block can be a major stressor to any screenwriter. Sometimes, all you need is a changeup or some personal time to get back into the creative flow. When I was writing my pilot, I found myself staring at a blank computer screen for moments at a time. I would back away from the screen and watch some Korean variety shows to get back in the fold.

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In that spirit, I’ll give you some tips on breaking out of your writer’s block.

Research

If you find yourself questioning some of your writing decisions (characters, settings, actions), research can a huge aid in breaking through writer’s block. Looking up culture aspects of a character’s background or real places for your fictional world can great in pushing through and developing your screenplay. During the writing process for my pilot, I spent half of my time reading books and looking up pages and forums online to get a better breadth of my characters’ various backgrounds.

Change of scenery

Any writer who’s been handcuffed to their computer or notebook all day will tell you that changing your environment will open up your creative world. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking a walk outside. You can go grocery shopping, meeting friends for lunch, seeing the afternoon matinee, etc. Any chance to be out and about in the world is a great opportunity to get inspiration. My favorite thing to do is going to a shopping center or grocery store and observe people as I run my errands.

Reading outside of your medium

Screenwriting is amazing, but sometimes, you can get into a little rut with the format as your creative well begins to run dry. Reading outside of your screenwriting territory is crucial in keeping the creativity flowing. Find a nice book. magazine, or blog site to get some inspiration for your characters, plots, settings, etc. My usual reading selection goes between historical fiction, mystery, graphic novels, and memoirs. I can always find inspiration in those mediums.

Tap into other creative outlets

Besides reading outside of the medium, you use other creative outlets to inform your script and its world. Being an artist allows you to be a multifaceted individual so embrace it. Anyone who is thinking about or in the thick of screenwriting usually has a background in some other forms of writing. But there’s also other forms of art that can get those creative juice going. Before becoming an aspiring screenwriter, I got my Bachelor’s degree in animation along with having a background in every aspect of the fine arts.

Try other activities

A piece of advice is not all your activities have to be creative-focused. Sometimes, you have to let your mind go blank and enjoy some mindless fun. After a day of writing, you need to unwind in some way. Video games, film, television, etc. Just embrace it all. I spend my free time going between video gaming, listening to music or catching up on my favorite TV series and podcasts online.

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When there seems to be no relief for writer’s block, a breakthrough happens, and the words begin to flow from your fingertips to the computer screen or notebook.

Hopefully, reading this post will help in getting out of the fog known as writer’s block. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week for more on creating the full screenwriting experience.

 

 

Writer’s Block Part 1 – Symptoms and Causes of Creative Restriction

After speaking on the importance of scenes and actions in crafting a screenplay, I’ll speak on a writer’s worst enemy – the dreaded writer’s block. Today’s blog will focus on the symptoms and causes of this creative plague. Writer’s block can lead to a depressive state in your writing process.

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According to the website Mental Health Daily,

The phenomenon was first documented in 1947 by Edmund Bergler, a psychoanalyst… Anyone can end up with writer’s block, even talented writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald have been noted to struggle with this condition. The condition was researched throughout the 1970s and 1980s and specifically focused on the process and post-process theories of composition.

Like any form of writing, screenwriting is no exception as mental blocks can come at the most inopportune moments. When I originally wrote my pilot, I was writing the last two acts for my screenwriting class when I decided to push myself due to outside obligations. I couldn’t concentrate as my mind raced at top speed.  In short, I ended writing those acts at 2 AM after a crazy concert. My creative juices were flowing, and I had to capture them before sleep and fatigue settled in.

In that spirit, I’ll break down some of the warning signs and causes of writer’s block.

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Symptoms

Brain fog – This dreaded cohort of writer’s block always appears when you in the midst of creating your latest masterpiece. You feel like your brain is working against you as your concentration and productivity slow down to a screeching halt amongst a cloudy atmosphere. It can lead to a major delay in your writing process.

Lack of focus – As either an offset of brain fog or a casualty of distraction, focusing on a story can be a daunting task as outside forces seem to constantly vie for your attention. A wandering mind can take your attention away from your passion for writing.

Lack of inspiration – Have you ever been in the midst of or starting to writing your screenplay, and found yourself not feeling or lacking direction in your work? Of course, we all have. Sometimes, you find yourself writing something that just doesn’t speak to your soul and heart. That can be a major dilemma, especially when dealing with a tight deadline.

Frustration – Another writer’s block cohort popping up when writing shouldn’t a stress but a labor of love. Often times this comes up when you need to write but can’t put words to pen or computer screen. You end up in this negative cycle of doubt and creative restriction.

Causes

Over analyzing and over thinking – As a creative, your work becomes a child of your writing process, but sometimes, a writer’s worst enemies – self-doubt and fear – can creep up and cause you to rethink everything you’ve written. You begin comparing your screenplay to that of your peers or industry veterans and scrutinizing every single word you have on the page or screen.

Anxiety – Again, a writer’s worst enemies – self-doubt and fear – can lead to some very intense moments as you begin looking over your work. Breathing gets shallow, mind races and heart palpitations set in as this silent foe begins overwhelming all your senses and body. You feel completely out-of-control and unable to write.

Emotional fatigue – Life outside of writing can be draining – physically, mentally and emotionally – leading to a lack of creativity and mental blocks. The latter comes when your words lack the emotional fortitude your character needs. The lack of connection and a slow mental process can leave you filling unfulfilled and unmotivated.

Lack of motivation – Once in the thick of emotional fatigue, your determination and ambition seem to drift to the wayside as lethargy and low mental fortitude set in. Being unmotivated can the biggest mountain to climb as when it comes to writing a screenplay. An already daunting task can become almost impossible.

Stress – This negative force can be a major hindrance in the writing process. Sometimes, stress can go beyond the thinking process and impede on complex cognitive functions like writing a screenplay. Outside forces like daily life, family problems or relationships can render the idea of screenwriting as more of an overwhelming task than a creative outlet.

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Even though the condition has been studied, it has become a controversial subject as many individuals, including writers, have begun to question the validity of writer’s block in recent years. I’ll just say that writing no matter the medium can be a huge undertaking especially in a short amount of time, but I’ll leave that debate up to you – the audience.

In reading this post, I hope you won’t feel alone in the battle against writer’s block. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week to read about some cures for writer’s block.

 

Scenes and Actions Part 2 – Creating Characters Through Actions

After speaking on the importance and difference in settings and scenes in crafting a screenplay, I’ll speak on the importance of creating your characters through actions. A character’s actions are essential in setting the tone and pace of a script.

A plot or story cannot move forward without the use of action. Each and every action a character makes helps in obtaining the end goal – a resolution. In some cases, a series of actions can leave the resolution open-ended for the audience to draw their own conclusions. In writing my pilot script, I found myself creating a serialized resolution where a strategic move on social media by my main character carried over to the next episode in the series. This allowed me to give my series a serialized focus not many animated series tend to explore.

A friendly tip from me to you is to create a loose outline of actions will happen in a scene. And I do mean loose outline as sometimes an action might seem okay in the initial stage, but doesn’t work when it comes to plotting out your screenplay.

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Actions are all about being visual and timely. With most screenplays taking place in real time, you have to remember that the present tense is your best friend. It will help you keep straight what is going on in your character’s world. Throughout writing my screenplay, I had to keep in mind I was not writing a novel but a project that is meant for the small or big screen. Along with timeliness, action carries the plot visually as your characters exist on a realistic plane (real or fictional). In writing my screenplay, I found myself using various words to illustrate an action like walking – trotting, speeding, creeping. In one scene, I had to write about two characters walking down the hallway in their own ways to show more personality.

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Remember actions have their own levels within the script. Some are big and dynamic while others are nuance and subtle.  This keeps the screenplay from feeling monotone and uninspiring when someone reads the final product. Throughout my screenplays, I use a character’s actions to play in the relationship and dynamic with others. My main character tends to be affectionate and warm with her best friend while she tends to become timid and nonconfrontational when noticing or interacting with her nemesis.

When creating a character’s actions, you need to think about how they speak to the character’s personality and relationships.

In reading this post, I hope you will be able to craft actions that not only influence your characters but your story as well. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week to read about coping and understanding the creativity stopper – writer’s block.

Scenes and Actions Part 1 – Scenes and Settings

After speaking on the topic of dialogue, I’ll be tackling the topic of scenes and actions when it comes to creating dynamic and exciting situations for any character.

In this post, I’ll talk about the relationship between scenes and settings when it comes to creating a character’s world. While one might think these concepts are one in the same, a scene involves a series of actions perpetuated by a character(s). A setting deals with the environment where many conflicts and scenes take place within the character’s world. Both are essential in the art of world building as the characters need them to create a visual presentation through words. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is a great example of this as her use of descriptions and adjectives helped in creating the world millions of fans witnessed on the big screen.

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Creating and envisioning settings are instrumental in creating dynamics between characters along with their dialogue. I think about the old adage “the setting is another character” when it comes to perfecting your screenplay. It must be visually descriptive and vibrant just like the characters. I’ll use my script as an example. I need the cultural shock aspect as my main character is being introduced to a new environment. I describe everything from the pink and white decor in her bedroom to the white walls and blue lockers within her new high school to give the reader a sense of what is going on within this realistic fictional world. For me, the world is just as much a part of the story as the characters moving the plot forward.

A tip I use is creating a series or film bible for your script that way you already have the settings and descriptions in place for reference. As I revise and edit my script, I constantly refer to mine when making sure a setting is true to the vision I have.

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A scene from Life of Pi recreated by Morgan Spence

Once the settings are in place, creating scenes are a bit easier. Each scene must carry the plot forward in some way (big or small). When thinking of a scene, you must ask yourself some questions: is this important to the story? Does it move the plot? Does the rapport and actions within the scene come off as natural to the character(s)? If your scene doesn’t answer any of these questions, you might need to lose the scene. I’ve had the experience in my process as an introduction scene between my main character and her neighbor read fine in the initial writing, but once I revisited it, it didn’t make sense in the overall story. I tried changing dialogue and moving it around, but in the end, I ended up rewriting the whole scene. It was the best thing I could have done for the plot.

To save on wasted space, I would suggest creating an outline of how you want your script to flow. This way you can have your scenes laid out for you to refer back to when needed.

Hopefully, this post will aid you in creating the best settings and scenes for your characters to play in. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week to read about creating actions to enhance the reader’s experience and your characters when reading your script.

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