Screenwriting, Screenplay, Screenwriter Tips, Tricks and Secrets
By Kal Bishop

USE STRUCTURE. Structure is all too often dismissed as a hindrance to creativity and, taken to the level of conformity it is, but up to a critical threshold it enhances creative output – both in terms of the quality and size of the idea pool.

•  Short term goals (incremental productivity) produce more output than a “do your best” approach. With specific regard to creative writing, writing four pages a day completes a words-on-paper first draft screenplay in one month. A “do your best” or “waiting for inspiration” approach can take months or years. Witness the untold number of people with unfinished manuscripts under their beds.

•  Simply being prolific improves performance and quality. The single best creative product tends to appear at that point in the career when the creator is being most prolific.

•  Techniques such as separating creative from critical thinking increase the quality and quantity of the idea pool: they allow the production of a large number of ideas and a large number of diverse and novel ideas.

•  Sustained engagement in the endeavour increases the incidence and frequency of problem identification and thus the incidence and frequency of insight. The frequency of inspiration increases when engaged in the task.

USE THE HERO’S JOURNEY. This is another form of structure. While it is useful to know about plot points, three act structure, mid point (thus four act structure) and so on, this is (virtually) useless for screenwriting. You need to know WHAT to write and the Hero’s Journey is the template that the vast number of successful screenplays and stories are based upon. By using the Hero’s Journey, your plot points etc will naturally fall into place. Consider this:

a) Titanic (1997) grossed over $600,000,000 – uses the Hero’s Journey as a template.

b) Star Wars (1977) grossed over $460,000,000 – uses the Hero’s Journey as a template.

c) Shrek 2 (2004) grossed over $436,000,000 – uses the Hero’s Journey as a template.

d) ET (1982) grossed over $434,000,000 – uses the Hero’s Journey as a template.

e) Spiderman (2002) grossed over $432,000,000 – uses the Hero’s Journey as a template.

f) Out of Africa (1985), Terms of Endearment (1983), Dances with Wolves (1990), Gladiator (2000) – All Academy Award Winners Best Film are based on the Hero’s Journey.

g) Anti-hero stories (Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990) etc are all based on the Hero’s Journey).

DON’T BE AFRAID TO USE DESCRIPTION TO A DEGREE. It is true that cinema is a visual medium and the screenwriter must perfect the art of putting visual imagery on paper. But the screenplay is a word document and the decision maker’s imagination has to be fired up by the words. What the eye sees and instantly understands sometimes has to be described. You have two choices:

FADE IN: Old Man waits at a traffic light.

FADE IN: A frail old man, with a face that has lived, wary of others, hesitantly waits at the…

The Complete 188 stage Hero’s Journey and FREE 17 stage sample and other story structure templates can be found at http://www.managing-creativity.com/

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Kal Bishop, MBA

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You are free to reproduce this article as long as no changes are made and the author’s name and site URL are retained.

Kal Bishop is a management consultant based in London, UK. His specialities include Knowledge Management and Creativity and Innovation Management. He has consulted in the visual media and software industries and for clients such as Toshiba and Transport for London. He has led Improv, creativity and innovation workshops, exhibited artwork in San Francisco, Los Angeles and London and written a number of screenplays. He is a passionate traveller. He can be reached at http://www.managing-creativity.com

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