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If you’re a screenwriter or are trying to learn how to write a movie script, there’s not much that’s more intimidating than staring at the dreaded blank page. You can read posts on how to become a screenwriter, screenwriting format, or even how to get screenwriting jobs, but these won’t give you the spark of inspiration you need.
When this happens, reading general screenwriting tips won’t cut it. What you might need are some examples of how to get started, how to find something about which to write.
Read on for prompts on how to find a story to write about. Practicing these exercises won’t directly tell you how to write a script for a short film, but they’ll improve your film script writing and could help you discover an interesting story.
If any of these prompts help you discover a compelling premise, consider submitting it to The Film Fund for a chance to receive up to $10,000 to make your film.
1. Conflict Dialogue
Think of an object. It can be literally anything–a watermelon, a basketball, a pair of headphones, birthday cake, a stripper pole.
Now, create two characters who have opposing opinions about this newly-arrived object. They could be roommates, coworkers, anything. But they disagree about this object.
The prompt: Write two pages of argumentative dialogue that occurs between these two characters. The characters must remain in the same room for the duration of the scene.
2. Dynamic Setting
Go sit somewhere you don’t usually frequent, and set a timer for thirty minutes. Don’t wear headphones, don’t work on your scripts, don’t do anything.
Bring a notebook and a pen or pencil. Now, for thirty minutes, write down all of the details of this physical environment in the notebook. Pay attention to the visual details, the sounds, the smells, the people (if there are any), everything.
The prompt: After thirty minutes, review these observations and create a story using all of the details from this setting. Make this setting dynamic! This means make the setting alive–birds could fly by, they could make a sound, they could poop on something… make it come alive! Settings are characters, too.
3. Action Scene
Watch a movie that has an incredible car chase scene, such as The French Connection, Vanishing Point, The Blues Brothers, Terminator 2, or one of your choosing. There are a lot! Don’t just watch it, though, *actively* watch it. Write down every detail in a notebook while you’re watching, and pause and rewind if necessary if you see something interesting that you want to watch again.
The prompt: Write ten screenplay pages with no dialogue — just a car chase or series of car chases. Or maybe switch out the cars for a different type of vehicle or mode of transportation.
Picture someone you know. It can be yourself, your significant other, your boss, a family member. Write their physical traits in the notebook. Write down aspects of their personality.
Write down their daily routine. Write what angers them, what upsets them, what makes them happy, what calms them down. Write down everything you can think about this person.
The prompt: Write a two-page script based on this character’s day-to-day routine.
5: Fan Fiction
Take a character from one of your favorite movies or books. It can be in any genre — action, horror, comedy, anything. Do everything you can to get in the mind of this character.
If they appear in multiple works or movies, watch them all. Read about them online. Imagine what their social media would look like if they live in the modern world.
The prompt: Write a two-page screenplay about what would happen if the character received a check for ten million dollars, paying very close attention to how they speak, what they wear, and how others interact with them.
Whether you’re gearing up for a short film script contest, a screenwriting contest, or you’re struggling to come up with a compelling premise for your one-sentence pitch to The Film Fund for funding, these prompts will help you discover a story.