Being a relative newcomer to the screenplay writing scene, I thought at first that I must read lots of screenplays and enrich my experience with learning from a variety of articles that offer advice on how to match the greatness of screenwriting gurus. While doing so, I could not help but notice that the ‘greatness’ in screenplay writing was mostly assigned to technicalities e.g. structure and formatting and not to creatively expressing oneself.
Now, being a writer, I believe, naively or not, that I should simply write, letting my creativity soar. To me, looking into and discussing structures, formatting rules, and writing software is secondary on the list of writing priorities. Why to focus on how to avoid mistakes and not break rules instead of writing?
Personally, I believe in freedom of creative self-expression. There are so many different ways of telling the same story, so many different styles and angles one can adopt. And, honestly, it does not matter if one creates stories on paper or on screen in Microsoft Word or FinalDraft. The point is to write and write a lot and then re-write and re-shape and re-tell your stories to your liking not to liking of some technical know-how ‘gurus’.
There, of course, should be some framework to the stories one writes, but the framework more like in framing paintings. The frame of a panting adds to the beauty of the painting itself but in no way makes the paining great. The same, I believe, applies to screenplays. Screenplays are beautiful paintings, and technicalities are their frames.
Imagine of you want to paint a picture. Do you start from choosing its frame? No, you start by imaging your painting, by choosing the surface to paint on, by mixing your paints. Then you begin to paint. First, applying wide strokes that form vague shapes, then perfecting them, adding small touches here and there, moulding your vision into a cohesive and unified image.
Once finished, you assess your work of art, contemplating if it is good or not, worthy of showing to the world or not. Once positive, you wish to share it, so others can hopefully admire it too. And here comes the framing and hanging of your masterpiece. The very last step in the whole of creative process.
The same idea applies to screenplays.
I’m convinced that one should never start from formatting or structuring a screenplay. This would equal to choosing frame before a picture is even painted. Instead, one should think of what one wants to tell and why, then imagine it in all its visual glory, including colours, images, and sounds, and then transfer the imagined into writing.
Once finished, you can format and structure your screenplay as much or as little as you wish, so those who admire your story, not formatting, enough to purchase it, can visualise your vision into a movie.
Seraphima Nickolaevna Bogomolova