Screenwriting Workshop Curriculum

The following topics will be covered during the first three days for the workshop.

During the first day students are introduced to screenwriting fundamentals including: Story structure, three-act structure, the inciting incident, plot points, script styles and script elements. Examples of ‘real’ scripts and selected scenes from movies are viewed and discussed.

On the second and third days of the workshop – students will work in small groups and write a short 2-3 page script. Introduction of and implementation of screenwriting fundamentals continues during these days.

What is a Screenplay?

A screenplay or script is a written work by screenwriters for a film, video game, television program, commercial or industrial. These screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. In them, the movement, actions, expression, and dialogues of the characters are also narrated.

What does a screenwriter do?

A screenwriter is a writer who practices the craft of screenwriting, writing screenplays on which mass media such as films, television programs, comics or video games are based. The screenwriter is the person who creates, takes, or adapts an idea and formulates a screenplay.

The Story

Everything starts with the story. What story are you trying to tell? Is it based on a true story, a book, or some other published work (An Adapted Screenplay), or an original idea that you came up with (An Original Screenplay)? The students will learn that you need to write what you know (maybe) and that every script has a beginning, middle and end.

The Three Act Structure and Plot Points

Most movies follow the same plot format, which consists of three separate sections of a film to tell a story. This is called the 3-Act Structure.

Act One: The Setup

Main Character
Dramatic Premise
Dramatic Situation
Inciting Incident

Act Two: The Confrontation

First Culmination

Act Three: The Resolution



Your characters must be alive. Your characters must be real. Some of the greatest screenplays of all time are great not just because of the memorable lead and supporting characters, but the one-line characters that are featured. Sometimes a character can say one line and you instantly feel you know him or her. Every character in your screenplay (especially your lead characters) have to have substance. Substance is achieved by back story.

The Reality
Back Story
Character Arcs
Taking What You See
Supporting Characters


What kind of film are you making and writing for? Genre is defined as a category of artistic composition, as in music or literature, marked by a distinctive style, form, or content. For films, genre is the form of film that your story is going to reveal.

Genres include:

Science Fiction

Other variations:

Dramedy (Drama and Comedy)
Black Comedy
Film Noir
Romantic Comedy
Street Drama
Horror Comedy
Musical Comedy
Crime Thriller

“Theme” is different from genre. A theme addresses the question “What’s it about?” Not “What’s it about?” in a general sense… more like what it’s about in a topical, idealistic sense. A story can be made deeper by adding a theme.

Examples of themes include:

Forgotten Love

Actions and Descriptions

A screenplay has to move. We’ve talked about having a beginning, middle and an end. All of the scenes within the three acts must be targeted to move the story along, whether it’s character exposition or action.

The Novel vs. The Screenplay
Write What’s Seen
Writing Scene Action
Shooting Scripts vs. Reading Scripts


When writing dialogue, you’re not writing what looks good on the page. You’re writing what sounds good. One of the best ways to become good at dialogue is to listen to the people around you. Every line you write should be able to be spoken aloud, and you should be able to visualize and hear your character saying that line of dialogue.

You have to try to be as tight and as economical with your dialogue as possible. Try to never “over-write”. Again, this is a screenplay, not a novel. People rarely talk in paragraphs. Make all your words tight and to the point.

Giving your characters a voice
A word on narration
Do you ever use it?

The Scene Outline

Start getting excited, because you are very close to beginning your KILLER SCRIPT. The outline is an essential tool for many writers. Though many veteran WGA writers still use outlines, it’s quintessential for beginning writers who have never completed a script to have a general idea on where, specifically, they are going.

Scene Ordering
Marking The Plot Points, Acts, Midpoints and Climax
Sample Scene Outline
Your Guide
The Main Rule of Writing
Create Your Rock

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