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Screenwriting Help E-Mail (Previous)

Updated Monday, one selected e-mail will be posted and answered here each week. With many years of experience in the film and television business, I look forward to providing answers to your questions about screenwriting or the entertainment industry in general.  Please send your e-mailed questions to: Script Advisor.  You may also wish to visit our Screenwriting Help E-Mails - The Archives.

This week's question: 

Dhc, I want to write a great movie, but where do I begin?

Startless in Seattle


This week's Answer: 

Ending the Problem of  Beginning

The best place to begin is at the end.  "What!?" you exclaim.  "I thought you were going to be clever and tell me to begin at the beginning."  You can always do that, but, if you don't know your ending, you'll never get there, at your beginning.  Or at least, recognize it even if you do.  Try it this way:  What do you want your audience to really "get."  Really feel and understand deeply?  What do you want to give them?  I know that may seem a bit odd, but that's actually what screenwriting (or any writing, or any art form) is; it's a gift from the artist.  What emotions do you want to stir for your viewer?  How do you want your viewer to feel?  To think?  Once you truly know those answers, you'll know your ending, the accumulation of a series of events that lead to those answers.  And when you truly know your ending, then you start asking questions about what led to your ending.  In a way, you'll retrace your steps (steps that you haven't taken yet) along the path of those questions that lead to your end and you'll be trying to find your way to your beginning.  Your questions will be connected by causality.  Dots you connect, so to speak.  If you ask the right questions at the right time, questions connected to questions. You'll move along that Questions Path and find yourself eventually at your beginning.

Or you'll be completely lost and you'll have to start at the beginning again.  Which is starting at the ending.  Do you see why do many screenwriters go mad?  Or give up on screenwriting and just open a kiosk at the mall?  Next time you're at the mall, just take a look at all those screenwriters.  And buy something from them, okay? They probably have a tough life.

Just don't ask them how to begin a screenplay.

 

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