We have all been there; we have a great idea for a screenplay but can’t seem to type more than the title. It’s like getting in your car and figuring out where the ignition is. You know it’s right in front of you, but you just can’t seem to find it. With screenplays (or any type of writing), breaking through writer’s block to put down the first sentence is an important victory. What comes next is an entirely different matter. For some, once the first sentence is written, everything else seems to flow onto the screen. However, to get to writing the first sentence, some need a little push. I have found that these tips have helped to start my creative flow.
- Start with an Outline — I know some of you may not want to do this, but it does help to get you in the right frame of mind. It not only organizes your thoughts, but it can spark your creativity. Just knowing where I will be starting the movie, such as in a bedroom or a dark stairwell, my mind immediately goes to describing the area. It’s also a great time to think about the subplots and character arcs.
- The Emotions — What is the main character feeling? If the character is angry, you can write the first line as an obscenity (short and sweet) or simply have the character say he or she is angry at someone or something.
- Watching a Trailer — Engaging the audience is the number one goal of your movie. So, think of a trailer for your movie. How would you create it? Would it start out with an action scene or dialogue? Translate that image into words. Remember, the first sentence of your screenplay can be a description of a place or action. For example, the first line of the Bourne Identity is a description of an ocean.
- Free Writing — This exercise is used for all types of writing because it works. Open a new document and just start typing whatever flows into your mind. It’s good to start with the movie’s plot in your mind before you start typing. You would be surprised what ends up on the screen that’s related (and not related) to your screenplay. There will be those nuggets that generate the first few words or the entire sentence.
- Watch the News — I know this sounds strange, but when you watch the news, your mind will become engrossed in a news story. Whether the story is about a natural disaster or the latest political scandal, there will be keywords or phrases that will jump start your brain into thinking about your characters or plot. Once you starting thinking about your movie, quickly put it down on paper or type it.
Once you have written the first sentence, you will have an idea of where the script is going. You will get excited about beating your writer’s block and that you have ended up writing more than you thought you would.