Writing a Screenplay — Characters, Setting, Theme, Conflict

When writing a screenplay, characters, setting, theme, and conflict are of particular importance.

Creating Characters

The most important aspect of screenwriting is character development. You have to come up with interesting characters. Think of anyone you met but do not know well. Try to remember what the person was wearing when you met him or her, reflect on the way they talked and try to recall if they had a job and what the job was.

Now jot down as many details about that person as you can remember. While doing so, you should be starting to form the basis of a character. Keep doing this with a couple more random people until you have come up with about four or five characters, and then you can pick the character you think you would prefer to use in your screenplay. Keep in mind that you can also merge different traits into one person and exaggerate them too.

Formulating an Interesting Setting

Formulating a setting is even easier than creating characters because the setting does not necessarily have to be unique as long as it serves the characters. For instance, a car park may not be the most exciting of places, but when you think about the kind of people that could be in that car park, then its appeal grows. Just by doing this, you have already built up some tension in association to your particular setting. It’s the people that make a place. Take a moment to think to yourself about someplace you know, and then you can put your character in that location along with a reason why he or she is there. From this small exercise, you can come up with a way to expand your ideas and build a story.

Creating a Central Theme and Conflict

You should be able to summarize your film in one sentence, and once this has been done, you will have your theme, and if done well, your logline. A good example for a theme could be the theme for Star Wars, which is: “Evil takes over when good people do nothing.” The logline is, of course, different than the theme. The logline is a succinct statement that specifies the conflict among the characters.

You will be surprised at just how much faster you will be able to finish a script when you prepare with the defined theme and logline as well as characters and setting.