Screenwriting II — Week 9 & 10 — Spring 2014

March 29, 2014

Hello there,

A short post this week.
In class we talked about different approaches to writing dialogue. Below are several links to good articles on the craft of dialogue writing.


THIS IS A TERRIFIC MEMO from the playwright and screenwriter David Mamet to the writers of The Unit, the TV show that was popular for a spell. It covers all the important points of drama we talk about in class.

No homework this week. But those of you who wants to read his/her BREAK UP scene in class, please bring the scene with you. Alternatively, you can email the scene to me and I’ll beam it on the screen in class, so we can read it together.

Screenwriting II — Week 9

November 7, 2013

Posted on: Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Greetings, In class we talked about scene construction. Think of a scene as a mini-film. It has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

— What is the scene you’re writing about?

— Who is the main character in the scene?

— Would your story change if you didn’t include the scene?

— How does the scene end?

— Does it have a heightening of dramatic tension?

— Does it introduce a new plot element?

— Does it offer a new insight for the audience

— Does it have a reveal or surprise?

Start from the end of the scene and work your way to the beginning, so you can set up all the necessary elements.

Most of you have already started to work on the step outline for ACT I, which consists of the FIRST TWO SEQUENCES. In the previous assignment you outlined the sequences without getting into the beats. For this assignment, you’ll  need outline the beats. Keep in mind, however, that not every scene needs to be included in a beat sheet. Many different scenes may comprise a car chase, for example. The chase is only ONE BEAT. Here’s a little sample.


1.    LOUISE is a waitress in a busy coffee shop. Pretty and meticulously groomed.

2.    THELMA is a housewife.  She’s washing the dirty dishes from last night, still in her nightgown, her hair messed up. 3.    Louise calls Thelma and they discuss the details of their two-day trip to a cabin in the mountains.

4.    Thelma packing for the trip. Her suitcase is a mess and she’s taking way too much stuff for a two-day trip. The last thing she takes is her gun.

5.    Louise is a meticulous packer and her suitcase looks perfectly ordered.  Her room is as orderly as her suitcase. She calls up her boyfriend but he’s not home.

6.    Louise’s green T-Bird convertible pulls up to Thelma’s house. Thelma loads her things into the car and asks Louise to take care of the gun. Louise shrieks but takes the gun and drops it into her purse. They drive off.

7.    Thelma is hungry and wants to stop for food. They pull into the parking lot of an eatery called Silver Bullet.  (INCITING INCIDENT)

Continue in similar manner. Try to keep your beat no longer than two three sentences. If a scene is broken into several parts, count it as one beat (e.g. First we see Thelma packing, then Louise, and then we come back to Thelma to show her taking the gun. It is the same scene split in two.) Indicate major structural points. Inciting Incident,  Act I plot point, etc. just to keep yourself from getting derailed. Indicate the sequences.  That too will keep you organized.

There are many approaches to writing beats. The most important thing to remember is to keep them short, so your brain is not locked into any specific details when you  write the scene. A step outline / beat sheet is a map, not a carefully detailed route. But… your beats have to be carefully chosen because they are the building blocks of your story. If one is removed, added or modified, the rest have to be adjusted to it.

Your Assignment:

Step Outline — Act I DUE: MONDAY, NOV. 11th, by 9:30 AM

Read: Vogler, Meeting with the Mentor through Approach to the Inmost Cave (pp. 117-155).

Read: Thelma & Louise screenplay (Screenplays Page).

See you Monday.