How to Write a Screenplay — Don’t Be Afraid To Mix Things Up For Your Characters

This is one of those pieces of writing advice that is easy to say but much harder to actually implement, but much like skateboarding, the payoff is totally worth it if you land the trick (that’s part of the magic of learning how to write a screenplay.) Essentially, what you want to do is end each scene on a mini-cliffhanger moment – make me, as a reader or, better yet, as an audience member, want to know what’s going to happen next. This in incredibly hard to do especially when you’re just learning how to write a screenplay and even a lot of experienced screenwriters have trouble mastering this, so if you’re able to get this particular skill down, you will suddenly find yourself to be a screenwriting MVP in a much shorter period of time.

If you want to see a really great example of this, pick out a really, really good police procedural show – 24 was really great at doing this, as was Law and Order (it’s even easier to use this show to prove this point – find an episode with Briscoe and wait for the moments where they cut away after he makes a joke – those are the kinds of moments we’re talking about here.) If things are too linear, if the proverbial waters are too calm for the characters, then we’re simply not as invested as what’s going on with them and won’t be as invested with the story.

This advice can sort of be circumvented if you’re writing a comedy – the rules there, structurally, are somewhat different from every other type of screenplay, so keep that in mind as you learn how to write a screenplay.