So You Finished Your Script … Now What?

5 questions you must immediately ask yourself upon finishing the first draft of your script

 

script and screenwriting

Do you have a finished script?

Congratulations! You’ve finished your script!

Now what?

Well, give yourself a pat on the back and take a moment to appreciate your labor of love…

Now roll up your sleeves and make a fresh pot of coffee because it’s time to get back to work!

The first thing you should do immediately upon finishing your first draft is think about your next draft, and that means asking yourself some tough yet necessary questions.

No, we don’t mean, “What’s for lunch?” (although that’s a pretty important question too).

We mean that you need examine your draft with a keen and honest eye in order to zero in on its strengths and weaknesses. That way, you can make your second draft all the more intriguing and marketable.

As you probably already know, this town is filled with scripts…producers and agents are literally buried in them. And on every desk there are lots of good scripts, but there are not a lot of great scripts.

If your script doesn’t grab the attention of the producer, agent, or director in the first 5-10 pages, you can assume that he or she is going to move on to the next one in the sky-high stack on their desk/kitchen table/floor (you get the picture).

But here’s the problem…re-writes can seem about as daunting as doing your high school math homework.

But don’t worry because we’ve got your back!

To help make your script a standout on Mr. Producer’s desk (while also avoiding the feeling that you’re back in Algebra I), we’ve come up with the top 5 questions you should be asking yourself during your re-write.

 

1. WHAT IS MY CENTRAL IDEA?

The central idea is the overarching notion or theme that drives the story forward and is tested in every scene. Avoid thinking of the central idea as simply what the story is about.

Instead, think of it as the backbone of the story, which should be present in every, single scene.

Here’s an example of the central idea in THE AVENGERS to help you get started…

The super heroes can only save the world once they come together as a team.

 

2. WHO IS MY CENTRAL CHARACTER AND WHAT ARE THEIR CONSCIOUS AND UNCONSCIOUS DESIRES?

The central character is the person or thing your story is about…obviously. But what’s sometimes not so obvious is that the central character is the one who should be changing throughout the story, or be present in a world that’s changing around them.

Once you’ve got that covered, you need to establish what this main character’s conscious and unconscious desires are to help drive the plot.

The conscious desire is what the central character thinks they want, and should set the status quo of your script. It should also be established in the first 10-20 pages.

The unconscious desire is what the central character learns they really want during their journey. It’s often contradictory to the conscious desire and a “better” desire to have—but not always.

*Hint* These opposing forces united in the central character’s psyche usually present an excellent opportunity to explore the human condition.

Here’s an example of the conscious vs. unconscious desires of the characters from THE AVENGERS.

Conscious desire: To be the hero
Unconscious desire: To be a team member

In this example, the characters must overcome the urge to be a singular hero and work together as a team in order to save the world.

 

3. WHAT IS MY CENTRAL CHARACTER’S FATAL FLAW?

The fatal flaw is an aspect of your central character’s personality that prevents them from achieving their unconscious desires and should also be clearly set up early on in your script.

By doing so, you will successfully identify and begin to build on the internal and presumably tumultuous journey that the central character will go on throughout the movie/show.

 

4. WHAT IS MY OVERARCHING CONFLICT?

The overarching conflict is the primary challenge or set of challenges your central character faces; it drives the plot.

*Hint* The overarching conflict is often fueled by antagonistic forces, which is the person, group, force of nature, or aspect of the central character’s personality that stands in their way of achieving a goal.

The conflict should become increasingly difficult as the story goes on in order to raise the stakes and set the reader up for the climax.

 

5. WHAT IS THE CRITICAL DECISION?

This is the choice the central character is forced to make toward the end of the story that will lead them to victory or defat. At the characters lowest point in the story, they are forced to make this critical decision by turning inward and working to realize the truth about who they are and what they really want.

Think of it this as the culmination of the conflict between your central character’s conscious and unconscious desires.

______

There you have it!

The 5 most important (and tough) questions you need to ask yourself in order to make your second draft better than your first. With the help of these questions to guide you along, your re-write will be a painless and enjoyable process.

Keep in mind, a well-written script doesn’t always lead to a sale, but it can lead to a meeting and a basis for a relationship with a Hollywood executive.

And at the end of the day, this town is all about great writing and building relationships.

 

 

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19 Comments

  1. Thank you, great questions and already I’m seeing deeper layers I can go to with my scripts.
    Angel

    Reply
    • Hello there I am so delighted I found your site, I rellay found you by error, while I was researching on Aol for something else, Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say kudos for a fantastic post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to browse it all at the minute but I have saved it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the fantastic work.

      Reply
  2. I appreciate your e-mails with the useful information you include in them. I often am so busy I don’t have all the time I need to crack the books open from cover to cover. Helpful reminders like that, help tremendously. So far, I’ve written three produced films and have directed two of them. The 4th seems as challenging as the first. I go under David Michael O’Neill on IMDB. Thanks for your continued commitments – they matter. Dave

    Reply
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      Reply
  3. Thank you so much for your 5 questions. Great advice and at the same time is to know that Voyage Media is on our back. I should admit I do get good help from the Voyage Media team. Highly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hi I am so delighted I found your blog, I rellay found you by error, while I was researching on Aol for something else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say thanks for a remarkable post and a all round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the moment but I have book-marked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up the fantastic job.

      Reply
  4. Hi Nat:

    I think this is good advice.

    I think that people that watch a lot of movies and write a lot of stories, do this naturally. But honestly, I would not have been able to spell these five questions out if I was trying to help someone write a script. Or if you asked me what the five essential questions are that need to answered in the affirmative when writing a script, I would not have been able to tell you.

    The fact that you have spelled it out for me, makes me more conscious of making sure I am hitting these marks.

    Thanks, Nat!

    Tere

    Reply
  5. I have written a book called ” QUEEN OF THE BREMEN” It is true story about my life as a child in Germany during World II as an American citizen.What was intended to be a three month stay turned into a seven year struggle to stay alive in a living hell. As World II begins Hitler closes all ports and we are prohibited from leaving Germany. My unforgetable journey takes me through starvation, bone chilling cold, prejudice, abuse, homelessness and fear, For one year I had to stay with an Aunt, who un-beknown to my parents was a Nazi informer. How I went for one year with one bath and was so lice infested that they ate out my eyebrow.
    I slept in the bar, ate the food ment for the pigs and the only friend had was a cow. I survived on my own shear will, faith and the unconditional love I had for my friend.

    Reply
  6. I AGREE WITH YOUR 5 TERMS OF FILM SCRIPT WRITING TO MY OPINION, CENTRAL IDEA+START+HALF TIME END+ FROM SECOND HALF+ FINAL END.. MUST BE ON FAST TRACK WITH CUT TO CUT SHOTS… THAT MAKES AUDIENCE TO EXCITE ON WATCHING MOVIE!

    Reply
    • I do enjoy the way you have framed this prctiaular matter plus it really does give us a lot of fodder for thought. Nonetheless, because of what I have seen, I basically hope as the actual commentary stack on that folks keep on issue and not start upon a tirade involving the news of the day. Anyway, thank you for this excellent point and while I can not really agree with the idea in totality, I value the standpoint.

      Reply
  7. Iam enjoying your suggestion by pointing on what is needed when drafting a script. Please continue with this kind of spirit

    Reply
  8. Thanks Nat,
    In your practice, is there any collaborative work between Voyage Media and an author. I do know that you have closely followed me up in my endeavor to come up into eBook,which have now been published by Smashwords and they are: #The Godhead & Humanity (The Heart of Unregenerate Man is Desperately Wicked), volumes 1 & 2, which researches into the Old Testament Bible.
    Conversely, I also have the #The Godhead & Humanity (Total Freedom from Spiritual Enslavement), volumes 1; 2 & 3, which researches into the New Testament Bible, respectively.

    Reply
  9. Thanks for the specific information. My script does cover all the bases, but now I have a better feel for what I can omit without losing necessary items. I’m at 105 pages.

    Reply
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    Reply
  11. Excellent piece! I am currently pursuing an MFA in screenwriting and appreciate your “skimmable” ideas. Keep it coming.

    Reply
  12. Thanks so much for the article. Fantastic.

    Reply
  13. Practical, cogent, and succinct. You made me want to tackle another re-write. Thanks.

    Reply
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  15. A succinct, definitive article. Thank you. I have completed a draft screenplay under the occasional guidance of a professional mentor and postponed the rewrite because I needed to further explore aspects my subject matter. Now I have no excuse but to finish it. May I suggest that you add relevant social media buttons so your articles can be shared. (The existing buttons on this page link to your respective promotional accounts.)Best wishes, Linda.

    Reply

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