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 "Developing Screenplay Ideas" by Edward B. Toupin 
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Post "Developing Screenplay Ideas" by Edward B. Toupin
Title: Developing Screenplay Ideas ... My well runneth --- in many

Author: Edward B. Toupin


Recently, I started a screenwriting and movie-making group here
in Las Vegas. Our objective was to begin at, well, the beginning
of the process and work all the way through to an edited movie.
Sounds easy? Yes! Is it really? Not at all.

The one thing I ran into at the very beginning was the problem
of demonstrating the development of an idea into something that
could be used as screenplay material. The big question is,
"what's the difference between regular material and screenplay
material?" The only answer I could come up with was, "a
beginning, a middle, and an end." They looked at me like I was
kidding, but actually, I'm not.

Put simply, a screenplay is a dramatic story told with visuals
and dialogue. The screenplay describes the actions, the
environment, the dialogue, and the situations that move the
story forward. Screenplays have a formula and a format that has
been in place for many decades. Yet, the beginning screenwriter
sometimes misses this point. I ran into one fellow some months
ago who was writing a screenplay that was "325 pages" long!
After further discussion, he began to realize that, instead of
writing a screenplay, he had a novel with a story that meandered
without end.

You can use any old idea for your story, but have a point. Don't
just write for the sake of writing as the story will meander
around into a traffic jam. If you have an idea, define a theme
or objective for the story. What's the point? What is the main
character's purpose in "life"?

Life? A character's life? Indeed, the character does have a life
in the world you create, but a screenplay is not "real life".
It's a metaphor of real life presented in such a way as to
represent a particular theme. To write about a real life
situation, you have to dissect the situation and find the
underlying theme. Then, using that theme as a guideline, you
must reassemble the original idea to best represent the theme.
Indeed, some aspects of the true-story might be fictionalized to
drive the story toward the point.

For example, my wife is working on a screenplay about medical
debauchery in Nevada. After a few passes, she began to realize
that the story roamed around in circles because of the many
facets of the topic. After much coaching, she began to realize
that she had to define one particular point and aim the story at
it. As a side-effect, the physical issues of the story would be
the driving force that leads the plot around to reach "the

After writing and reading screenplays over the years, I've given
some pointers to folks that usually help them redefine and
direct their stories to a solid point. One of the main problems,
which I reiterate here, is that you have to "define a point".
For example, we might come up with an idea that has a bunch of
"cool" actions and situations. We then try to write a story to
include these ideas because we want them to be in the story.
But, this approach will usually fail because --- what is the
point? Define a point, a theme, an objective that encompasses
the feeling and direction of these "cool" actions and situations
and aim your story in that direction.

To help to resolve the "meandering" problem and the evolution of
the story toward the point, create a story where your main
character is just this faceless being that quickly and easily
achieves his goal. No dialogue. No rhyme or reason. They just
reach their goal without effort or conflict. This is boring, but
it creates a basis for the story.

Once you're satisfied with this straight-line story, add a
specific characteristic that makes this goal have meaning to the
main character. This would also mean that you would have to
modify the environment and characteristics of your main
character such that, to him, this goal means something. Now,
with a call to action, he chases his goal with fervor!

Now, add in an obstacle that keeps him from achieving this goal.
This would mean that somewhere in the main character's history,
this obstacle came into being, but is now an obvious problem in
his goal achievement. It could be a character flaw, a villain,
or any issue that blocks the main character from his goal. How
does he overcome this obstacle? Again, a character modification
and backstory is required to show his ability to overcome this
obstacle as well as some level of action to do so.

Once the core story is solid and directed, you add a conflict, a
twist, and a resolution, one step at a time, until you begin to
see your character and story evolve. With a story in hand, you
can now add your dialogue to assist in the forward movement of
the story, but only as needed. With this approach, you can
slowly build your story while keeping your "point" in mind and
following the formula for a solid screenplay.

It is essential that you keep an eye on the theme and objective
of the story and that you work in that direction, otherwise your
story will wander aimlessly. Keep it tight, start late, leave
early, and follow the three-act formula. In the end, your
screenplay will have the solid story and professional appeal
that producers are looking for in creating today's interesting,
original movies! --- About the Author ---

Edward B. Toupin is an author, publisher, life-strategy coach,
counselor, Reiki Master, technical writer, and PhD Candidate
living in Las Vegas, NV. Among other things, he authors books,
articles, and screenplays on topics ranging from career success
through life organization and fulfillment. Check out some of his
recent print and electronic books as well as his articles
covering various life-changing topics!

About the author:
For more information, and to find out about his upcoming title
on book publishing, e-mail Edward at or visit
his site at!

Copyright (c) 2004 Edward B. Toupin

This article was re-posted by permission.

[Note: In the subject line, this article's title had to be truncated, because it was too long. Appologies to Edward B. Toupin - Admin.]

Tue Jul 10, 2007 7:56 pm
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