by Michael Chasin
Legendary writers have claimed it was merely a concept—or cool character—or line of dialogue—that was needed to start—and finish without stopping—their famous screenplays.
But the rest of us—mythology of great writers aside—need to know the beginning, middle, and especially end—before we start writing.
Because it seems impossible to create acts, plot twists, story beats, escalating obstacles, and character growth (and sometimes descent)—without first knowing—the overall story.
So lots of thought—resulting in the mapping of the entire screenplay—is first required.
Mapping may be a diagram on the back of a napkin—post-it notes on a wall—scenes on index cards—or a complex color-coded structure built by slick screenwriting software.
They all work.
Once the set-up, conflict, and resolution act map is complete, you can drill down into sequences, scenes, and notation of character emotions, including lines of dialogue.
While there is much genius in the actual writing, equal measures—if not more—are in the mapping.
After the full map is created, the screenplay becomes—a typing exercise—without writer’s block—since all scenes—and the ending—have already been conceived.
Students have related to me—after preparing a pot of coffee—you were right, it went so fast, it was just typing, and I had all this coffee left!
So after mapping—you’ll write your screenplay—as quickly as a legendary writer.