Ashlee Stormo is an aspiring screenwriter who has graciously let us in on her screenwriting process, from outlining to editing, and this week, from beginning to end. Watch as she documents her journey to complete a script in time for a contest deadline.
"Happy Wednesday, screenwriters! I just finished up another screenplay and vlogged the whole thing, the ups, and downs - let us know what stage you're at in your own project!"
"I read a quote today that is by Mark Twain that you've probably heard, and it says the two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.
Hello friends! My name is Ashlee Stormo, and if you haven't seen, I have been working with SoCreate to bring you a series of videos showcasing what it's like as an aspiring writer, and today I'm bringing you a blog where I documented writing a screenplay. And also, let me know what part of the writing process you're at, with whatever script you're working on currently. I would love to hear about it. Let's dive right in.
I have been outlining for a few days, and if I had to characterize the script that I'm currently working on, I would say that it's "Shameless" meets "It's a Wonderful Life." It's a very fun concept that my mom actually gave me, and I quickly, promptly stole it from her. The problem that I'm having is that I keep coming back to this piece of advice that I heard online from a screenwriting consultant. The problem a lot of writers have is that if you took their main character and deleted it from the whole script, and then replaced it with a cookie-cutter new main character with making very minor tweaks, and the story still works, then that is not actually a story. That's just a situation. So, I'm trying to figure out how to combat that. It took a lot of mindless wall staring, but the way that I went about fixing my premise, main character flaw is I went and I looked up that script consultant. Her example that I found, once I researched a little more, was "Tootsie." His character flaw is that he is cruel to women. By dressing up as a woman, he learns empathy for them, and it fixes his main character flaw.
So, once I had an example, it was so much easier to kind of format my own character around that. So, I am now in the process of designing my scene weave. A scene weave is basically just a list of every single scene that you are going to include.
Hello friends! Do not mind my messy hair. I'm just wondering if you are able to use index cards to kind of lay out what you want your project to look like, visually. It hasn't really helped me yet, and I haven't figured out a system for it, so, if you have a system for that, please let me know.
Alright, so at this point in the writing process, I kind of force myself to map out exactly how many pages I'm going to do a day. If I don't map out how many pages to do a day, I just won't do them. I have sticky notes during COVID because sometimes I like to rearrange them because some days, I do not feel like writing. But I do have contests coming up, so I don't get to use sticky notes. It's going to be permanent, that I have to stick to.
Hello, live from my desk. I'm about halfway through; I'm on page 63. Right now, I'm experiencing burnout, which I do halfway through every single script that I write. I have some supporting characters, and I'm realizing that per my usual problem, they were all sounding too similar. What are your tips for making people sound different? Because all of their voices are coming from me, so their speech patterns sound so similar.
So, you kind of saw me this morning in my baseball cap, griping more about dialogue. The trick that I have that I do is I read it out loud, and if it makes me cringe from saying it, I know I have to change it. So, that's my trick on that. Let me know your tricks for dialogue and how you make it better, or know it needs to be changed or not.
Hello friends, I just wanted to check in. I'm almost done! I'm so excited to be done. And it's perfect timing because I have competitions coming up and I do need to save plenty of time for editing. Everyone knows editing is everything. I got stuck today, and I needed to draw the classic three-act triangle thing that you learn about in screenwriting classes and all the books. Doing the visual thing really helped me figure out a plot problem that just wasn't coming across on my scene weave because it's not very visual. Just let me know again if you have any tips on creating some visual, whether it's index cards or not, how do you visually layout your story outline. How do you organize this for a single movie about one or two characters? How do you organize it?
How are you doing? Today I basically just stared at my computer screen and didn't get anything done because some days are just very uninspired. But, that probably means that tonight I will be doing a late-night, frenzied catch-up tonight—my self-imposed deadline.
I just had an idea for a new screenplay that I'm very excited about. And this happens to me sometimes, where I'm in the middle of writing another screenplay that has a deadline coming up for a contest that I want to submit it to. I come up with a new idea for a new one, and it makes it so hard to jump back into what I'm supposed to be working on.
I read a quote today that is by Mark Twain that you've probably heard, and it says the two more important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why. Running with that idea, I know I'm supposed to be a storyteller. So if I'm, or if you are experiencing writer's block staring out the window, maybe we're supposed to go outside. I've never thought that writing is a lonely act. I think it's about looking at your life, and your people, and translating the shared human experience, and that's the biggest lesson I have to share. Look at what's exciting in your life and draw from those real experiences.
Alright, I have now completed my screenplay. I have a whole list of things that I want to work on moving forward, making sure all of my characters sound different from one another. My audience reveal is one of my favorite tools to use – when you give the audience information that the main character doesn't know. I think this is a really good way to heighten the stakes, and I want to make sure that it's as strong as possible, and I don't think it is. Since I have a theme and a thesis for the idea that this script is trying to convey, I want to make sure that it's very clear to the audience so that when you get to the conclusion you kind of think back, and you realize, oh, this thing was being foreshadowed throughout the entire movie. I want to make sure that my supporting characters aren't just wallflowers. And the last thing that I'm going to do is I'm going to use the triangle method, which I've read about. I can't really remember where, but basically you want to make sure that the beginning of your scene starts with what your scene's about. You don't want a lot of extra space.
Let me know what you are working on in the comments below. Let me know if it's a first draft or a second draft, or if you're submitting to contests right now. I know it's contest season. Thank you so much for watching. Make sure you're watching everything that SoCreate puts out. It's all fantastic. And I will see you all soon!"