Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Victoria Lucia

How to Start a Screenplay

Getting started is the hardest part of any venture, and the same is true with screenwriting. But what if I told you that you didn't have to begin your story at the beginning?

Here's how to start a screenplay:

  • FADE IN

  • A narrator to addressing the audience

  • Plenty of action

  • Sound over black

  • A powerful visual

  • A favorite scene

  • Character descriptions

  • At the end

In this blog, learn how to start a screenplay in a literal sense, as well as the different physical locations in your story where you can get started. There are no hard and fast rules for the screenwriting business, so do whatever works for you! 

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Start a Screenplay

How to Start Your Screenplay

When it comes to starting a screenplay, there's the question of "how" and "where." First, let's tackle how to start your screenplay. Remember that these options don't require you to write this beginning section of your script first. Instead, these are suggestions to hook your audience in the first few pages of your script (or the first few scenes of your movie). 

Start with "Fade In"

First things first, start with a "fade in." If staring at a blank screen stresses you out, an easy solution can be using "fade in" to get started and get a couple of words down on the page. "Fade in" is a traditional way to start a screenplay, but using it isn't mandatory. Utilizing it can help to get things going if you feel stuck!

Start with a narrator directly addressing the audience

How do you engage the audience? Maybe try addressing them directly via a narrator setting the stage! A character confiding in the audience via a narration can help disclose information that you may be struggling to get across otherwise.

Start with Plenty of Action

Scripts that start with a bang of action can quickly bring audiences into the thick of things. Figuring out an action scene to set things off with can set the stage for a fast-paced, engaging screenplay.

Start with Sound Over a Black Screen

Don't forget that film is an auditory medium and a visual one. It can be a fun tease and intrigue audiences with a sound over a black screen. Maybe that's the sounds of a murder in a thriller or a peculiar noise that makes an audience laugh if your script is a comedy.

Start with a Powerful Visual

What's a powerful visual that will engage audiences and set the stage for a story? If you can come up with a visual that intrigues, frightens, amuses, or elicits any strong emotion, that can be a solid way to kick off a screenplay.

Where to Start Your Screenplay

There are no rules that say that you must start writing a story on page one. You've got 120 pages to choose from if you're writing a feature-length script! If you're having trouble getting started, begin writing a scene that you're excited about, which can occur anywhere in your screenplay.

Start at the Beginning of the Script

Starting your script chronologically where your story begins is a straightforward approach to storytelling. Maybe you worry that starting at the beginning is too simple? Sometimes telling a story in the most straightforward way can make it more impactful. You don't want your script to be too confusing. Try starting at the beginning, and then if you decide that it's not serving your story well enough, change it up!

Start with a Concept or Idea

Do you have a powerful concept or idea? Don't try to force yourself to write something if you're struggling. Switch gears and pursue the concept that piques your interest the most! Explore it, take notes, research, and let it stew before you try to start typing. This pre-writing process counts as writing, too!

Start With a Favorite Scene

Have you ever started to write a script, and you find yourself thinking about another scene that you can't wait to write? Write that scene! There's likely a reason that you're drawn to a specific scene. Write it out and see what the script is like if you open with that scene. If it doesn't work, you can always move it and try something new!

Start in Act 2

Starting in medias res, or in the middle of the narrative, is a tried-and-true method to start a story. Picking things up in Act 2, where the action is well underway, can thrust your audience into the immediacy of your script.

Start at the End

What would happen if you started your spec script where you imagine it ending? Is there a more exciting story that moves the ending to the beginning? If you tease the end and jump to the beginning, does that entice the audience more than your original opening? Even if you don't want to rearrange the structure of your story, it can still be interesting to consider what starting at the end would change in your script.

Start with Character Descriptions

Introducing an intriguing, unique, or unexpected character right off the bat can allow audiences to make a connection with them. Does your character stand out for some reason? Use that to your advantage and let them stand out at the beginning of your script, and entice the audience to want to learn more. 

If you don't know where to start your screenplay, but have an idea of your cast of characters, you can also start with character development. Make notes about their character arcs, then build your story idea around them for a character-driven script. 

Start with Character Dialogue

Perhaps you just overheard an inspiring conversation or an incredible one-liner that could be perfect in a movie. Start there! Some writers find it easier to write character dialogue before they can conceptualize an entire story. 

Screenplays That Have Great Openings

When in doubt, check out a sample script known for its great opening! Choose a movie script from the list of feature films below to see how the pros do it: 

Hopefully, this blog was able to make the prospect of starting your screenplay a little less daunting! Happy writing!

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