Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

New York Times Bestseller Jonathan Maberry Tells You How to Write the Perfect First Page

Sometimes the thought of writing something terrible prevents me from writing anything at all. But the feeling doesn’t last, A) because I’ve trained myself to break through that barrier, and B) because I don’t get paid if I don’t write! The latter is very motivating, but not something that most screenwriters can rely on regularly. No, your inspiration must come from yourself. So, what do you do when you can’t seem to get past your screenplay’s title page? New York Times Bestseller Jonathan Maberry has some advice for how to start a screenplay and write the perfect first page, and it begins with letting go of perfection.

With one click

Export a perfectly formatted traditional script.

Try SoCreate for free!

Write Like This...
...Export To This!

“Writing the perfect first page is an interesting challenge,” he told us in an interview. “In the first draft, you’re not going to do that.”

So, let yourself off the hook! According to Maberry, who also won a Bram Stoker Award (okay, I’m listening!), setting the standard of “perfect” in your writing is self-defeating, because no work is ever perfect. Even HE has looked back on his first New York Times Bestseller and wanted to change things.

“Looking back at it eight or nine years later, I could say “I would like to change that, that, that,” he said.

“Do the best you can do that day, and also understand its relevance to the final project. The first draft is just a story. All the figurative and descriptive language, the metaphor and subtext, those are things that are going to come later and be worked into it during revision phase,” Maberry explained. “What you need to do is write the first page that keeps you interested enough to write the next one. Write the story that’s going to keep you interested in doing the next page, and the next, and the next.”

What to include on page one of your screenplay:

  • A compelling location

  • A first moment to hook the audience (see below)

  • Words with purpose that set the tone for how the story will unfold

  • An introduction to your protagonist

  • Set the pace of the script

Now that you know how to start a screenplay, revise the first page keeping in mind these ten ways to really hook your reader,  according to writer Ann Garvin for Writer’s Digest and adapted for screenwriters.

10 ways to hook your reader:

  • Begin at a critical moment

  • Add an unusual situation

  • Include an alluring character

  • Insert conflict

  • Include the antagonist

  • Create a change in emotion

  • Add irony or surprise

  • Make the reader curious

  • Apply the dread factor

  • Keep the dialogue or action compelling

Ready to move past page 1? Don’t miss out on these ten tips to write the first ten pages of your screenplay. It’s a must-read, because you need to make the first ten pages count.

Tell me something interesting,

You may also be interested in...

5 Things Professional Screenwriters Would Say to Up and Comers

Most writers who’ve “made it” won’t sugarcoat the facts: earning a living as a screenwriter is hard. It takes talent. It takes work. And maybe most importantly, it takes standing up when you’ve been knocked down … over, and over, and over again. But the reward? It’s oh-so-worth it to be able to do what you love for a living. Today, we’re dishing up some screenwriting advice from a pro. We had the pleasure of meeting screenwriter, playwright, producer and director Dale Griffiths Stamos at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. She’s also a dramatic writing teacher, so she sees students aspiring to live their passion every day. She has some sound screenwriting advice for them ...

‘Stranger Things’ SA Explains Alternative Jobs for Aspiring Screenwriters

If your screenwriting career hasn’t taken off just yet, and you still need to keep your day job, it’d be nice if you could work in a relevant field or related screenwriting job. It keeps your mind in the game, allows you to build connections with like-minded people, and learn more about the movie and television business. Take Caitlin Schneiderhan, for example. She’s a screenwriter with many accolades to her name, including being named one of MovieMaker Magazine’s Top 25 Screenwriters to Watch. Her scripts have placed in the Austin Film Festival’s AMC One Hour Pilot Competition, Screencraft Pilot Competition...

Is It Hard to be a Screenwriter? Writer Robert Jury Answers

Screenwriter, producer, and director Robert Jury climbed the ladder in Hollywood through hard work and determination. He’s done the LA thing, and he’s also been successful as a writer living in his current home of Iowa City, Iowa. Over the course of a couple of decades, Jury learned that there’s no substitution for perseverance and passion. So, we loved his answer when we posed the question so many aspiring writers ask, “Is it hard to be a screenwriter?” Jury started his career as a script reader, interned at Warner Bros. Pictures, and worked for Touchstone Pictures Company. “Back in the old days, I would lug home a dozen ...