I remember the very first script I wrote. I was in 7th grade, and my history teacher, Mr. Lively (which was a pretty funny name for the man since he was not particularly lively – nice, yes; lively, no), put us into groups for a project. He assigned us an explorer – and we had to come up with a creative way to “share” his achievements with the class. My group decided to do a mini-play, and I volunteered to write the script. I wish I still had that script. I’m sure it was a bit lame, but I thought it was hilarious. Most importantly, it was my start.
Since then I have written almost 200 scripts – most of them short sketches that have been used in church. But on the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also written three full length plays. For the most part, it’s been fun. Occasionally, it’s even been easy. Those are the good days, the days when I sit down to write and the lines jump right onto the paper. And there are those other days when my only inspiration is a deadline.
People often ask me how to write a script. Some of it just comes naturally – but if you want to write a script, there are also some “rules” that you have to follow. Here are a few of them:
1. You need conflict. If you want to have a good story, you have to have a good conflict. There must be some tension to resolve or some problem to fix – that’s what creates drama. Some examples… Will the guy get the girl? Will the secret agent foil the plot? Will the underdog triumph over the opposition?
2. You need complications. No good script moves happily along. You need a series of ups and downs – mini-conflicts to keep things interesting. For instance, let’s say the guy finally has the girl’s attention – we can’t end the story there! No, something has to happen to mess things up. Maybe she decides she wants to become a nun. Now the story gets interesting.
3. You need characters. We’ve got the guy and the girl, but the audience needs to be able to identify with them. People have to be able to see themselves in those characters. If our nun-girl is uncertain, it connects with our uncertainty. If the guy is angry – we understand his anger. We can relate to those emotions.
4. You need a climax. Everything in the story moves toward the moment of resolution. Usually the resolution is good; occasionally it’s not – but the outcome wraps the story up. (By the way, I’m a big fan of happy endings.) The best resolutions are the ones that you don’t see coming – where the story takes a twist that totally catches you by surprise.
There, you’re now ready to write a script. Or maybe not. Maybe the idea of staring at a blank piece of paper (or a blank computer screen) and creating something from nothing seems too intimidating. But really, that’s the fun part. Because you get to make it up – even as you go. Sometimes you’ll get heading in one direction and a character will say something that totally changes the direction and it catches even you by surprise – which is a really weird experience when you are the one writing the script. But that’s what makes it fun – it’s an adventure on paper. And even you as the author never know exactly where things are going.
Sounds like life, doesn’t it? Never knowing exactly where things are going? That’s where I am right now in my life. But that’s where I always am – it’s just that sometimes I don’t realize it. My only consolation is that I know I can trust the script writer. He’ll get my story right. However…
He’s probably going to bring in some conflict, a little tension to add to the drama. He might add some complications, those every day wrinkles to wrestle with. He may even write in some characters that steer things in unexpected directions. But that’s only going to make my story better.
But when God writes the story of a person’s life – He’s never surprised at where things go. No, He has the entire script already written, including the resolution. What I am most excited about is the twist that’s going to come with it.
The script has been written. I can’t wait to get into the next scene.
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