What I’m reading: The Perfect Screenplay (continued)

I found some more notes I took while reading The Perfect Screenplay by Katherine Atwell Herbert:

Each scene needs to:

  • Have a purpose and story arch
  • Tell a small piece of the story
  • Push the plot forward
  • Reveal something about the characters 

When writing dialogue:

  • Save the most important information until the end
  • Give each character a unique voice
  • Make sure the characters are doing something while talking; avoid talking heads

 Act I:

  • Introduces the main characters, their relationships and personalities
  • Establishes the setting and time period

 Act II:

  • Includes complications and subplots and reveals more about each character
  • Shows the personal side of the protagonist by revealing what he would do if all his problems were solved
  • It’s here that things get really bad and the protagonist loses all hope in himself
  • Remember to dramatize the theme
  • Vary the tone, rhythm and length of scenes to keep things interesting
  • Use subplots to add texture and cultural variety

 Act III:

  • Often opens with the main character at a low point
  • Main character somehow gathers himself together to try again
  • Encouragement to keep going may come from another character
  • Eventually the main character figures out what’s been holding him back and preventing him from reaching his goal


  • Make sure the hero is on stage and facing the antagonist
  • Don’t rush this scene 

Post climax:

  • Often includes a hint of marriage or a promise of a future relationship

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