Introduction to Screenwriting: The Basics of the Craft

Learn all the elements you need to create a compelling, professional-looking screenplay.
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  • Lectures 28
  • Length 2 hours
  • Skill Level Beginner Level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 3/2015 English

Course Description

This course will give you the basic tools you need to write a screenplay.

  • You'll get a description of the elements of screenwriting and some resources and links to help you on your journey.
  • This course should take about four hours to complete through reading the text, watching the videos and filling out the worksheets provided.
  • You'll also want to explore the links provided to gain a greater understanding of those elements of screenwriting.

If you have any questions or need help, feel free to contact me!

I want this to become a screenwriters' community where we can:

  • meet up in Google hang-outs,
  • have sessions using Livestream to address questions and concerns you might have, and to connect with each other!

Take this course if you have an idea for a screenplay, or if you need help refining you idea and giving it structure so that you can share it with others and turn it into an actual screenplay that you can submit to agents and producers, and to contests.

What are the requirements?

  • Students will not need any prior knowledge of screenwriting; however, basic writing and grammar skills are necessary.
  • Students may opt to purchase screenwriting software in the future, but during and after the course they can hone their formatting skills manually using any word-processing program, or on free screenwriting software such as Celtx.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Formulate a logline and pitch for a screenplay
  • Create compelling characters
  • Write effective dialogue
  • Write and edit scenes that propel the story forward
  • Map out story using sound structure
  • Understand and apply the elements of industry standard screenplay format

Who is the target audience?

  • This course is for students who have no experience writing screenplays. We'll start from the very beginning.
  • This course would also be useful for students who already have a short story or work in another genre that they would like to adapt into a screenplay.
  • This course is not for advanced screenwriting students, or those who want to workshop completed screenplays.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Introduction to the Course

A look at the basic elements of screenwriting, including:

- Loglines and Pitches

- How to create and develop characters

- Dialogue

- Scenes

- Screenplay Structure

- Screenplay Format

- How to maintain momentum as you write your screenplay

- Submitting your screenplay to contests, agents and producers


Understand that in this course we are starting from the very beginning. Screenwriting is different from other types of writing, but once you learn the different elements of it you can hone your craft and get better and better! I'll explain why I came to enjoy working with screenplay format and telling stories as a screenwriter.

5 questions

A diagnostic quiz to see if you're familiar with these concepts. If not, no worries, that's what you're here to learn!<br>

Section 2: Loglines and Pitches

How to firm up your story idea and distill it into a one-to-two sentence logline or very short summary that encapsulates your idea.


Expand your logline into a short paragraph-length summary, and you have a "pitch" that gives the broad contours of your story including who your main character is, his/her main conflict, and some idea how the story might be resolved. If someone asks "What's your story about?," you'll be ready to answer in a succinct and compelling way!


Tips on pitching your story, and why you should consider entering pitch contests.


An exercise to test your logline and pitch.

8 questions

What is the purpose of a logline and a pitch and what are some of their key elements? This will help you remember some of the details as you formulate you own logline and pitch for your screenplay..

Section 3: Characters in Action

Things to consider as you create your characters. What are they all about? What's their favorite color/song/book/TV show? How will you convey this onscreen? Even if all this won't show up onscreen you should know these things anyway. In this section we'll examine why.


Actions your characters take that move the story forward will show the audience just what it needs to know. In this section we'll discuss why they'll thank you for showing--not telling.


Gain insight into what makes a character interesting to you and how you can improve your characters.

4 questions

Things you need to know as you create characters to populate your screenplay.

Section 4: Dialogue: Less is More

Your characters should be distinctive so make their dialogue that way as well. Here are some tips on how to improve your dialogue.


In order to write realistic movie dialogue just listen to how people talk in everyday life and make it sound like that that, right? Yes and no. You want it to sound "real," but as the writer you need to provide subtext: that magical ingredient that will add meaning and depth to your story.


A bit more about subtext in dialogue.

3 questions

Make your dialogue more meaningful.<br>

Section 5: Writing Effective Scenes
Get in Late, Get out Early
More on why you should "Get in Late, Get out Early"

Realize that editing is an integral part of the writing process. As you get a feel for your characters and the flow of your story, you'll learn to trim the excess so that your scenes reveal only what is needed to move the story forward.

3 questions

Some thing to remember about how to write good scenes.

Section 6: The Invisible Magic of Screenplay Structure

Every story needs a beginning, middle and end. Your screenplay has to have effective structure to carry the audience from "Fade In" to "The End." This is most basic framework for screenplays.


Why knowledge of the three act structure is essential and how to make that second act more manageable!

45 pages

Looking at structure in a bit more detail, and breaking things down into smaller steps, we'll discuss the Hero's Journey as a tried and tested way to take your main character from his/her ordinary world, through the extraordinary world of the hero's journey and back again. You may find out you know this structure better than you think!


Watching movies mindfully and with an eye on the clock can help you start to see the pattern of structure in various films. Try this and you'll learn how to improve the story structure in your own screenplay.

5 questions

The map of your story.

Section 7: Screenplay Format

We'll learn the elements of screenplay format discuss why format is your friend. Even if you're using a screenplay formatting program now, or will in the future, you should know the nuts and bolts of formatting so you'll know what the format should look like for any situation, including flashbacks, daydreams, and montage.

In the Resources section here you'll find the opening pages of my screenplay, PIANO LESSONS, as an example of screenplay format. Feel free to contact me with any formatting questions!


Why you don't need to call the shots for your story-teller voice to shine.

4 questions

Proper format makes your screenplay look professional.<br>

Section 8: The Road Ahead

Now that you know the basics, you have all you need to get started and well on the road to completing your first screenplay. Here are some tips on how to maintain momentum.


Maintain momentum by writing every day, watching movies, and reading screenplays!

2 questions

Resources and Writing Habits<br>

Section 9: It's Finished. Now What?

Entering contests can be a great way to get feedback on your screenplay, and to get "street cred" in the Industry. There are so many screenplay competitions; how do you decide which ones to enter? We'll talk about how to make informed decisions on where to spend your entry fee money.


A bit more about contests and why film festivals are also great for screenwriters!


The basics of query letters/ e-queries. We'll come full-circle back to the whole idea if log lines and pitches. They helped you gain clarity and focus to write your screenplay, and now you can use them as tools to get your script into the right hands.

6 questions

Things to remember about contests and submissions.

Section 10: That's a Wrap!

We'll go briefly back over what we've covered.

5 questions

A final quiz. You'll recognize these from the beginning. Have you learned more about any of these concepts?

Happy Writing and keep in touch!

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Instructor Biography

I have an MFA from Louisiana State University in Creative Writing with a concentration in Screenwriting and a BA in English-Creative Writing. I taught screenwriting and Art & Craft of Film at Tulane University School of Continuing Studies and was an associate professor of English at Nunez Community College before returning to my home state of Georgia where I currently teach at Georgia Military College. I've written over a dozen award-winning feature-length screenplays, adapted two of them into graphic novels, Uptowners and Piano Lessons, and I'm currently working on my third, Queensgate. I wrote and directed an award-winning short film, Route of All Evil, founded the Pelican d'Or Short Film Festival and served as its director for ten years. I'm now in the process of expanding my creative arts business, Noisy Muse, and creating some new courses for Udemy!

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