Blank Page Syndrome! How to Get Unstuck in Your Scriptwriting

Blank Page Syndrome! How to Get Unstuck in Your Scriptwriting

Stuck on a blank page? Here's some ways to get yourself unstuck and finish that next big screenplay!

You know you want to write a script, but you're stuck staring at a blank page with no idea where to start, or worse, you're 50 pages into a feature script and you're stuck with no idea where to go next. Let's look at some ways to get you unstuck!

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Here's some ways to get yourself unstuck and finish that next big screenplay!

How to get started:

  1. Start with a character. Choose someone or multiple people you know to base a character off of. Ask yourself what it is that makes that person interesting or what stands out about them to you. Fill out a character background template you can find online to give you a well rounded idea of this character and decide what it is they want or need. Once you know their desire you can throw obstacles in their way and BAM you have a story! It's up to you if they get what they want, don't get what they want, or find out there was something else they truly needed all along!
  2. Start with a message/moral. What is it you want to teach your audience? What do they need to learn or unlearn by the end of your script? Think about a person (or being of some kind) who would struggle with this moral. Do they want to learn it or not? What obstacles block them from learning it? What eventually changes their mind? When you start with a message you can bend your entire story around it to make sure it's clear to your audience. Just don't go too heavy handed! Subtlety is key!
  3. Start with a story. This may seem obvious, but if you're stuck staring at a blank page and you can't figure out the structure of your script use a classic story as a skeleton to build off of. For example you can use "The Hero's Journey" like in Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, both have the same classic structure of a hero that is called to action, but are completely different stories and messages. You can even use actual historical events, the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones came from actual events in Scandinavian history. Think about the stories you really like and what it is about them that interests you so much
  4. Use a writing prompt. There are millions of writing prompts online for all sorts of different genres! Want to write a horror script? Look up horror writing prompts and pick any that leap out at you. Writing prompts aren't just for creative writing exercises, they can be a huge help in getting your creativity flowing! Even if you just start writing something you won't use, it's a great exercise to get yourself in the right headspace to find the right idea for your next screenplay!
  5. Get some inspiration. Whether it's going to an art museum, watching classic films, or guilty pleasure television, there's not really a wrong place to get inspiration. Go back to something that made you want to do this and re-experience it. You'll be amazed at all the ideas that pop into your head from something that inspires you.
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How to keep going when you're stuck in the middle:

  1. Think like Monty Python. In Monty Python's television series they had a running gag that to get from one sketch to a completely different sketch set in another place/time they would say "And now for something completely different!" and they meant it. So think like them and take your story in a completely different direction. A great example is the famed Hitchcock film Psycho where (SPOILER ALERT) the main character dies halfway through the film and the story completely shifts to finding out who killed her. You can change perspectives or even genres mid film if you do it smoothly and with purpose.
  2. Take a break. Deadlines may be pressuring you or just your own need to finish your project, but sometimes the best thing to do is to take a break and walk away. Go back and read or watch something that inspires you. Sometimes you just need to remember why you love doing this in the first place and suddenly the ideas start flowing again when the frustration is replaced by excitement over something you truly love. Or just go for a long walk (stay safe!), sometimes just letting your mind wander can help you break out of a bad mindset and remind you that this is fun! It may be a quick break or years, but as long as you never give up and don't let your project become a burden you'll succeed.
  3. What could go wrong? If you've hit a point in your story where things have been resolved and you still need the story to keep going think to yourself, "what could go wrong?" A fun example of this is in Shrek, where they share true loves kiss and everything seems resolved, but then Farquad attacks. It plays into the story and his character so it doesn't come out of nowhere, but it adds length to get to a feature run time. So picture what could go wrong for your characters, but make sure it's grounded in the story you already have.
  4. Give it a twist. Take a look at your characters and see if there are any that you could completely flip the motivation for. Someone who has been a good character can suddenly reveal an ulterior motive. If you do add a twist it's best to go back through your story to make sure there is foreshadowing and hints that the character may not be who they seem. Your audience can really enjoy going back through the film to see what makes more sense the second time around!
  5. Change the objective. Your characters may have solved the problem they already had, but what if it was only what they wanted and not what they actually need? If your characters have already achieved what they wanted maybe it isn't all it's cracked up to be. Think about the after which can sometimes be the stronger story. A great example of this is Room, where the main character achieved her objective and escaped, but then we see what happens after and how she has to learn to cope with what happened to her.

Use these tricks and you'll be unstuck in no time!

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Multi-Award Winning Writer/Director l Princess of the Macabre (Future Queen) l Powerful Storyteller