Screenwriting 101: Where to Start

FADE IN. 

The two words that signal the start of a screenplay are at once beautiful and intimidating. It just so happens that they are also the easiest part of writing any screenplay. 

It’s everything that comes after those six letters that’s really difficult. 

See, before you even type, “fade in,” you must know what comes next. 

What happens after the screen fades in from black, the moment we see the very first image projected up before our eyes? Where are we? Whose story is this? What do we see? What comes next? 

The paradox of writing a screenplay is that the majority of the work happens before you even write a single word. 

The seed of an idea must be planted before you can add water and see if it grows. 

What are you writing about? 

This is the question that has forever plagued screenwriters, novelists, playwrights, poets, and all other writers since man invented written language. 

But it’s eternally essential. 

What are you writing about? A person, animal, anthropomorphic car, space alien, an epic quest or journey, a movement, the manifestation of an abstract idea… what? 

Answer the what and you’ll be on your way. 

Once you have your what, you can start asking questions. 

Why? How? In what way? Start with questions that will lead you somewhere.

Figure out the details, plot out some scenes, map out character arcs. Dive deep into your protagonist and antagonist, construct moments that you want to see on the big screen, follow the twists and turns of the story to see where you’ll end up. 

When you finally have all of that information, all of that stuff amassed in your brain or scribbled on sheets of paper like a madman, then it’s time to get to work. It’s time to write those first two words. 

And, if you’ve put in the work at the start, you’ll make it to the second easiest set of words in a screenplay… FADE OUT.


Britton Perelman is a writer and storyteller based in Los Angeles, California. When not buried in a book or failing spectacularly at cooking herself a meal, she’s probably talking someone’s ear off about the last thing she watched. She loves vintage typewriters, the Cincinnati Reds, and her dog, Indy. Find more of her work on her website, or follow her on Instagram.


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