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Blocks & Fixes – Writing The Screenplay

You’ve managed to overcome the blocks that got in the way while breaking the story for your screenplay. This next phase, the actual writing part, will feel like running a marathon. It’s more of a mind game. You have to pace yourself, and try not to get hung up on constantly producing perfection.

You need to be aware that this next stage generally it can take three to six months to get through. Some of the blocks that appear during the this phase may be due to the mental exhaustion you may be experiencing. Let’s look at some of the blocks you might encounter;

1. You’re stuck in the middle and have no idea what happens next.

The average screenwriter writes about three to six pages a day. You might get lucky and get into the “flow” that allows you do write ten or fifteen straight pages of really high quality material.  That’s what all writers look forward to.

You knock off, go to sleep feeling your script is in great shape. But the next morning, you’re blocked. The next dozen pages might feel boring, or awkward, or stilted enough to get you worried that the third act is going to fail.

One way to deal with this predicament is to go back to your outline and try to figure out where it stalled out. You might get lucky, and as you’re reading the good stuff from the beginning, and recapture the “flow.”

Sometimes getting into the momentum of the story can carry you forward.  A lot of times, I’ll re-read the entire script up to the bad part – and new ideas will just occur to me.  It’s the momentum effect.

If that doesn’t happen you might need a break. Clear your head. Tomorrow it might all come together.  Give it a few days, try to think of better twists, or dialogue or jack up the conflcit.

If that doesn’t help, you might have to abandon some of the material, even the really good stuff, and go a different way. Or, you could try introducing a new character. Sometimes a fresh direction can get you back on track.

2. You have a terrible feeling your story took a wrong turn fifty pages back, and you’ve hit a dead end.

You’re just realizing that clever twist, which seemed so cool at the time, now screws up the rest of your script. Think hard. Look for ways to save the twist. Don’t give up fifty good pages if you don’t have to. After a couple of days, however, you might have to bite the bullet.

You can skip ahead and keep writing to the end. then rewrite the problems stretches later. When you go back, it might help to “rewind” partially, think about how you could maybe keep half, and get back on track. Not quite so painful. However, if nothing seems to be working, you might have to discard the fifty pages and do a complete rewind.

3. You’re bored with all these characters, they won’t do anything.

Characters who won’t do anything (or don’t want to do anything) are boring characters. When you thought of them, they seemed like cool, funny or original characters. But now they’re not driving the story. Maybe this character, who you thought was the hero, is just a supporting character.

Examine the flow, follow the theme, the attitudes, and the logic. Maybe something’s missing from a character who could be the protagonist. A fatal flaw? A duty, to save someone, or to repay a debt. Maybe he’s on the run. Look into what your characters really want, both internally and externally. The protagonist and the antagonist need to have a strong conflict. You always want a really strong, powerful antagonist who doesn’t give up. Is that what’s missing?

4. You can’t think of the right words for what you’re trying to convey.

This time, you’re in the flow – the story is unfolding, the theme, attitudes, emotions, logic is all flowing. Characters are being revealed. Surprises, twists, it’s great. But you’re stuck on some words. Maybe it’s dialogue or even story action. You know your story, but this dialogue sucks. You can’t think of a clever way to hide some exposition.

A character sounds stilted, forced. His dialogue doesn’t sound conversational, or it’s boring. You’re paralyzed. First, try to visualize the scene in your head. Could it be done without dialogue?

However, you may need better characters who talk to you. Do an exercise in which each character talks to all the other characters. If they still sound boring, think about people you know, or real people who sound interesting. Think about giving your characters stronger or more interesting attitudes—maybe they’re desperate, conniving, or pious, or vulgar.

5. You had this incredibly cool story in your head, but now you’re writing it and it’s just not working.

First, determine if it’s your inner critic obsessing. Maybe you’ve lost perspective. Walk away from it. Work on that other project for a while. When you feel ready, read the first script over. If it’s sounding a lot better, great keep writing. BUT – if it still sucks, it might not be a good story.

Sometimes, though –it helps to write a synopsis of what you’ve written. When you see the whole story displayed in two pages, things may click. Did you miss an opportunity for a plot twist? Sometimes it helps to write parts of the script from different character’s POV. It may spark a new idea.

6. You’re revising your script and you can’t find the fix for scenes that feel weak, or dialogue that sucks.

You look at it from different angles, follow the characters, the themes, the logic and attitudes, but nothing generates a fix. You even look at internal struggles with your protagonist, which may or may not involve other characters. Still nothing.

This is when you ask a friend to read it, or even better a professional. If you get good feedback from your friends, then keep rewriting. Incorporate their suggestions if they have good ideas. Another approach; instead of improving the scenes you wrote, try putting everything away and rewriting from scratch. Same story, new words.

No matter which part you’re stuck on, you’re goal here is to basically to get unstuck. Watch other movies with similar themes or plots. Borrow a plot twist from a good film. Every writer does it, especially Quentin Tarantino. There are no new stories, after all, just different ways to spin them.

Free copy of the Screenwriter’s Cheat Sheet/10 Best Resources

Image credit: Creative Commons Harpers-Ferry 2013-01-21 at 15-10-37,  2013 by Andy Eich is licensed under CC By 2.0

Blocks & Fixes – Writing The Screenplay

David Silverman, MA, LMFT

A lot of careers can really knock you around. The compettiion is fierce, in graphic design, architecture, you name it -- especially in creative careers in Hollywood. Writers and performers get slammed with rejection constantly. If you're going through something -- anxiety, addiction or depression -- I help people like you get through it. And thrive. Let me help you get your dream back on track.

Please check out my website: davidsilvermanlmft.com My story: my brother grew up with a severe case of OCD, and while I just a kid --- in family therapy with him, I witnessed a miracle as he was transformed, and now is enjoying the life he deserves. I went to Stanford University to study Psychology, and USC Film. I've worked in FIlm/TV and experienced high levels of anxiety, and got slammed with rejection myself. I learned how to get through it. Today, I love to help people to regain the lifestyle they deserve.

David Silverman Psychotherapy

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APA Reference
Silverman, D. (2017). Blocks & Fixes – Writing The Screenplay. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 24, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/hollywood-therapy/2017/05/blocks-fixes-writing-the-screenplay/


Last updated: 21 May 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 May 2017
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.