Actors create characters and emotion on screen- but what if they want to go further and create their own story? Though it seems daunting at first, many actors have the skills necessary to write a script, they just need a little guidance. Here are the top five tips for actors who want to try their hand at screenwriting.
Study the Structure
Structure is the most important aspect of a screenplay, and though most people in the business are familiar with the three act structure, they might not know exactly how it works. Luckily, there are plenty of resources to help, from the lectures of Syd Field to the writings of Aristotle, whose Poetics is considered the “bible of screenwriting” (ironically written BEFORE the Bible).
Develop Several Dynamic Characters
Many actors make the jump into writing because they imagine a great character that they want to see (or play) on the big screen. The drawback is that the side characters can seem one-dimensional in comparison. Make sure to give at least three characters equal weight when developing their personalities, even though one is the star.
Because acting tells a story through actions and emoting, actors sometimes forget that the primary storytelling device for the screen are visuals. Studying screenplays is a good way to figure out how to incorporate more visuals into a script. But remember, visuals are not the same as describing the character’s expressions and emotions - the actors decide those!
Ask for Help
Even if an actor isn’t totally confident, he shouldn’t be afraid to ask for advice from a fellow writer. Though stereotyped as loners, writers with training have gone through workshops where they’ve given and received criticism, so they like analyzing scripts and giving feedback. Writers also like to have their egos stroked, so if someone acknowledges their expertise, they will happily read over a script and give suggestions.
Writing scripts is hard work, even for professionals. Actors often treat themselves (to a new dress, or a cupcake, or a cold beer) after an audition to reward themselves for the effort. Do this after finishing a draft or a set number of pages. It’s tough at first but keep going! The best way to gain writing skills is to write.