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Here are five steps to writing a good beginning to your screenplay from Michael Arndt, a screenwriter for Pixar. Below are excerpts from the video:
Step 1: Show Your Hero Doing What They Love Most
“Usually what you do when you’re introducing your main
character is that you show them doing what they love most. This is their grand
passion, it’s their defining trait, it’s the center of their whole universe.
So you start with your main character, you introduce the
universe they live in, and you show your hero doing the thing they love to do
Step 2: Add a Flaw
“But then your character needs one more thing. He needs a
flaw. Now what’s key here is that the character’s flaw actually comes out of
her grand passion. It’s a good thing that’s just been taken too far.”
Step 3: Add a Storm
“And then you want to establish storm clouds on the horizon,
which is your character is walking down the road of life, it’s a nice bright
sunny day, but off on the horizon, there are some dark clouds gathering. And
then… BABOOM! Something comes in and totally blows apart your joyous life and
turns it upside down.”
Step 4: Add Insult to Injury
“But that bolt from the blue, BABOOM, isn’t enough on its
own. It’s not enough just to ruin your character’s life and take away their
grand passion and change their whole sense of what their future is going to be,
you got to add insult to injury. You gotta have something that’s going to make
the whole world seem a little bit unfair.”
Step 5: Make Your Character Pick the Unhealthy Choice
“So now, your main character’s life has changed, her grand
passion has been taken away, the world has revealed itself to be unfair, and
she comes to a fork in the road, and she gotta have to make a choice on how to
deal with her new reality.
There’s a high road to take, a healthy responsible choice,
or a low road to take, and make an unhealthy, irresponsible choice.
And remember, if your character choses to do the right thing
you really don’t have a story.
The key thing here is that we are rooting for the character
to do the unhealthy irresponsible thing because we feel her pain.”
Bring It Home
So your story is coming out of your character’s deepest
desire, and darkest fear.
The thing they love gets stolen away from them, and the world
is revealed to be unfair.
To put things right, they have the make the journey that is
the rest of the film, and by the end of the journey, hopefully, not only will
they get back what they lost, but they’ll be forced to fix that little flaw they
had when we first met them.
So that’s what I learned at Pixar, and I’m not saying that
all stories need to start this way, but if you’re writing a script and you’re
having a hard time getting started, I hope these ideas are helpful.