Everyone’s got a great idea for a movie. Your friend from high-school. The paper-boy. The guy down at the corner-store. Absolutely everyone’s got an idea floating around inside their brain that would make for an absolutely epic movie. You probably do too.

The problem is…

No one knows how to turn that idea into an actual Hollywood screenplay! Well, we’re here to help! Just follow these twelve simple steps – and you can turn just about any idea into a fully-fledged Hollywood screenplay – in no time flat!

How to Write a Screenplay (Feature-Film or Movie):

1. First of all, you need to come up with a great idea! Your idea should be about a main-character (aka the protagonist) who embarks on a journey or quest. It might be about a guy (protagonist) who saves the planet from an incoming asteroid (his quest). It could be about a woman (main-character) who has to re-enter the work-force after getting divorced (her quest). It could be about a group of mountain-climbers (a group of protagonists) who climb Mount Pinatubo (quest).

2. If you don’t have screenwriting software already, download one you like. There are great screen-writing programs out there at pretty much every price-point imaginable. If you want a fancy piece of $300 software that comes with all sorts of tools for when you actually shoot your movie, great. Go and do that. If you can’t spare the money, there are also some tremendous free options available, like CeltX. Just find one you like, any will do. They’re all pretty much the same anyhow. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

3. Create your main-character, the person (or people) the movie’s going to be about. Your protagonist is the one with the quest. Give him a detailed backstory as well. You need to know your protagonist like the back of your hand. You’ll need to, literally, be able to speak in his voice.

4. Give your protagonist a character-flaw or internal-conflict. This is also known as his character-arc. Maybe he’s a miserable drunk. Maybe he’s a blatant racist. Maybe he beats his children. Maybe he’s a criminal. Maybe he’s a drug addict. Maybe he’s rude or obnoxious. It can be anything. Just so long as this character-flaw is preventing him from achieving his goal or quest.

5. Create your supporting cast of characters. Some can be working to help your protagonist, some can be working against him. Give them backstories and names. Make your supporting-characters as interesting as your protagonist.

6. Make sure your idea fits into a three act structure. Your protagonist should choose his quest at the end of the first act (also known as the first turning-point). There should probably be a false-victory or defeat at around the mid-point. The stakes should rise for your protagonist and take him to a whole new setting at the end of the second act (the second turning point). The protagonist’s quest or goal should ultimately be decided at the climax. And, your protagonist should contemplate the new-world-order (status quo) he’s created at the denouement.

7. Using the story-structure you just worked out, create all the scenes you are going to need to tell that story. If you need help, use this screenplay template. Don’t worry about writing all the action and dialogue, just write down a short synopsis of that scene on a cue card. All you need is a short sentence about what needs to happen. For instance one scene might be: ‘protagonist and love-interest meet-cute.’

8. Now, you should have a stack of cue-cards, each listing a different scene – and what you need to do in that scene. And, if you’ve done your work properly, all of the cue-cards should fit together, one after the other, to tell a highly-structured three-act story. If you need to do some minor reorganizing of the cards or scenes, now would be the time.

9. Many scenes can do double or even triple-duty. Perhaps you need a scene where your protagonist is introduced to one of your supporting-characters – and another scene where the same supporting-character loses an important item. Well, why can’t you combine the two scenes into one?!? Try and combine multiple scenes into one wherever possible. You don’t want much more than perhaps 100 scenes total in your finished script (give or take), but you’ll probably have 200 cue cards to write about.

10. Once you’ve crafted a storyline you like, it’s time to start actually writing your screenplay! Grab your typewriter and a stack of paper – or sit down at your computer – and get to work!

11. Take the first cue card (it should be your first scene) and just write it down! You’ll need to flesh it out, make it more than just a simple scene, of course. You’ll need to add dialogue and action. Just be sure to make it a lot more interesting than what’s on the card! Think of each scene like you’re writing a short-film. Make it more than just a throwaway-scene. Make it exciting! Make it jaw-dropping! Make it interesting! Or whatever. When you’re done, move onto the next cue card. And the next. Until there are no more left.

12. Congratulations, you are now a screenwriter! You just wrote your first Hollywood-style screenplay! Now it’s time to think about actually shooting it! But, first, you’ll need to get coverage and send it out to film-producers and movie studios!

For more detailed information on how to write a movie, where the best film-schools are, what the proper Hollywood screenplay format is, or how to write a three-act structure – we highly recommend the free online screenwriting course at!

Now, get out there and start writing your masterpiece!