Once you’ve received feedback on your script from the people you trust enough to give a non-biased opinion the first thing you should do is…nothing. Read through the corrections, questions and advice you’ve been given and leave it to ferment in your brain for a few days. This time will allow you to come up with a course of action on rewriting your screenplay.
In writing the first draft of your script you’ve probably got the basic story down. It is the character arc and the relationship between each character that is left skeletal at best.
Here are a couple of exercises which will help you in the process on rewriting your script which will improve it greatly.
The Character Arc
Grab yourself some 3×5 cards or, failing that, cut some paper down to the required size. You will need one car for each scene. Start with your main character or characters, and write down what happens, and how it affects them. You will notice that several scenes containing your main character have situations which don’t seem to affect them at all. Any scene where this is apparent you will need to go back and add some sort of character reaction or action which shows growth or change in their personality.
The Relationship Arc
The second exercise is much the same as the first. However, instead you’ll want to chart the growth of the relationship between the main characters. Tack them up to the wall, or a notice board, and look at the progression. Looking at these cards should give you a good insight into the burgeoning relationship between your main characters. Some scenes will keep the character relationship frozen, for which you’ll need to add a little growth and warmth. Other scenes might have too much relationship building which appears corny and slows down the action, you will need to spread this growth out across other scenes.
Now you have these two arcs better planned out you can make a list. Fold a piece of paper in two and title once half “character arc” and the other, “relationship arc”. Now you should have a clear, scene-by-scene, look at how the main character and their relationships grow. Remember that if an incident happens in your story that affects your main character in a negative fashion then it should also affect the majority of their relationships negatively too.
By fleshing out the character and relationship arcs you help develop your characters into real people in a real world, rather than cardboard cut-outs who are merely vehicles to tell your story.
Once you’ve rewritten your script, taking into account the link between the character arc and relationship arc, then you are ready to send your screenplay back to your trusted readers to find any more improvements you can make.
To paraphrase Paul Valery “A script is never finished, only abandoned.” Keep writing and rewriting!