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5 Important Tools Every Screenwriter Should Have

Jourdan Aldredge

Before you sit down to write your next script, be sure to get these five essential tools ready to help you with the task.

Cover image via Thrillist.

It’s been said by thousands since, but I believe it was Alfred Hitchcock who first once said, “To make a great film you need three things — the script, the script and the script.” And in today’s wild age of film and video content run amuck across an ever-growing range of film festivals and digital platforms, it rings absolutely true today.

At the heart of every good film is a good script, and at the heart of a good script is a great story. To truly master the art of scripting, a screenwriter needs to harness every tool at his or her disposal to create scripts that can resonate with audiences and pop off the page to bring your story to life.

So, if you’re looking to be the next Paddy Chayefsky, Aaron Sorkin or Diablo Cody — or are looking to put your story down in proper script form for the first time — here are five things you need to succeed.

1. The Hero with a Thousand Faces (and Subsequent Readings)

5 Important Tools Every Screenwriter Should Have — Hero With a Thousand Faces
Image via Tally Pendragon.

Let’s start with the most fundamental of the fundamental. If you are unfamiliar with the works of Joseph Campbell and his Hero’s Journey, you need to start reading up now. Campbell’s famous book contains the most important formula not only for screenplays but for stories of all kinds. However, while the book itself can be a little dense, there are also plenty of great writing resources (and blogging online) to help you learn how to master the art of the Hero’s Journey for your own work.

2. Script Writing Software

5 Important Tools Every Screenwriter Should Have — Scriptwriting Software
Image via Shutterstock.

Only once you’ve done your formative work should you even consider writing your script. It’s also worth noting that before diving into the actual script, it would certainly make sense to work your story out as a concept first. But for the sake of this article, specifically on screenwriting, let’s assume you have and we’re diving into the actual scripting. Unless you want to do your writing on a word processor long-form, you’re going to need software that helps with things like formatting and hotkeys to streamline your writing process.

I’ll always suggest Final Draft as the industry standard, but there are several great options available (many of which are free!) that will work as well.

3. Formatting Guide

5 Important Tools Every Screenwriter Should Have — Formatting Guide
Image via Shutterstock.

One of the biggest reasons for using script writing software is formatting. A good software will help you work with different things like action, dialogue, and blocking directions. However, to truly grow as a script writer, you’ll need to understand how scripts are formatted (and why). The following are some good resources.

4. Online Resources

5 Important Tools Every Screenwriter Should Have — Online Resources
Image via Shutterstock.

Once you fully dive into the screenwriting world, one of the best ways to stay engaged and continue to grow is to constantly read about the art form. Luckily, there are some really great resources for screenwriters online. Here is a great mega-list, and below are some select few to dive into from award-winning screenwriters who provide great tips, tricks, and conversations.

5. Script Review Services

5 Important Tools Every Screenwriter Should Have — Script Review Services
Image via Shutterstock.

Additionally, if you’re looking for feedback on your scripts, there are plenty of resources for reviewing scripts and getting advice on everything from character, to plot, to dialogue — and support for getting your scripts Hollywood-ready. However, these services are not free (or even cheap), but they can be helpful for beginning screenwriters desperate for real feedback on their projects.

If you’re still hungry for more screenwriting resources, here are some other great articles to check out.

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