The Craft of Screenwriting


The craft of screenwriting stands behind every movie, television films, or commercials. Creating an exciting and catchy work requires a lot of attention to the details, consideration of the audience, overcoming various challenges, and responsibility. The job of a screenwriter represents a complex process that includes multiple aspects. Creating a good script entails research of the story, its development, finding the ways to deliver the idea, describing character specifications, and other (Harman, 2019). Hence, the role of screenwriting occupies one of the most significant spots in the movie production process. Different issues might come up already before the initiation of the project, such as co-authorship disagreements, the structure of the film, or the intervention of social disparities. This paper aims to investigate the craft of screenwriting and, in particular, discuss the aspects related to co-authorship, the design of romantic comedy, and racial discrimination in Asia.

Main body

A creative and competent script that addresses crucial issues and carefully delivers the purpose represents a foundation for a successful project. Although the era of technological progress allows designing breathtaking special effects or choosing the best actors, it is impossible to produce a worthy piece without a professional and well-crafted script. According to Elliot Grove (2020), “the whole secret to a great screenplay is to have a successful story” (para. 6). Consequently, the other members of a production team are inspired by an outstanding script. One can say that the lack of directing can spoil even the most ingenious story, but with a bad scenario, the best director will have problems creating an excellent movie. It is vital to understand that screenwriting is not about creating a novel or a play, although those make sturdy bases for scenarios. It is instead a well-developed outstanding story with unique characters.

A significant concept in the craft of screenwriting is generating adapted screenplays. Adaptation implies the scripts based on existing materials, and for a prolonged period, this area has been considered the lowest form of screenplays, but it has changed (Roblin & Wells-Lassagne, 2016). It is possible to claim that withdrawing the ideas from real-life stories, books, articles, or other films was not viewed as something extraordinary. Nevertheless, the business of adapted scenarios is expanding, and now it became “a material phenomenon produced by a system of institutional interests and actors” (Roblin & Wells-Lassagne, 2016, p. 6). Hence, adaptation in screenwriting became a widespread practice, and numerous great works were created based on that. It is vital to remember that an adapted screenplay modifies the original piece, which implicates rigid attention and consciousness to deliver the gist of the work. Screenwriters have a challenge of extending certain parts, eliminating specific events, and transferring the story to catch the idea and produce a decent movie.

Another significant aspect in the craft of screenwriting is creating a scenario that can leave a mark on the audience, which is referred to as catharsis. Some examples of the screenplays that perfectly managed to catch this point are Field of Dreams, The Pursuit of Happiness, or Dead Poets Society (Miyamoto, 2018). Those movies portrayed the stories that touched the viewers, caused specific strong feelings and emotions, and were thought-provoking. It is possible to say that possessing the ability to reach catharsis in the audience is the highest excellence of screenwriting (Miyamoto, 2018). Thus, creating s script that will further become a powerful emotional experience and will have an indefeasible impact on an individual is vital for this craft.

It is also essential to mention the significance of complying with copyright laws and regulations. First, one should understand that copyright statements do not protect the idea itself, but their expression (Crespo, 2019). Therefore, it is impossible to safeguard the story’s concept, but the author can receive copyright for the representation of the idea through, for instance, a synopsis. Another curious aspect is that the writers need to register with the U.S. Copyright Office and that the law can protect the script’s characters and treatments along with the story (Crespo, 2019). Thus, screenwriters should carefully consider their work and, if there is a possibility of creating a franchise for the project, should apply to receive separate copyright. Besides, registration in the federal agency is the requirement, which can help the authors avoid problematic issues.

One of the most critical points in screenwriting is co-authorship, which implies potential challenges, disagreements, and copyright regulations. The cultural development of society and continuous progress in the screenwriting field are supported by individual original achievements and a combination of the creative potentials of two or more people. Co-authorship represents a concept that denotes the creation of work by two or more authors who contributed their original input to it. Designing one mutual script can be controversial, and it can interfere with one’s “cultural value of originality, individuality, and authority” (Cobb, 2015, p. 13). Therefore, when several people work together, they can generate various biases in their minds and the potential audience’s minds. As a result, the produced scenarios are usually intertextual as they cannot become a single center of intention (Cobb, 2015). Each author has a creative contribution to the script, which makes it more dimensional. The final material can be viewed as a whole piece entailing numerous pieces, rather than a division of separate works.

It is also vital to remember the laws related to co-authorship and copyright aspects. The U.S. Copyright Act talks about joint authorship when the contribution of more than one author are “merged into inseparable and interdependent parts of a unitary whole” (Crespo, 2019, para. 11). Hence, working together should intend to produce a script that results in indissoluble text, in which several people had their unique involvement. Each writer, thus, is recognized as a co-owner of the copyright, and, by default, they have an equal interest in the material (Crespo, 2019). Still, it is possible to divide the interest among the authors, if the contribution is considered unequal by the creators. Signing a written agreement defining the percentage given to each screenwriter can also let each co-owner grant a non-exclusive license to others (Crespo, 2019). So, the concept of co-authorship entails careful attention to details and the existence of legal documents that outline each writer’s rights and claims.

The next crucial issue in the co-authorship process is the fact that today, some of the works are created with the help of freelance writers’ services. It imposes challenges for co-ownership rights because the intention of exploiting freelance assistances can be to complete the work for hire (Crespo, 2019). Accordingly, it is essential for the screenwriters who make their creative contribution to sign a legal paper that summarizes everyone’s rights and other possible instances involved in the process. Moreover, each scenario owner should be aware of who is granted rights. Otherwise, it can generate such obstacles as the uncertainty about how the work will be commercially exploited or other problems (Crespo, 2019). Complying with all regulations and carefully following the steps can save co-owners and other parties involved from multiple creative or business issues.

The exciting aspect worth discovering is the structure of scripts, particularly, the romantic comedy. Romantic comedies were a hit in the 1990s and early 2000s but started to lose its appeal later as the scenarios were becoming more formulaic, which made the audience tired of this genre (Miyamoto, 2016). Still, one can say that due to continued popularity, there is an opportunity to revive romantic comedies and create new outstanding scenarios. Gary Marshall, the director of the most famous romcoms, suggested several tips for building successful and selling scripts in this field. Those recommendations include involving sentiments because it is crucial to make the viewers laugh and cry (Miyamoto, 2016). Touching upon individuals’ emotions is one of the critical factors for a high-quality story, which implies the necessity to reach the audience’s feelings and disclose relationship aspects significant for them. Besides, the moments in romantic comedies that touch one’s heart create a bond between the viewer and the screenplay, which leads to higher affection.

The integration of sentimental scenes and dialogues is thus one of the essential aspects of romcoms. Another curious recommendation is keeping the story real so that it reflects reality rather than creates a fantasy (Miyamoto, 2016). People want to see the love in real life because they can reflect on their relationships and communication and see that what is shown in the scenario can happen to them. Moreover, Gary Marshall claims that “the kiss is everything,” meaning that the viewers can feel the moment when the characters are finally together (Miyamoto, 2016, para. 12). It entails the representation of something sensational, and the screenwriter should design proper circumstances for this scene.

Those tips lift the curtain of the craft of writing a successful romantic comedy. Further, one of the significant steps is to remember that writing a romantic comedy script does not concern race or gender, but finding different voices from different life paths, which attracts the masses (Miyamoto, 2020). Thus, romantic comedy can touch upon any individual and does not emphasize some critical social issues, but brings joy and pushes the viewers to contemplate their personal lives and decisions. The basic romantic comedy structure is when two people meet, then they lose each other due to specific obstacles, and later they reunite, which gives a happy ending and portrays love (Film Courage, 2018). This formula entails different concepts crucial for romantic comedies, such as the initial stage of falling in love, dramatic barriers, and joyful reunification. Hence, besides being passionate and funny, this script genre has surprising contradictions in understanding the most deep-rooted internal conflicts and disclosing themes and characters crucial for people.

The next point that requires careful attention in the craft of screenwriting is the presence of racism towards Asian-American actors. One of the articles in the New York Times discussed the examples of Caucasian actors who played characters with Asian origin. For instance, when the Ghost in the Shell’s screenwriter explained his casting choices, he stated that there were no top female Asian celebrities (Chow, 2016). It is possible to say that there is a bias, and race influences casting decisions. Screenwriters themselves reveal that it is not about the skin color, but about the fact that no Asian actors possess a box office track record (Chow, 2016). Consequently, it brings additional challenges to choosing perfect actors for the roles in the scenarios.

Simultaneously, the question is how those actors can star in movies if they have a small chance of being chosen in the first place, and white celebrities are selected to perform Asian roles. This concept is referred to as whitewashing, which implies that Asian-American actors often become victims of Hollywood’s perceptions (Chow, 2016). Another curious fact is that the preference of Caucasians to Asians does not have a favorable impact on the box office. According to Chow (2016), the inclusion of white leads does not necessarily mean a “demonstrable effect on the numbers” (p. 4). Therefore, one can say that giving a chance to Asian actors to fulfill Asian roles in the script can have benefits for the screenwriting industry when the story is portrayed to the screen. This way, it can save the details and perceptions of the script’s gist and significant contemplations of the message.

It is vital to understand that screenwriting and the realization of the story should not be intolerant or racist, but should portray the world to all the viewers. Interestingly, the 2018’s movie, Crazy Rich Asians, became the first Hollywood movie that had a predominantly Asian cast for the last twenty-five years (Nam, 2019). Hence, one can say that the industry leaders understood the significance of representing the script’s characters the way they are, which is how the audience wants to see them. It is crucial to mention that the characters in this screenplay reflect people with hopes, dreams, problems, and needs for love and acceptance, revealing deep humanity (Nam, 2019). Thus, Crazy Rich Asians is one of the first steps towards increasing the awareness about diversity and bringing an accurate representation of people of all races.

One can state that racism intervenes in different industries, including screenwriting, and it is essential to combat this issue and make the world of stories open for everyone. The situation is that instead of transmitting reality, the majority of screenplays portray ideologies that can have more extensive social consequences (Yuen, 2016). The struggle with overcoming the stereotypes about Asians and their underrepresentation in the movies from the scripts that involve Asian roles can develop through overcoming genre and aesthetic boundaries. The contemporary world requires a movie language that is free of prejudices and portrays a new reality. Showing the characters with individuals that reflect their essence is vital for a successful script realization.


In conclusion, the craft of screenwriting represents a complex concept that requires attention to numerous details, social disparities, structure nuances, and further implementation on the screen. Every scriptwriter should remember to comply with regulations to avoid problems and protect themselves from potential troubles and challenges. Co-authorship also plays a critical role in modern screenwriting, and each co-owner should ensure the safety of their rights and possessions. The discussed field is full of curious aspects to discover, and romantic comedies, although they recently lost their appeal, remain a perspective area to develop. Besides, it is crucial to contemplate the issue of racism and the underrepresentation of Asian actors in the screenplays. Ensuring that the pictures inherently represent the real purpose and characters of the story is significant. Mastering the art of screenwriting is challenging and entails following the changes in societal views and preferences.


Chow, K. (2016). Why won’t Hollywood cast Asian Actors? [PDF document]. Web.

Cobb, S. (2015). Adaptation, authorship, and contemporary women filmmakers. London, England: Palgrave Macmillan

Crespo, M. (2019) 5 things screenwriters should know about copyright laws. Web.

Film Courage. (2018). Writing a romantic comedy masterclass – Pamela Jaye Smith [Video file]. Web.

Grove, E. (2020). 10 things filmmakers should know about screenwriting. Web.

Harman, R. (2019). How technology is changing the craft of screenwriting. Web.

Miyamoto, K. (2020). Comedy writing wisdom from Mindy Kaling. Web.

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Nam, Y. (2019). Asian Representation in film: The impact of ‘Crazy Rich Asians.’ Web.

Roblin, I., & Wells-Lassagne, S. (2016). Screenwriting, adaptation, and the screen idea. Journal of Screenwriting, 7(1), 5-9.

Yuen, N. W. (2016). Reel inequality: Hollywood actors and racism. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

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ChalkyPapers. "The Craft of Screenwriting." October 10, 2023.