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How I Wrote a Screenplay in 30 Days: Part 6


Act One

Download a copy of the screenplay, A Girl Named Trouble.

The First Act of the screenplay “A Girl Named Trouble” culminates in the mortuary scene. But before we get there I wanted a series of scenes that would rattle Roman’s confidence and give Trouble every opportunity to shake him free. After all, she isn’t going to give him half the money. It’s her money. She stole it fair and square.

After Trouble shoots Bobo, her every line is dripping with condescension. Roman is simply there to assist her. And when the car flips, she leaves him without a second thought. After they get to the mortuary, she tells him she wouldn’t waste a second gun on him. But she can’t get rid of him. He’s not giving up. This is all a buildup to the point when she breaks. Trouble lets Roman help her because her plan (or lack thereof) isn’t working, and she’s out of good options.

Building Sequences

So from a super-high-level, I knew I needed to set up a sequence of scenes to bridge from the drug-deal scene to the mortuary scene. When I boiled it down to something that simple, it became a lot easier to write. My early notes described this sequence as something like this: They try to escape on the freeway. There’s a shootout. The whole time Trouble is trying to scare Roman away while The Samoan Army and cops prove everything she’s telling him is true.

Key Moments in the Story

When I was first outlining my index cards, the mortuary scene was described as something like this: Trouble isn’t one to hang onto dead weight long. Roman and Trouble are trapped somewhere, pinned down. Roman figures out a way for them to escape, proving he was handy to have around. The scene became something a lot more important after I filled in details. Plot is plot. Story is why we continue reading.

Nothing is Easy

Trouble rejects Roman right up until he talks her into the oven. Huddling together in close quarters for hours was the romantically awkward moment I was searching for. But after rejecting him for so long, I needed this to be a struggle for her. Making her Jewish isn’t anything from the backstory. It seemed to be the perfect complication to Roman’s perfect plan.

And most important, I wanted the reader to understand the story isn’t about the money. It’s about the relationship. That’s when I developed the line (that became a runner), “It’s not about the money.” And with that, we have the makings of a love story.

At this point, I’m eight days into writing. Next week, we’ll cover the Second Act.


Start the series from the beginning.

Mike Johnston is a production executive and advertising creative in Seattle. He is available for consulting, writing and directing. Contact Mike.