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Creative Writing 1: Scriptwriting

Course Level: 1 (HE4) | HE Credits: 40 | Approx. Duration: 12 months at 8hrs/week


Have you ever watched a film and said afterwards, “I’d like to have a go at writing a screenplay but where do I begin?” This course will equip you with a writer’s toolbox filled with the basics: how to lay out a script professionally; how to structure your screenplay; the do’s and don’ts of writing compelling dialogue; and breathing life into your characters. You’ll pick up important film terms and techniques – and get to watch lots of films! By the end of the course you’ll not only have acquired the nuts and bolts of screenwriting but you’ll also have penned your own 15-minute screenplay.


The course aims to:

  • A1 enable you to understand screenwriting as a visual medium
  • A2 introduce you to the basic techniques of writing for screen
  • A3 develop your understanding of the building blocks of screenwriting: the scene, the dramatic arc, character and dialogue
  • A4 develop your ability to employ reflective skills, absorb constructive feedback and re-draft your work accordingly.


On successful completion of the course you will be able to:

  • LO1 analyse and put into practice the basics of screenwriting (A1)
  • LO2 access a writer’s toolbox of techniques specifically related to writing for screen (A2)
  • LO3 write, re-draft and complete a 15-minute screenplay (A3)
  • LO4 critically appraise your own work in response to constructive feedback.(A4)

Course content

Part One: What is a screenplay?

  • Visual storytelling versus prose storytelling
  • The script as a set of instructions
  • Script layout
  • What is genre?


Part Two: Dialogue

  • What are you saying? The purpose of dialogue
  • Idiom and idiolect
  • Subtext


Part Three: Creating convincing characters

  • Building character biographies
  • Stereotypes and how to avoid them
  • What does my character need?
  • Conflict and tension as the basis of a good narrative


Part Four: Picture the scene

  • Writing your first scene
  • The dramatic arc
  • Suspense
  • Storyboarding and step outlines
  • Film techniques – montage, visual directions, the cut, leitmotif, flashback, fade in and fade out


Part Five: Writing the 15 minute screenplay

  • Ideas and approach
  • Planning the screenplay : synopsis and treatment
  • How to write a great opening scene
  • Completing the first draft
  • Re-Drafting and Editing

Unit Leader

Douglas Dougan

Unit Leader for Writing 1: Scriptwriting

“I love working with writers and helping them to create the works that bubble inside them.

Curiously, scriptwriting wasn’t my initial plan. When I left University with a degree in media my thoughts were to get into journalism. However, I quickly realised that mainstream journalism was not for me – morally we were at odds with each other. I sidestepped into arts journalism and spent many a happy day watching a reviewing films. But secretly I hatched my plans to be a screenwriter.”

Read the rest of Douglas’s profile here