This post was guest written by Script Quack. They offer professional script analysis and are currently giving readers of a special discount. Just enter the discount code “sellingyourscreenplay” (without the quotes) on the discount page which can be found here:

Ask any successful screenwriter how to improve as a writer, and the one thing almost everyone will say is to “read scripts.” This piece of advice is everywhere online. It’s short, it’s easy to remember, and reading scripts really does help when you’re trying to learn to write better screenplays.

It makes sense that people take this advice very seriously. They go online, download the scripts for all their favorite movies, and read them. Then they read some more. And some more. And so on and so on. After a while, they’ve read countless scripts, but don’t feel much discernable difference in their writing abilities. Sure, they’ve grown as writers, but to really get the most out of reading scripts they must be read deliberately, with concentration and focus.

Last year, we wrote a post that details what to do as you’re reading scripts to maximize the experience. You can find that article here. But in this post, we’ll describe what to do after you read to get as much as you can out of the process. The more critical thinking and analysis you do after the fact, the more you’ll remember every script you read, and the more knowledge you’ll retain when it comes time to do your own writing.


Write a Synopsis


As soon as you get to ‘fade out,’ write a quick one-page synopsis of the story you just read. Describe the main beats, and generally where they occurred over the course of the screenplay. You don’t have to worry about too many details. Just write down the big events and how they were tied together, from beginning to end.

This exercise will help you get a grasp on basic structural beats and the importance of cause and effect in screenwriting. Look for connections between major story beats, and see how each scene moves the story forward. In good screenplays, each scene will be tied to the next scene in that particular story line. Stakes and tension rise constantly, and each scene accomplishes multiple tasks (character development, plot, and more).

Record Your Favorite Images


Every great movie is built on strong images that resonate with an audience. Think back to any of your favorite films, and you’ll likely first remember an image. Tom Cruise dangling from the building in Mission Impossible 4. Matt Damon collapsing into Robin Williams’ arms in Good Will Hunting. The destruction of Cameron’s dad’s red sports car in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.


While reading a script, it can be easy to forget what a visual medium movies are. By recording the most memorable images from every script you read, you’ll get acclimated to thinking in images. You’ll soon realize how integral these moments are in every great script you read and you’ll begin to recognize when and how a writer weaves imagery into their work. Long lasting images are a huge part of successful screenwriting, and something learned best through reading, reading and more reading. Pay careful attention to these moments and how they’re sculpted. Often times an incredible image can last only a line or two of description, but will stay with you much longer than that.

Create a Main Character Map


The great thing about movies is that they allow for tremendous growth in their protagonists. If protagonists start off self-centered, they’ll sacrifice everything in the third act. If they begin the story a cranky divorcee that doesn’t believe in love, by script’s end they’ll have found their soul mate. Transformations like these are what make movies memorable, and the more careful attention you pay to your main character, the better you’ll grasp the importance of this transformation.

So create a map. This can literal be a map from point a to point b, or just a line or two about the protagonist’s character arc. As long as you think about where the hero begins, and where they end up, you’ll be forced to look at that hero much more deeply, and you’ll soon have a much stronger understanding of the kinds of character arcs that work best in screenwriting.

Re-read from a New Perspective


Great screenplays transform not only the hero, but the secondary and tertiary characters as well. This can be hard to catch when you’re reading with your focus on the hero, so re-read your favorite scripts, paying careful attention to the side characters. Great writers give these characters arcs as well, because side characters that change bring depth to the world of the hero. They indicate that the hero is part of a living, breathing world. Not one that revolves around them, but one in which every single character is the protagonist in their own movie. Reading from a new perspective will clearly illustrate this point, and demonstrate the incredible depth of character in your favorite scripts.

List Decisions


Create a list of every big decision your hero had to make in the script you just read. No need to check back in the script itself. Just write down every choice your hero had to make in order to reach the end of their story.

What you’ll realize is that in good scripts, the protagonist is faced with dozens of important decisions. Take a look at these choices, and you’ll have a clear insight into what kind of person that character is. No matter how big or small the decision may be, we are all defined by the choices we make in life.

In mediocre or bad scripts, the hero makes inconsistent decisions, or worse yet, is not very decisive at all. But in good, carefully written screenplays, every decision comes from character, which is something you’ll likely realize after documenting the strong decisions made by your favorite heroes.

Digging for Theme


Theme is one of the most elusive aspects of screenwriting. Everyone seems to think it’s important, but it’s difficult to pin down exactly how to approach theme, what theme is, and how to incorporate it into your screenplay. At Script Quack, we define theme as the broad, over-arching message or idea of the screenplay. This could be a few words, like “money is less important than love,” or something more detailed and intricate.

After every script you read, write down what you think the theme is. One simple sentence. Don’t put too much thought into it, just write what first comes into your mind. Then go back into the script, and see if that sentence applies to most if not all the scenes in the script.

Alternatively, you could work backwards. Go through every scene in your favorite screenplay and write what you think that scene is about thematically. If that theme is carried out in some way throughout the entire script, then that’s the theme of the movie as a whole.

Some great screenplays to look to for strong thematic content are: Tootsie, Chasing Amy and Knocked Up. All these movies are comedies, and you might think that they’re more concerned with jokes than theme, but each contains a well-drawn thematic premise that’s explored in almost every scene (if not literally every one).

Reading scripts is absolutely one of the best ways to learn about screenwriting.  One of the biggest advantages of reading scripts over seeing movies is that you get to really pour over the script and study its every nuance. You can glean the writer’s intention from carefully worded action that you’d never see on screen. Most importantly, scripts, unlike films, are unmoving. Every moment is perpetually paused, waiting to be studied and analyzed; this is why reading is so important. Take your time, practice the exercises above after every script you take in, and you’ll soon be reaping the rewards of your reading and seeing the results in your own writing.

This post was guest written by Script Quack. They offer professional script analysis and are currently giving readers of a special discount. Just enter the discount code “sellingyourscreenplay” (without the quotes) on the discount page which can be found here: