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Advanced Creative Writing - Scriptwriting

Course Number: WR 247
Transcript Title: Adv Creative Scriptwriting
Created: September 1, 2012
Updated: September 25, 2013
Total Credits: 4
Lecture Hours: 40
Lecture / Lab Hours: 0
Lab Hours: 0
Satisfies Cultural Literacy requirement: No
Satisfies General Education requirement: Yes
Grading options: A-F (default), P-NP, audit


WR 243 and its prerequisite requirements; or instructor permission

Course Description

Focuses on writing and submitting both drama and screen scripts for class discussion and analysis, as introduced in WR 243. Continues the study of established writers for techniques, structures, and styles. Includes lecture, small group activities, and conferences. Prerequisite: WR 243 and its prerequisite requirements; or instructor permission. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes

Outcomes for this course require working through multiple drafts of one or more scripts with time to separate the acts of writing and revising; in addition, the reading outcomes require time to read, reread, reflect, respond, interpret, analyze, and evaluate.
Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate familiarity with the elements of drama - such as plot, character, diction, theme, and spectacle - as well as an understanding of how these elements combine to create a theatrical experience.
  2. Develop a working definition of drama that notes its divergence from other narrative forms.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the limitations and opportunities particular to theater and film.
  4. Develop an original subject and the ability to illuminate it from multiple points of view.
  5. Demonstrate an understanding of the unification of form, content, and structure in a script.
  6. Produce one or more original scripts totaling at least 6,000 words.
  7. Demonstrate an understanding of the varied narrative and pacing strategies necessary to writing short and full-length scripts.
  8. Demonstrate an understanding of how different forms (stage, screen, short, full-length) allow for different kinds of storytelling and levels of complexity.
  9. Use fictional elements in their writing.
  10. Develop critical skill for evaluating their own writing, that of their peers, and that of professionals.
  11. Support peers in their artistic processes by contributing positively to the workshop through careful critiquing of each other’s work.
  12. Read and analyze established authors.
  13. Show an understanding of the function of the first draft as a basis for beginning the real work of developing a script through various stages of revision.
  14. Demonstrate an understanding of the collaborative nature of theater and film, and a concomitant appreciation of the writer’s traditional role in each medium.
  15. Demonstrate an understanding of proper formatting and the ability to prepare a script for production.
  16. Demonstrate an understanding of the process by which writers submit scripts for production.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Assessment may include informal responses to reading and study questions; quizzes; evaluation of small and full-group discussion, in-class and out-of-class writing; writing scripts; revising scripts; participation in reading of scripts; creation of one or more “query packets” for submission of original script.

Because of the participatory nature of the workshop atmosphere of the course, consistent attendance is essential. The course grade is determined by appraisal of the students' writing, regularity of attendance in class and individual conferences, and active participation in class activities. Scripts totaling approximately 6,000 words will be required, the number depending on how much other writing is assigned-such as notebooks, journals, exercises, revisions, or submission queries. Reading and writing activities are sequential and should be completed on time.

Texts and Materials

The following items are intended as descriptions of instructor's choices of texts in the past as an aid to choosing texts in the future. This is not intended as a prescribed or recommended list of texts. A text, texts, or alternative forms of texts may be designated by the instructor based on the objectives outlined in this course content guide. Generally, instructors order a text that supplies the basic forms in one area of media and supplement the content with handouts, books on reserve, recordings, and video tapes/films. Some possibilities are as follows:

  • Beckett, Samuel, Working Words: The Process of Creative Writing
  • Field, Syd, Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting
  • Minot, Stephen, Three Genres: The Writing of Poetry, Fiction, and Drama
  • Mueller, Lavonne, and Jerry D. Reynolds, Creative Writing: Forms and Techniques
  • Packard William, The Art of the Playwright
  • Root, Wells, Writing the Script: A Practical Guide for Films and Television
  • Hatcher, Jeffrey, The Art and Craft of Playwriting
  • Dixon, Michael Bigelow and Michele Volansky, eds., 20 One-Act Plays from 20 Years of the Humana Festival
  • Whitcomb, Cynthia, The Writer’s Guide to Writing Your Screenplay

Course Activities and Design

This course can include lecture, but will likely consist mostly of round-table workshops in which student work will be evaluated by the entire class. Students will come prepared to critique the work by responding to it either in discussion or in writing. Students may also read a variety of published scripts and view live or recorded performances for analysis. The instructor should spend approximately an hour of conference with each student outside of class. Students may also submit work for consideration by established theaters or producers.

Scriptwriting classes are structured to encourage students to participate in a creative writing workshop. A textbook or a selection of handouts may be required so that a variety of forms and structures may be analyzed. Lectures, photocopied material, films, videos, overhead projections, recordings, and guest speakers may be used to stimulate the student's imagination. Brief exercises in various forms and structures may be required, which will be developed into longer works. The major proportion of class time is devoted to a serious examination of each student's creative efforts: these may be photocopied for class discussion, read aloud, or submitted to the instructor for evaluation. At times the class may be divided into smaller groups for discussion purposes. Though the class is designed to produce a relaxed and stimulating atmosphere, the overall intention is to reinforce the concept that imaginative writing is fundamentally an extension of the individual's awareness of the craft of writing and the need for a commitment to self-discipline. Out-of-class writing is generally typed or keyboarded. Two out-of-class paper conferences with the instructor provide individual attention to particular problems and questions in writing.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

  • Plot
  • Character
  • Scene
  • Voice
  • Diction
  • Theme
  • Sound/Music
  • Spectacle
  • Point of view
  • Dialogue
  • Conflict
  • Objectives
  • Obstacles
  • Stakes
  • Setting
  • Context
  • Tone/Language
  • Text
  • Subtext
  • Visual metaphors/Imagery
  • Pacing
  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Theatrical convention
  • Audience
  • Dramatic irony
  • Dramatic economy
  • Mimesis

Department Notes

Students are encouraged to take a literature class, preferably one that includes scripts, concurrently with WR 247.