Brad Wilke’s Method for Writing Treatments 4 comments


Four steps from screenwriter Brad Wilke for writing better treatments:

  1. The process begins with a killer idea. Not just a good one, or a solid one, but one that’s so strong that you can pitch it in a sentence or less and people will “get” it.
  2. Get the idea down on paper in the form of a logline. I find this to be the easiest way to “kick the tires” and confirm whether or not it really has the legs to make it all the way to feature length.
  3. Flesh out the logline into what I call your five “story nodes.” These form the framework of your structure, and, if mapped out visually, allow you to push beyond the typically linear arrangement of most outlines. Imagine the system as five small “planets,” each with their own “moons” (i.e. scenes & characters), with lines connecting the various elements to form plot, sub-plot(s), themes, callbacks, etc.
  4. Begin the narrative treatment of your idea. It’s better to keep this as broad as possible so that your potential employer is able to fill in any holes in as generous a manner as they can. Don’t include specific lines of dialogue at this stage.

Via Brad Wilke

This article is the third installment in a series on writing treatments. Previously:

  1. What is a Treatment?
  2. Why Write a Treatment

Coming up nex: The HP Lovecraft Method for Writing Treatments. If you don’t want to miss an installment, sign up for our newsletter!

Photo credit: Steven Depolo, some rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “Brad Wilke’s Method for Writing Treatments

  • Mark Walker

    If nothing else, this is vindication that my suggestion (on another forum) that one could start the process with a logline (if it works for you) isn’t complete hogwash as I was told (I think there is a distinct lack of YES, AND attitudes on other sites).

    I quite like to start with a logline to help me start thinking about a project. It is unlikely to stay the same during the writing or at the end of the process, but it is a good way to test your idea and starting thinking about structure.

    I also like the idea of nodes. I can see some crazy spider-diagrams being put down on paper by many of your readers, but it could be an interesting, and very visual way, of understanding your story and the inter-connectedness of all things!

    • Shaula Evans Post author

      Mark, you’re in good company. Many (accomplished, successful) screenwriters are big proponents of starting with a logline. But, ultimately, what matters is that you arrive at a process that works for you. (And I know that you know that).

  • jay

    “A jaded WWII casino owner in Nazi-occupied Morocco sees his former lover arrive, accompanied by her husband whose heroism forces the casino owner to choose between his cynicism, his feeling for his ex-lover, and his once-strong feelings of patriotism.”

    Where’s the action? What does your casino owner do other than ‘choose between cynicism and patriotism?’ What _happens_? PASS!

    • Shaula Evans Post author

      Nice try, sassypants, but (as you know): A) that’s not the world’s best logline (it’s all about the internal conflict but bypasses the external plot about the McGuffin of the transit papers); and B) the point is to use a *good* logline to distill the idea to its core story elements not as a pitch but as a personal quality check before you go on to write a treatment.

      And again, the point isn’t that everyone has to start to prep a story or a treatment with a logline, but that it works for Brad and it may be worth experimenting with for writers looking for a more formalized prep process, particularly for screenplays.

      (All that said, I’ve missed you, and it’s good to see your snarky self around here!)

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