Zettelkasten Forum

Great video from a screenwriter on using index cards to write a screenplay

Here is the video:
Creative Spark: Dustin Lance Black

I found impressive how he structures everything from the beginning in notecards and has like his own kind of Zettelkästen where he stores a lot of ideas, plots, characters, backgrounds and everything in between. A similar workflow from the one I've seen taken by Ryan Holiday and Robert Greene.

I hope you like it.


  • If index cards and screenwriting is your bailiwick, then you might appreciate Ben Rowland who has a similar practice, which is very common among screenwriters. Interestingly he only uses it for plot outlining and not for actual writing the way other writers like Vladimir Nabokov may have. Both Benjamin Rowland and Dustin Lance Black use cards for outlining but not at the actual writing stage. Black's "vomit draft" sounds a lot like the accusations aimed at academics through much of the 20th century for "pouring out their zettelkasten" as publications.

    In this video, writer-director David Lynch described the general method handed down from Frank Daniel (1926-1996) of the American Film Institute and Dean of advanced film studies who taught students to plot out their screenplays using 3 x 5" index cards. One would write out a total of 70 cards each with scene headings. Once fleshed out, one would have a complete screenplay. Daniel's influence taught a generation of screenwriters this method.

    Lynch has frequently spoken about the use of 3x5" index cards for screenwriting. Here he mentions writing down ideas for movies on the napkins provided by Bob's Big Boy restaurant. (A zettelkasten made of napkins instead of index cards?)

    Another related practice can be found in the so-called "Snowflake Method":

    Ingermanson, Randy. “The Snowflake Method For Designing A Novel.” Advanced Fiction Writing, circa 2013. https://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/.

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    No piece of information is superior to any other. Power lies in having them all on file and then finding the connections. There are always connections; you have only to want to find them. —Umberto Eco

  • Thanks @chrisaldrich, you provided some useful complementary resources for this area of using index card and creative fiction work.

    Btw, you blog is awesome!

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