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Thursday, July 14, 2011

I've read new writers should keep a LIST of story ideas.

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I think I said in an online discussion group, that ONE completed script is just not enough.

One of the things I strongly encourage my students to do BEFORE they try to sell a completed script is to have more than one completed. I always urge my students to create a portfolio of their scripts - just like an artist wouldn't have only ONE PAINTING to sell. They'd have several.... to show they were serious about their work. The same principal applies to screenwriting.

So, to further this idea - one of the first things you can do before you start writing any script is to start making notes of story ideas that appeal to you! Have a little notebook or a file folder for keeping these ideas - just toss them in and let them accumulate. Soon you will start finding stories everywhere!! This practice trains your brain to SEE the story in nearly anything.... and that's what you want.

Start that process of collecting ideas today and continue it while you’re working on your current script. You’ll find this is a nifty way to defuse your brain’s built in propensity to get you to ‘switch tracks’ right in the middle of a project. It’s a similar process to keeping a script journal while you write. Every time your LEFT brain nags you about a FIX it wants to take time to do - you write it down. Your left brain is acknowledged, so your RIGHT brain can continue to be creative!

Once you’ve completed your current script; make some notes in your journal about what you want to FIX and set it aside. Now’s the time to wade through those story ideas you’ve been setting aside. Choose one and start to flesh it out. By the time you have 2 or 3 scripts written for your portfolio you can slow the writing process down to outlining the story and then creating a 5 or 10 page treatment for several others. NOW, you’re ready to begin to market your first script. The most chilling producer comment in the world isn’t NO; it’s what ELSE have you got! Especially, if you ain’t got nuttin else!


I hope that helps. And I wish you luck with your screenplay. Let me know when you’ve completed your script. I’d love to read your work!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

CHOICES define you as a screenwriter and your MAIN CHARACTER too!

Writing & especially screenwriting is ALL about making choices! The choices your main character will make will define them in the audience's eye.... and you as a writer, as well.

CHAPTER ONE of the Screenwriting Essentials Online Tutorial & workbook discuss STORY CONCEPT and idea.

From the very first IMAGE you see on the screen you are telling your audience what to FEEL in this visual journey they are about to embark upon. That first image is the first step on the journey. I always say that writing is about choices and your choices for telling your story start with that very first image.

Every artist faces a similar decision making process whether it’s a oil painter, a photographer or you the screenwriter. Visually speaking, you compose each scene - you choose the location (what does it say) to the viewer? You choose the apparel of each actor (to some extent - what does that say?) You choose the WORDS they speak. What is going on beneath the words that actually come out of the actors mouth? Are they saying ‘I LOVE YOU, I love you… while they batter each other with trash from a nearby garbage can?

Now that doesn’t mean that you become a ‘control freak’ as a writer. You leave many, many choices to the director and the actor and the set designer and the locations manager. BUT, WHEN IT”S IMPORTANT to our understanding of the story or the emotional landscape of the heroine/hero you create concrete details in your script; you create choices that make that clear.

There is a power and a responsibility in every story choice you make as a screenwriter. With proper planning - you can learn to revel in the choosing - not be frozen in place - unable to act; or stymied with indecision.


I hope this helps. And I do wish you luck with your screenplay. Let me know when you’ve completed your script. I’d love to read your work!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Experienced writers often tell you to write what you KNOW...

Write what you know is probably the oldest piece of advice there is for aspiring writers. But just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s BAD… or necessarily good, either. It all depends on your interpretation! Here’s my take on what it means.

Writing what you know doesn’t mean that if you're a janitor at night to pay the bills while you learn the craft of writing - that you only ever get to write movies about janitors. The way I interpret the phrase ‘write what you know’ regards what you KNOW is emotionally honest or true.

Screenplays are driven by the ups and downs of the main characters quest. The ups and downs refer to both the storyline (or action) but also your heroine/hero’s emotions. And this is where many new writers come up short. They often side-step tackling the really BIG EMOTIONS that naturally ensue in a really dramatic incident. Oh sure, we see death scenes, sex scenes, pillage scenes, car chases & maiming from car chases - but what we don’t see is REAL, GENUINE heart-felt emotions that arise from these events.

Often, the new writer doesn’t show us the ‘fallout’ from these big events in our hero’s life - WHEN it’s exactly that exploration of emotional subtext that makes film REAL to us the audience. It’s that bond of shared emotional experience that connects us to the heroine/hero in the end. So, ‘write what you know’ means write from a place of emotional honesty. Either take the risk to write from your very own place of emotional experience or take the time to understand and EMPATHIZE with someone who has lived the experience you are going to write about.

LIVE it, (the emotion you’re writing about)- FEEL it if you’re hoping to write it and ultimately convince an audience to believe it... and then WRITE it! We all have a 6th sense concerning emotional honesty… discover yours, and write from that place for really compelling screenplays. That’s my take on what the phrase - 'write what you know' is really advocating to new and aspiring writers.

I hope this helps. And I do wish you luck with your screenplay - let me know when you’ve completed your script. I’d love to read your work!

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