Resolutions for Screenwriters: Change your storytelling

Screenwriters, be it for any screen or any audience, look to become better storytellers every time they set out to write. The humility to question and challenge our methods for writing is crucial for the professional. When we become unwilling to learn more, we stop changing how we write. Yet many writers are keen to remain set in their ways, as if holding onto “habits” makes you a real writer. “I don’t know” is an important concept to embrace, as this allows us to get better. In the spirit of becoming stronger, consider these recipes for change——resolutions for screenwriters.

Let your words work for you

Trust the words you commit to your script. Avoid overwriting. Many writers don’t allow the words they choose to travel into the minds of the readers and make a full impression. They go overboard. Face it, you’re gifted. You have a way with words. Use fewer words and give them space to fully hit and do the work for you. Writers often pile it on to ensure the audience knows they can write or they get it. Respect the hearts and minds of your readers and let them enjoy the words you have chosen. Most importantly, choose the best and choose less. 

Tell your stories like you told them before you learned how to write

Go away from everything you’ve read in books. Erase what you keep thinking you need to remember from the podcast you just heard. Did you know how to tell a story before you started “writing movies?” Of course you did. You knew how to tell a story when you were learning to speak. Go back to that. Embrace that you are a natural storyteller. Connect with this. We don’t need to know what an inciting incident means. Screenwriters don’t need to know what is supposed to happen on page 26. This doesn’t mean what we’ve learned is useless. No. But let’s try to stop thinking about what we’ve been taught, take a deep breath, and tell a story. 

Believe the world wants to hear from you

Please stop questioning whether what you care about will find an audience. It will. It always does. If we choose our inspirations according to what we think will sell in the marketplace or what will get us a manager or agent, we will waste a bunch of time. Commit to writing what excites you. You are not alone. What you find interesting will interest others. Every great movement in visual storytelling began with what blew away screenwriters first. Look for what blows you away. You’ll be much happier and you’ll write your best script. 

Choose Your Messy Life

Screenwriters often write about things far away from their own personal lives because they are not interested in what they do every day. But what you have around you could make for an incredible script, a page turner, a popcorn movie! I find this often when I’m teaching. People struggle with their stories because they are far removed from their own lives. Why make this difficult? Write what you’re an expert on! It’s a practical choice for development of your career. 

Screenwriters: Take Responsibility for What You Write

Consider a new attitude to taking notes. Screenwriters often think readers don’t finish their scripts or read them carefully. Writers defend their scripts. Look, your script doesn’t work at this time. Own your writing. You wrote it. Be responsible for what you created. Even if someone did blow through my script or didn’t read it all, it’s still my fault. This doesn’t happen to incredible stories. It doesn’t. So maybe we should stop blowing up about the faults of our readers and audiences and look in the mirror. Just a suggestion. :)

Finish Something

Screenwriters have a lot of scripts and ideas and outlines and loglines and whatever and they aren’t finished. I think I’m the king of not finished. Let’s start finishing things. Pick something and take it all the way. We often wonder if this is the right idea to pursue. What if this is a waste of time? Guess what? By me not picking something and taking it all the way I’m wasting my entire career. So let’s get something in front of us and crush it like Shakespeare. 

New School

Do you watch movies? Read books? Maybe you do. What are some activities you don’t do? Look to take in different things. See something else in the world. Whenever I go into something new, even if it is down the street, I get new ideas, see new things, develop better solutions to the stories I’m working. I stay in my little routine and wonder why I can’t think of anything new. I go outside and live and my writing does the same—–it becomes alive. 

Different Roads

Screenwriters have their ways of writing a script. Always outline. Never outline. Beat sheet. Character profiles. Write in Word. Write on Final Draft. Etc. Let’s try a different way in. Again, sometimes writers want to create identities for themselves because it makes them feel serious. Well, add something else to your identity. Find different ways to develop your scripts. Have no fear. You’re a good writer, it won’t matter how you get there. Be flexible. Avoid rules. Blow up your patterns. If you want to stick to your routine, remember to accept everything that follows. 

Screenwriters write every day

Maybe they don’t. And you don’t have too. But maybe we can write today. Because life is faster than our plans for movies and television shows and we need to step up the pace. And the only track meet takes place now. 

Good luck.

by Gordy Hoffman

 

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2 Responses to “Resolutions for Screenwriters: Change your storytelling”

  1. Kate Says:

    January 4th, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    “Be responsible for what you created. Even if someone did blow through my script or didn’t read it all, it’s still my fault. This doesn’t happen to incredible stories. It doesn’t.”

    I get that, and I agree in some sense that if you’re truly engrossed in a story that you’re not likely to be distracted and skimming it. On the other hand, I have had people do exactly this, only to sit down and actually read a story and love it the second time. So what I’m saying is… Yeah, there might be an issue in your script that is causing people to lose interest. That might be worth asking “Did you lose interest at some specific point? When?” But also, it could be that someone is tired, overworked, half-reading because they told you they would while fielding eight calls about a doctor’s appointment and a wrap party vendor, and that isn’t really your fault.

  2. Kate Says:

    January 4th, 2018 at 1:28 pm

    Oh, also, love this article :)

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