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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

So, you think you can be a great screenwriter?

Howdy, partners!

This post is for all the practicing screenwriters out there, like myself, who aspire greatness!

I've struggled with insecurities about wholeheartedly trusting my talent, and owning my screenwriting craft, since day one. Sure, I've had people compliment my writing ability, but I'm not sure that insecurity ever goes away completely. I know I have it in me to be great one day, but I'm not sure, nor do I ever think I should be sure, that I'm a great writer. That feels like ego to me, yet I know it's important for us to have great writers out there in our society in order for us to learn from. And if they weren't great, why would we want to listen to them? :)

Are you on your way to becoming a great screenwriter? Of course you are! That's why you're here... researching, reading, determined, practicing... and that's why I want to hear from you, too.

Now, go get a scoop of that go-getter spirit, 'cause it's time to spill the beans, Jack! Let's share what we've learned so far on this epic, often introverted, journey so we can keep improving TOGETHER!

Here's my contribution - a list of things (tips to keep in mind while writing!) that have been on my brain lately as I sit to write new material.

1) Take time to develop characters. Think about how long it's taken you to be comfortable in your own skin. Characters have to do a 180 in 110 pages, so be considerate, before you drive them off the cliff in your ferrari, Spunky. :)

2) Read screenplays you love, screenwriting magazines, and books. There's so many helpful resources out there. I can't tell you the endless amount of times those tips have helped me... if I'm stuck, I'll know that a particular point in the script should be the "play time!" So, I'll go have fun with the character(s) before the big fall! :)

3) When there's not enough tension, consider making your antagonist worse! Make your antagonist be the biggest asshole in the world. Think Karate Kid. Why do you want the kid to win so badly and beat the little shit up? Because he was so awful to him in the beginning, and continued to antagonize him throughout the film!

4) Don't forget to have fun with the characters. Sometimes we get so caught up in drama-drama-drama- or bang-bang-booms that we forget that the audience needs a break. Everyone wants to see the good guys holding hands and skipping along to some fun music, (OK, you can be more creative than this, Sassy pants) at least for a couple minutes! ;)

5) Choose your titles wisely. In a world full of (independent) titles we'll never remember, doesn't Good Dick stand out? That's what I'm saying... what's a good dick? Makes ya think, doesn't it? Is it ironic? See, I'm still thinking about it... wow... seems bold, interesting, something I definitely want to check out. If your title's not at least that interesting, keep trying. Make it count, and make it stand out, among the many, many piles.

6) Write something you'd want to see. What's your favorite genre? If you're bored writing it, then more than likely, someone will be bored reading it. Besides, why would you want to spend a chunk of your life writing something that you'd never want to see translated for screen? Let's make sense out of it before we open Final Draft, Stinker!

7) Put real thought into each characters flaws, quirks, likes, dislikes, name, past, and motives. You will call upon these traits/details to aid you time and time again throughout your story. They will make your story rich, unique, and a stand-out, that any performer would love to sink his/her teeth into! Aren't you a clever jellybean? Sweet... colorful... fun!

8) If the scene doesn't move the story forward, give it the boot! Some of your cutest/funniest/cleverest scenes may have to be cut or moved for the betterment of your entire work. Don't think of it as wasted material, because you learned something, didn't you? You learned how to care for your body as a whole, Sunshine! Scenes cost money to shoot, so on an independent film, especially, every scene should be intellectually accounted for. Don't be afraid of what will happen if you take it out... be afraid of what will happen if you leave it in.

9) "Write from experience," doesn't mean we should write about our boring ass past or extravagant life style that no-one cares about. Sorry, loves! That was frank, wasn't it? How else does anyone say it? :) It means to take pieces of your life that you really know something about, and use it as fuel to guide you. Where has your heart been? Use it to sound intelligent, or unintelligent, on purpose! Use it so that you can speak from a place of authenticity for your characters. Have you been a first hand witness to a spiraling out of control dysfunctional relationship that lead to homelessness and abandonment? Hmmmm... that's pretty awful, but you might know a thing or two about the reactions of those involved. That could be juicy and dramatic for one of your characters to deal with! And, maybe we could learn a little something about life, too, through them!!

10) Respect constructive criticism. More than likely, (or hopefully!) those who give you constructive criticism have read your work, and are coming from a loving place. Don't be defensive. When you open yourself up to improving, and ditching your ego, the sky's the limit! It doesn't mean you have to make every suggested change. Instead, it means you need to consider the good arguments. If one person you trust feels strongly that something must be changed, make sure they have a valid point, and that you understand it. If it's valid... I'm just sayin'... if it's not valid, make an argument back and state WHY!

11) Check and recheck your work for typos, & mistakes especially if you're like me, not the best speller in the world... sloppy work is distracting.

Your turn! What are some screenwriting tips you'd like to share, so we can all eventually become great?


xo Jentri

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