Posts tagged ‘screenwriting tips’

October 16, 2013

Diablo Cody on What No One Tells You About Being a Screenwriter

The infamous Diablo Cody (Juno, Young Adult) recently did an interview for Vulture in which she explained seven things that no one tells you about being a top screenwriter.

Now, most writers won’t have to deal with the perks and problems of wide-spread fame like Cody’s, but hopefully we’ll each find a piece of fame within the screenwriting world, and many of Cody’s thoughts apply to that:

1. You will be held accountable for your words.
Writers drink, and therefore we often exhibit poor judgment. In 2007, whenJuno came out, people were wearing rhinestone-embellished trucker caps and I was making bad decisions, too. I said a lot of stupid things in interviews because I figured no one was paying attention — who cares about screenwriters, generally? But my big mouth got me into trouble countless times. As a “visible” writer, you have to learn to conduct yourself like an actor. Say what you’ve been coached to say. Don’t talk shit about anyone. Behind closed doors, I’m still a drunk train wreck, but in interviews, I try to channel Sandra Bullock or someone else the public finds charming.

2.  You will be a big deal for about ten seconds.
Since I “broke through” (ugh) six years ago, countless younger, funnier, smarter writers have flocked to Hollywood and TOOK MY JERB. That’s the nature of this business. Just ask any of the actresses who were on the cover of Vanity Fair’s Hollywood Issue in the nineties. Believe me, they all want to murder Emma Stone right now. You will be replaced. Keep your head down and work as much as you can.

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March 13, 2013

John Steinbeck’s Six Writing Tips

Maria Popova of Brain Pickings (a site I highly suggest all writers peruse) has shared six writing tips that John Steinbeck originally shared in an interview with The Paris Review in 1975:

  1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
  2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
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August 23, 2012

Don’t Plagiarize, Do Steal

‘It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.’ -Jean-Luc Godard

Paul Peditto has written a great article for MovieBytes.com about the benefits of stealing — not plagiarizing, but re-imagining stories that have been told a hundred times before, taking inspiration from better artists than yourself, and making old ideas new.

He explains:

Stealing. Should you ever do it?

C’mon… seriously? The answer is FUCK yeah.

Let me bow to my betters, first some thoughts on the subject by Jim Jarmusch, appropriately stolen/borrowed from a pal’s Facebook entry:

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: ‘It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.'”

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April 2, 2012

Writing Strong Leading Ladies

Pilar Alessandra recently spelled out ten tips for writing strong female lead characters. Here are her tips:

1. Turn The Tables on Female Stereotypes

Don’t ignore negative perceptions about women; challenge them by turning negative labels into positive traits for your character. “Gossipy” becomes well informed. “Catty” becomes competitive. And don’t forget that positive stereotypes are still stereotypes. Humanize the perfect model of a woman by showing the darker side.

2. Heighten Your Female Character’s Goals

The unappreciated temp doesn’t want to be noticed; she wants to be boss. The neglected wife doesn’t want to find out about her husband’s infidelity, she wants to get even. Scripts that think big sell!

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March 6, 2012

How Professional Screenwriters Work

John Buchanan of Script Magazine recently laid out the work habits that writers need to have to be successful in the film industry:

Screenwriting is unlike any other professional endeavor. To survive its unique pressures and peculiarities and have a career, you’ll have to master a few fundamental disciplines.

It’s one thing to sell a spec script or complete a first paid assignment for a studio. It’s another thing entirely to establish a reputation as a reliable professional and enjoy a long career as an in-demand Hollywood screenwriter. After the glow of initial success fades out, new writers learn—often painfully—that the requisite capabilities for a working scribe reach far beyond the ability to write crackling dialogue or craft a nifty plot twist. Too often, it’s assumed that talent trumps disciplined, hard work.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

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February 24, 2012

Writing Concise, Visual Action Descriptions

Paul Chitlik of Script Magazine recently fielded the question, “How can a screenwriter write descriptions we can “see” without overwriting them?” Paul offered some poignant advice:

 Here’s one of the basic contradictions a writer has to face. You know that a reader, probably not the producer, is going to be the first person at the production company or studio to read your script, so you have to impress this person. We know that motion pictures are all about what you see on screen, so you’d think that the descriptive passages of a script would be important. And they are. But readers often skip through them to get to the dialogue because they think, sometimes correctly, that the character is shaped by the dialogue. And dialogue is easier to read. But harder to write.

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January 17, 2012

Writing Assignments Versus Spec Sales

John Buchanan of Script Magazine has written an article about opportunities often overlooked by novice screenwriters: writing assignments. Buchanan quotes Jeff Morris saying, ““The total amount of money paid out for assignment work versus specs is much bigger… That’s where the work is. It dwarfs spec sales by about 1,000 to one, probably.”

Buchanan writes:

When most aspiring screenwriters imagine their successful against-all-odds assault on Hollywood, they think in terms of a big spec sale that changes their lives overnight. But there is also a less glamorous, more realistic way to break into the industry—and that’s a first writing assignment that sets them on a path to becoming a genuine working writer.

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October 21, 2011

Story v. Character: Which Matters More?

This article from The Script Lab takes a look at the battle that every writer fights to not just create an unforgettable story but unforgettable characters as well AND to make the two fit together flawlessly. When push comes to shove, which will make a better movie?

There are 12 index cards on the black pegboard in front of me.

Card #1: An explosive opening. There is no way I can write an opening more perfect.

Card #2: The introduction of my Hero- in one scene, I’ve made him likable, relatable, and simply an overall badass.

Card #40: A climax of fantastic proportions. Brave. Jaw-dropping. Exactly the climax I want to tell.

Card #50: A dynamite ending. Emotional. Inspirational. Faulkner would be jealous.

Card #12: Empty. Empty. Empty. Empty. Empty.

Here I am, in the middle of the story, and all around me I have index cards that all tell some semblance of a what I want to write, but no idea how to piece it together. A story that I want to tell, and a character that I absolutely love… and the two just don’t go together.

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September 27, 2011

Quote of the Day: Wesley Strick

I have two tricks. One is that I write every day, regardless of whether I want to or not because as I just said, in a way I never want to write. It’s not even an issue. I just write four pages a day when I’m working. I have a quota. A sub-set of that system is that I am a firm believer that bad ideas lead to good ones. When I am not inspired and I don’t know the solution I will just type out the most banal solution and know that at least it’s on the page and it gets me to the next story beat.

September 22, 2011

What Not to Do in Your First 5 Pages

This article from MovieBytes.com gives some simple, practical advice for how not to give away your inexperience in the first few pages of your writing, the pages that every reader is going to judge you on and possibly not read past. Take a look:

Five pages.  That’s what you get. You spend six months on that spec screenplay and the reader at the agency-manager-prodco-contest is giving five lousy pages before he makes a judgement.

It’s an outrage! Blame it on Attention-Deficit-Disorder, the Twitterverse, the 24/7 news cycle…but guess what?

A good reader can recognize a poorly written script within five pages or less. Sometimes it can be seen on Page 1.

Here are a couple of traps to avoid:

  1. BE AN ADVERB & ADJECTIVE HATER

    “The Chow Chow sadly waddles up the plush scarlet-carpeted, serpentine-twisting rug, woefully stopping under the plumb Ming Dynasty vase, dumbly lifting his hind leg…”

    You’re writing a screenplay, not the Great American novel. That means not killing the reader with purple prose. Just because you can write effective adjectives and adverbs doesn’t mean you should. When it comes to pumping up screen direction, ask yourself: Do I need it?

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