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  • Writer's pictureCassie-Philomena Smyth

What's Stopping You? #NationalWritingDay

“It is better to write a bad first draft than to write no first draft at all.”

– Will Shetterly

It's #NationalWritingDay, so if you've been putting off starting that poem, story or screenplay here's the nudge you're looking for. Even if you just write a line, it's a start.

Often when you start writing, you'll hit a point of doubt or frustration and if you don't you should! Writing can be difficult, it's a carefully constructed feat of engineering where all the working parts should fit together and work in service of the story. If it's not working, it's not going anywhere.

A few tips for new screenwriters:

Write what you know...but do your research

Everyone always says "Write what you know" which is sound advice, but if you work in a bar but want your hero to be a doctor you need to know about doctors. You need to know what kind of doctor they are, what kind of language they would use, how their work day would look, how they would interact with their team. You should do your research, meet doctors, find out why they do their work and how it impacts their lives. The more you find out and can incorporate into your work the more authentic it will feel.

Show, don't tell

Film is a visual medium, so think about your script visually. If you can show a relationship through action rather than having your characters saying "I really really love you" then make sure you do!

Think of the opening scene of Pixar's 'Up' which brought us through the entire relationship of Carl and Ellie from beginning to end without a word of dialogue but a lorry load of emotion. Sometimes it's the things not said that can be the most powerful

And while you're showing, only show the interesting stuff

We don't need to see your characters unlocking their doors, checking their mail, boiling the kettle or any other mundane task unless it serves a necessary function in the story. We know what that looks like; we all do that everyday. It's not what we're watching films for, we want some escape from the ordinary and to cut to the chase! This is why it's important to always be editing your work - if it's boring, doesn't work or doesn't drive the narrative get rid of it!

Build A Believable Character

You might be writing for a character who is a 3,000 year old alien on a mission to return a poodle to a minery on the 7th moon of a far off planet, but we still need to understand their motivations. We might not like the characters we see but they must be believable in their reality and the context of their situations. Do their motivations ring true? Are their actions reasonable? Do they have a unique voice? Do they adapt to different situations?

Lastly, read your words aloud

The words you're writing in a screenplay aren't intended to live there, they're intended to be lived. Do they sound natural spoken? Do they sound like they would realistically be uttered? Do they fit the character or the context? If not, change them!

But mainly, just try!

If you don't try, you'll never get better, never learn, never know.

“The easiest thing to do on earth is not to write.”

– William Goldman

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