Five reasons a voice recorder is a screenwriter’s best friend

Record ideas as soon as you have them. We think we won’t forget, but the truth is we do. If you have your ideas recorded somewhere, your brain will give you more… if you never do anything with the ideas you have, eventually you stop having them. It’s important to record your ideas as soon asContinue reading “Five reasons a voice recorder is a screenwriter’s best friend”

Dunkirk shows the power of a rooting interest.

Midway through DUNKIRK, I turned to my friend and said, “Wait, is that the plane from earlier? Are sea and air narratives about to intersect?” My friend scowled at me. “I have no fucking idea. Now shut up, I’m watching this.” I’m not the only one who had a moment like that. Even my friendContinue reading “Dunkirk shows the power of a rooting interest.”

Rewriting dialogue by identifying the function of it.

They say all dialogue should further understanding of the character or further the story. It also needs to convey distinct character voice, be entertaining, and convey the impression that the writer is worthy of being hired. It’s a lot, and people often get lost trying to do everything at once. Here’s my trick: I likeContinue reading “Rewriting dialogue by identifying the function of it.”

“Outcomes are usually not deterministic. They’re probabilistic.” Elon Musk, with advice that applies to life, screenwriting, and especially screenwriting advice.

From Entrepreneur.com: Broaden the view by tracking probabilities. Thinking in probabilities (a business has, say, a 60 percent chance of success) rather than deterministically (if I do A and B, then C will happen) doesn’t just guard against oversimplification. This type of thought process protects an entrepreneur against the brain’s inherent laziness. Musk strives toContinue reading ““Outcomes are usually not deterministic. They’re probabilistic.” Elon Musk, with advice that applies to life, screenwriting, and especially screenwriting advice.”

Question: How can I pick up on a project I’ve been away from?

QUESTION: I started on a short script yesterday with a idea I was really excited about, I did a quick treatment first to plan things out and then I started into the first page or two before heading to bed. I came back to it today and just didn’t have the same rhythm of thoughtContinue reading “Question: How can I pick up on a project I’ve been away from?”

An outline is a reality check.

I’m skeptical of people who are too vocal about never outlining. For every one person who doesn’t need to outline, there are a hundred that do. Some people seem to see any form out outlining as a form of hackery or cheating. Breaking down a story into beats? Cheating. Identifying a premise and then identifyingContinue reading “An outline is a reality check.”

The Beats of a Screenplay.

If I’ve learned anything in years of discussing screenwriting online, it’s that people have an unending appetite for being told that they CAN write, but that they violently resent being told HOW to write. Even the merest suggestion of assumed orthodoxy can set off flame wars. Writers rarely agree on anything. People hear beats and theyContinue reading “The Beats of a Screenplay.”

Common beginner problem: A fear of outlining, even at the rewrite stage.

My platonic ideal of developing a screenplay: This December, I taught an online class about outlining. I broke development into 6 phases. Express an idea as a logline. Expand logline as a one page precis that delineates act breaks. Break the one page in a series of 30-50 distinct beats, 7 words per beat. FleshContinue reading “Common beginner problem: A fear of outlining, even at the rewrite stage.”

It’s easier to write every day if you get organized first.

People say that the secret to screenwriting is to “just write.” It’s sound advice, but it’s also convenient advice. It’s right up there with “just be yourself,” “have fun with it,” and “go with your gut,” advice that’s got a grain of truth in it, but that’s also frequently used by lazy people who don’tContinue reading “It’s easier to write every day if you get organized first.”