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So You Want to Write a Screenplay

April 20, 2009

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A couple of weeks ago I answered an ad on Craigslist, as I am wont to do, and found myself hired as one of Scribophile‘s regular bloggers.  What is Scribophile, you might ask? It’s a community and learning resource for writers with a system for peer review. You can submit in-progress work to the queue, and it’ll get critiqued by the members of the site.

The only parameters for the blog are that the posts be on writing or literature – sounds easy enough, right?  Well, after agonizing over my first post, I came up with this:

Congratulations! You’ve just joined the ranks of millions, including the entire city of Los Angeles, on a frustrating, frequently soul-crushing adventure. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry, and if you’re lucky, you might just come out of the experience with a manuscript someone actually wants to read. I’m going to help you do that by summing up a year’s worth of advanced college courses in one blog post.

To begin, obviously, you need an idea. But not just any idea – if you’re going to succeed, you need to visualize your story on screen. A tale about the history of dentistry or an army of mutated cockroaches doesn’t generally make for great cinema. Some stories are better suited to books, some to plays, some to print advertisements, and there’s nothing worse than a plot that’s sandwiched into Final Draft when it doesn’t belong, just for the heck of it. Novels can frequently get away with little in the way of plot if there are strong characters the reader connects with over the course of three hundred pages. A screenplay has a hundred pages to get in and get out, so there’s no time to waste. Sometimes you have to accept the fact that a much beloved plot just isn’t screenplay material (which in no way means you can’t use it for something else.)

You can read the rest of “So You Want to Write a Screenplay” here.  Though I’ll be linking my posts on this blog, from now on I’ll be posting my general writing ‘expertise’ on Scribophile, since they want to pay me for it.  That excludes posts relating to specific writing projects, like Quest for Comic-Con, which I’ll probably be blogging about shortly.

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