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Get Out of the House and Listen: Screenwriter Paul Laverty on Writing Other People's Lives

07.30.12 @ 3:30PM Tags : , , , , ,

Every writer has his or her own way of working, but for most, writing will inevitably involve sitting in front of a computer, a typewriter or a pad of paper in solitude. For some of us, this solitude becomes too much of a habit, and the voices inside our heads bounce around like an echo chamber, only slight variations of ourselves. To tackle a story about characters outside of our daily lives and comfort zones, we need to hear their voices, see their cultures, feel their stories. Screenwriter and Ken Loach collaborator Paul Laverty (My Name is Joe, The Wind That Shakes the Barley) has made a career of living among his characters from various countries and socioeconomic backgrounds, and he shares his experiences in a video interview as part of the BAFTA Screenwriter Lecture series.

Here’s the complete video:


Laverty plainly points out the importance of listening for writers – a skill many of us may forget to employ regularly:

I do listen and talk to an awful lot of people. I think listening, for a writer, is greatly underestimated…. People are happy to talk about their lives…. I suppose when you’re doing a screenplay, you’re just trying to understand the world from someone else’s point of view. You only see the world from your point of view, so to try and understand it just by listening to other people just gives you great information and gives you great ideas.

All too often, I find myself turning to Google and the vast reaches of the Internet for inspiration for my characters, when in reality, I should be walking out my front door in search of my characters and their everyday lives.

How do you research your story characters? Have you immersed yourself in another culture in search of a good story? Share your experiences with us in the Comments section.

The video above is a companion piece to Laverty’s BAFTA Screenwriting Lecture, a podcast of which you can find in the Links below.

Links:

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COMMENT POLICY

We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • Yes. Riding public transportation to school/work can give you quite a lot. Same with walking in parks, sitting in cafés etc. I can’t help observing people when I move around in the city – so many stories being told.

  • john jeffreys on 07.31.12 @ 1:59AM

    do drugs. thatll make you a better writer for sure.

    serious response: when i write i put on my headphones and blast music that fits the tone of the film im developing.

  • I think he’s correct on both counts. (research and getting out there)

    This character was purely researched (mixed with my love of the game): http://youtu.be/KNamAbH83lY

    But this character was based purely on someone that I know: http://youtu.be/6ESQ0rLO78o

    Both were fun to write but ’3D’ was much faster to pen.

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