What Are Charlie Kaufman's 10 Screenwriting Tips?

Charlie Kaufman's 'I'm Thinking of Ending Things'Credit: Netflix
Charlie Kaufman might be a strange guy, but he has some straightforward writing tips. 

One of my favorite voices in all of screenwriting is Charlie Kaufman. His movies and screenplays, like I'm Thinking of Ending Things, Antkind, Anomalisa, Adaptation, Synecdoche New York, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich, and other collaborations with Mark Kermode and Spike Jonze have expanded independent cinema and kept film interesting. 

It seems like a guy like this has a lot to teach us about screenwriting. 

Check out this video from Outstanding Screenplays, and let's talk after the jump. 

What Are Charlie Kaufman's 10 Screenwriting Tips? 

1. Failure is a badge of honor

No one writes something perfectly the first time. You will hear "no," but everyone else has, too. Just get back on the wagon and keep going. Your next script can be your best script. 

2. Make the story and themes eternal

What kinds of stories stand the test of time and are relatable to the masses? Tap into those key emotions. 

3. Make your writing honest and meaningful

Tell us the truth of the situation, don't sugarcoat it. Make sure you're connecting with your feelings and desires. 

4. Say who you are, and people will recognize themselves in you

The world is filled with different people and audiences, but if you are willing to share yourself and your art, you will find people who embrace you. This is how you truly connect with your audience. Be bold. 

5. Don't explain themes of your own work, let each individual take their own meaning from it

There can be universal truths inside your work, but many explanations. All art is subjective. Don't tell people how to feel, let them just feel. 

6. Leave it ambiguous for the audience, but explain your thoughts to your collaborators

You don't always have to wrap things up in a neat bow. You can leave them wanting or imagining more. Sometimes it's for the best. But your team should probably know what's going on.

7. Approach your work like your dreams would and throw away conventional approaches

The first rule in screenwriting is that there are no rules.

Your goal is to provide the blueprint for the movie. That means being okay with being original and translating those bold ideas to the page. It might not always follow beat sheets or traditional storytelling structure.

8. Add layers to your story, so it will be interesting for multiple viewings

The surface can be great, but it might not lend things to repeated viewings. What else can you say or slip in there that adds another level to someone's appreciation?

9. Find your own way into the industry until you get to the work you were meant to do

It can be scary and stressful when you want to navigate writing and working in Hollywood. Tell the stories you care about, and again, be okay hearing "no." It can take a long time to hear that first "yes," so also keep at it. 

10. Find the unique writing process that works only for you

So many people will have opinions on the way you should do things. Follow your heart and pave your own path. Sure, it's nice to get tips, but there's nothing definite, only the way you find things aligning for yourself. Maybe you outline extensively. Maybe you do writing exercises that will never make it into the final project. Maybe you start at the end. It's up to you!     

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