I am a writer. It's what I do when I log off No Film School for the day, and it's how I pay off my credit cards every month. All over the internet, I get marketed ads for new ways and formulas to write screenplays. They tell me how to finish a script in 30 days, how to amp my character up, how to find my voice.
But I'm not sure any of them actually get to the heart of what I'm trying to do day in and day out.
It seems like I become so obsessed with genre, tropes, set pieces, and formatting that I lose sight of why I sat down in the first place.
To be honest, there are times when I forget what the hell my job is as a writer.
Yesterday I got an amazing refresher from reading the Go Into the Story Blog by Scott Myers.
As Scott says in his recent article, "Little wonder that contemporary audiences, their minds cluttered with tropes, memes, and patterns, are looking for something different. [...] [H]ow the story gets from FADE IN to FADE OUT, that needs to be a rocking ride of twists and turns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns. And right there is the key. Did you catch it? The one word that is a writer’s salvation when it comes to formula. Story."
Story is the only thing that matters in the end.
Sure, there are tips and tricks to pull the pages out of you, but it all boils down to the story.
How are you keeping the audience interested as those pages turn? How do you entertain them and make them care?
Great stories have emotional hooks, characters we can relate to, and the ability to carry us into worlds we want to explore.
Forget for a minute that you need to have certain things happen at certain points... because you really don't. All you need to do is tell a story. Tell us something that engages us over and over again. Look at your story on the granular level. Is each scene you're writing interesting?
Sure, you might have heard that William Goldman famously wrote, “Screenplays are structure,” but I say that structure is just a way stories are told. So don't get so caught up in marking the act breaks or not hitting your inciting incident on page eleven, just have fun.
Riff a little, and let the draft come out naturally.
I think rewriting can take your stuff to the next level, but no matter the draft, the story has to be king.
This is not a lesson for beginners, it's a lesson for all of us. If your audience cares, no one is worried about pace or dynamic introductions, they're just worried about what happens next.
So the next time you sit down to write, just write. Don't look at the formulas, don't click on the ads for the shortcuts that might just waste your time, just type and type and type. Get it all out in the open. And see where it goes from there.