Everyone knows the rule: Your first few pages need to grab the reader. But as a writer looking for a way in the industry, your first scenes MUST POP! An exec who reads everything under the sun doesn’t want to see a character go through their morning routine unless it serves the story. Because guess what, they’ve read 10 other scripts like that and they’re laying at the bottom of a trash can. Having a great opening will not only give you a better chance of a full read, but you’ll also stand up against the scripts of seasoned writers, who execs will trust way more than someone they’ve never heard of. So, if you’re struggling with crafting a great opening that’ll get you closer to your professional writing goals here are some tips that’ll help you get your baby right.
Writers tend to gravitate to one or the other when they come up with a new idea. Some can create complex characters but lack the ability to create meaningful conflict for the story to be interesting. While other writers can create high concept page-turning ideas but create one-dimensional characters, making the story fall flat. But great writers can execute both parts of the story to create a compelling narrative. These are the ones who are getting paid to create their own stories or help studios create theirs. So, if your stories are falling a little flat, let’s find out which type of writer you are and address the weaknesses to help you tell a better story.
Great stories are marked by change and one of the main ways to implement change in your story is by using character arcs. Arcs are essential story tools that directly or indirectly show change from the beginning to the end of the story. There are 4 types of character arcs: Hero’s Journey, Positive Change, Negative Change, and Flat Arc. By using arcs effectively, you will create engaging and 3-dimensional characters that push your story all on their own. So, here is a breakdown of each arc with examples that’ll help you implement them into your own story.
There is only one rule in screenwriting that you must follow. DON’T BE BORING. Telling a story from beginning to end isn’t enough to get your script bought or get you staffed. Your baby must entertain and compel the reader to finish or it’ll be tossed to the side with the rest of them. Using tools, devices and tricks will enhance the reading experience and increase your chances of meetings, competition wins, and purchases. So, let's talk about different ways to entertain your reader and make your baby as compelling as possible.
Movies and television shows are complex machines, and to learn how to create your own, you need to see the inner working parts of one that is fully functioning. The best way to learn how is to READ SCRIPTS. Binge watching Netflix is not enough to fully internalize what it takes to tell a great story. By breaking down a script to its bare bones, you’ll garner the ability to understand and tell stories just like your favorite writers. Here are some tips to help you break down your favorite movies and TV shows to see what makes them tick.
Welcome to your first D&IA (Diversity & Inclusion Anonymous) meeting. I am Shannan E. Johnson, your sponsor. Hi, Shannan… For the past decade, Hollywood has been focused on diversifying the stories told for the screen and the people who get to tell them. Diversity & Inclusion departments have been established at the major networks and studios and programs have been initiated to give access to those people in underrepresented communities who have been waiting for an opportunity to break into the industry. There are programs for writers, actors, directors, producers and even executives to help bring new and unique voices to the table of storytelling. Some of us, if we’re honest, see these new voices as a threat. And how do human beings react when threatened: Fight, Flight or Freeze. As screenwriters, none of the above options are constructive. Storytelling begins with us, which means so do diverse characters.
Sigh… then how, how, Shannan, do I check the correct boxes in my screenplay to play this new Hollywood game called diversity and inclusion? Well, I’m glad you asked:
If you want screenwriting to be your hobby that's absolutely fine, but for the majority, we want this to be our full-time career. When people think of our names, we want the term professional screenwriter attached to it. But the only way we’ll get there is if we treat our grind like a job NOW. That’s right. Right now. Professional screenwriters are constantly creating their own scripts on spec to stay sharp, relevant in the industry, and to hopefully complete their dream of getting their project produced = being paid for their creativity = being a professional. And the only way you're gonna grab that next open seat at the table against the pros is to constantly and consistently write. So, if you're wondering how you can employ yourself as a screenwriter now so you can actually get employed later, here are three tips to level up your grind.
A writer can only go so far with understanding the basics of the craft like formatting and structure. What sets you apart from the pack is your voice. Your voice is the sum of a variety of choices you make as a writer. The way you write your action lines, the types of stories you choose, the characters you create and their world views, and the way you write your dialogue adds up to your unique voice. We may not think twice about those pieces but that attention to detail is what will give your baby something to say. So if your baby is a bit mute at the moment (LOL) here are some exercises to get it to speak its first words.
How to be an artist and not be so sensitive about your sh*t. #ErykahBadu (Taking critique in stride)
Notes, notes, notes. It's the most dreaded part of the process, but it can also be the most rewarding if you approach it correctly. Art is meant to be critiqued whether you're an artist, writer, or musician. People are gonna have opinions on your sh*t. It may hurt to see someone rip your baby to shreds with notes, but as screenwriters, no script gets anywhere without critiques and revisions. So, let’s not be like Erykah and be so sensitive about our sh*t LOL. If you struggle with receiving notes, here are some tips on taking notes/critiques in stride.
Let's face it, writers aren’t the best when it comes to self-care. We stretch ourselves thin competing with ourselves and people we have never even met, trying to write the perfect scene while our eyeballs sear like steak. We may think we're doing our due diligence. As the saying goes, writing is suffering... but that’s bullsh*t.
Shannan E. Johnson, CEO