Monday, June 6, 2016

Reads for Writers: On Story: Screenwriters and Their Craft edited by Barbara Morgan and Maya Perez

From Kate’s Writing Crate…

          I’m always on the lookout for TV shows about writers and authors. PBS has a show entitled On Story based on the Austin Film Festival. Various hosts interview mostly screenwriters who either wrote original works or adopted them from books. Even if you are not writing a screenplay, hearing writers discuss their work is inspiring.

          On Story: Screenwriters and Their Craft, edited by Barbara Morgan and Maya Perez, is a book based on these interviews. A wide array of writers, many of them award winning or Academy nominated, give good advice.

Here are a few excerpts:

…To me, the life of writing is the life of nurturing your own enthusiasm, your own passion for writing. You’ve got to nurture it…

                                 --Randall Wallace (page 24)

                                 Credits include: Secretariat, Braveheart

…Screenwriting is much more like writing poetry—the real juice is not in the lines but the space between the lines. If the lines are done right, the audience makes the jumps. If you tell them everything, they’re just observers. If you do it right, they’re participants. That’s what you want. That’s what all great art does…

                               --Bill Wittliff (page 28)

                               Credits include: Legends of the Fall, Lonesome Dove


…What I learned was about 70% of my first drafts were awful, but there was 30% that was better stuff than I ever would’ve gotten on paper if I was limiting myself because of fear of what people might think. I’d urge young writers, first write for the content of your heart. Don’t worry about what other people might think. Just cut loose…Find a way to get it on paper…

                                                     --Bill Wittliff (page 32)

                                                     More credits: The Perfect Storm, The Black Stallion

Conflict was the major thing. I used to have this huge sign over my typewriter that said, “Conflict, Stupid.” Nine times out of ten if you’ve got a scene that’s not working for some reason, the characters are not in conflict. They’re just giving out information. They’re wandering around and not going anywhere.

                           --Nicholas Kazan (page 67)

                           Credits include: Bicentennial Man, Reversal of Fortune

I can’t remember who said—it may have been Hitchcock—that books are written from the beginning to the end, and screenplays should be written from end to the beginning. The ending of a movie is crucial…I think the ending is so important that if you don’t know the ending when you start, you shouldn’t do it.

                                      --Steven Zaillian (page 163)

                                      Credits include: Awakenings, Schindler’s List

Helpful advice for almost any writing project you are working on.

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