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ScreenwriterBones

Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.

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I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Desire vs. Fear

A friend of mine told me the other day that he'd heard the theory of screenwriting boiled down to one simple idea. In each scene, you have to know what your character WANTS and also what your character is AFRAID of.

Interesting idea. I'm not sure I completely buy it, but there's something simple and pure about it which may speak to others, so I present it here in case this is a reductionist way of thinking that can help you.

He added that it's crucial to know what your character is feeling in every scene as well. Well, I'm assuming he's really feeling that he WANTS this thing and will be AFRAID that he won't get it.

Okay, I jest. But in case this works for anyone out there, I present it here.

Because in the end it's most crucial to get OUT OF THE WAY of ourselves. There is entirely too much thinking going on out there in most early writers' heads. And seasoned writers as well (I can be guilty of this any day of the week). You want to stop the thinking. There's a reason the old saying "the mind is the slayer of the soul" is still around. It's true. Think too much and kill whatever beautiful feeling you ever had.

So use whatever trick you need to, to get into your character. Because as any old pro will tell you - character is story. Think about that, it's not a zen trick. CHARACTER IS STORY. It's not about the car chases, and robot crushers, and flying sharks. All that has it's place, can be crafted well, and be good eye candy - but in the end, character defines the entire universe, the reason the story came to be, and all events unfold because your character manifests his world, needs to learn the lessons that come to him, and either succeeds or fails.

So know who the hell you're writing about, what they want, and what they're afraid of. What's coming up behind them that's going to stop them? A monster? Or their own personal demon?

Start writing.

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