Just another Magic Monday! If you’re a writer/author and watched The Academy Awards last night you probably heard some familiar terms over the course of the evening. Words such as blockbuster, breakthrough and high concept apply to best-selling books as well as best-selling movies.
Screenwriters must compress their stories into a 110-140 page treatment and must present an emotionally powerful, visual experience for movie-goers within those pages. No words wasted, characters must live, breathe, grow, change and structure has to be perfect.
Honing your writing skills by using tips from screenwriting can help you develop characters that live on long after your reader closes your book, teach you three act structure, theme, plot and how to show, not tell. Best of all, screenwriters can show you how to weave all of the skills necessary to write a great book into one visceral, visual experience for the reader — just like a great movie.
My first introduction to screenwriting as a tool to writing better novels was at a writer’s conference in San Francisco where I heard screenwriter Blake Snyder speak. His hilarious book on writing a screenplay; Save The Cat is a treasure. Sadly, Blake passed away a year after that conference but his work and workshops teaching story telling skills live on. I highly recommend the free newsletter from the website link above.
I’m a student of the book Story Engineering by critically acclaimed fiction author Larry Brooks and his blog Storyfix. I wasn’t a bit surprised to learn he has a background in writing screenplays. Larry is all about story structure and how everything that goes into your book must fit into that structure and be well executed. He teaches you how. While reading and applying what he calls the Three Dimensions of Character by using examples from the movie Top Gun I had a huge breakthrough moment in the development of my protagonist.
A favorite screenwriting book which dove tails nicely with Story Engineering is screenwriter Peter Dunne’s book Emotional Structure: Creating The Story Beneath The Plot. One of the fun things about Peter’s book is that you get to watch movies and learn as you go. Yesterday, I downloaded and read the script Lost in Translation as part of a lesson on creating beginnings and endings that resonate. Today, I’ll watch the movie. It feels funny to say “I’m working on my book” when I’m watching a movie but I think I can live with i. 🙂
Thanks to my Kindle, I just found screenwriter, best-selling author and blogger Alexandra Sokoloff. She explains in the introduction of Writing Love: Screenwriting Tips for Authors II “It’s often easier to see the mechanics of structure in a film than in a novel. And even beyond that, studying movies is fun and fun is something writers just don’t let themselves have enough of. If you train yourself to watch for some of these structural elements, then every time you go to the movies or watch something on television, you’re actually honing your craft.”
I couldn’t agree more, learning the craft of screenwriting has helped me nail novel concepts that judging from my rejection slips, were once elusive. Once you “get it” there’s no turning back.
So tell me, are you up for some writerly fun? Popcorn anyone?
Do you have a favorite writing craft book or a favorite blogger who rocks your story world with great craft tips? Do you have a favorite screenwriter’s book or blog? Please share!
Have a happy, productive day!